SMTs and interaction with journalists

Producing SMTs efficiently, satisfying editors and clients with feature releases, and more

Producing SMTs efficiently, satisfying editors and clients with feature releases, and more


What is an appropriate and realistic timeline to follow when producing an SMT?

Ideally, pre-production for an SMT should start six weeks prior to the SMT date, says Shannon Flynn of PLUS Media. "However, if the topic relates to breaking news or a popular celebrity, that window can be condensed," she adds.

It is also important to start early on seasonal or holiday-driven tours, as booking for these segments can be extremely competitive.

"To begin, bring all parties together to talk about story angles and expectations," says Flynn. "Consider what elements are needed to make it a standout segment - be it cutting-edge research or vibrant b-roll. This will help ensure that the SMT is on the right track."

Following this brainstorm, Flynn says a media alert should be written, approved, and promptly sent out. Although the bulk of booking tends to happen within the four weeks prior to a tour, a handful of markets do require a lead time of five weeks.

"Two weeks before the tour, a preliminary station list will be sent to clients. Some top markets tend to book in the last two weeks before the tour," she says. "During the week before the tour, final bookings will be taken, talking points and supplemental b-roll finalized, and press materials sent to participating stations."


We're working with a feature release service. How can we make sure the release is subtle enough that editors use it, while still possessing a "hard" sell that gives our client recognition?

Finding the sweet spot between subtlety and selling is only part of the challenge, says William Duke of Bridal News Network. "Editors look for articles that give accurate information and solve a problem for the reader," he adds.

It is important that the article talk about the subject relevant to the brand without talking about the brand directly. "That way, the brand name or the brand URL can be dropped into the article just once and presented as part of the story line instead of appearing like a commercial endorsement.

Editors also respond enthusiastically to good photography.

"Giving editors a choice of images to illustrate the article will help a feature get published not only in newspapers, but also in prestigious regional and metro magazines," Duke adds. "It is the responsibility of the feature service to instruct each publication to include photo credits with the images. This gives the brand further recognition in the caption."


How can the use of measurement help me justify communication budgets and gain support for new initiatives?

Metrics are the language of business - not clip books, clip counts, or buzz, says Deanna Leedberg of Delahaye. "The research and evaluation process translates PR tactics into the language of the board room, where funding decisions are made," she adds.

By basing a PR program on objectives that are measurable, reasonable, and meaningful, one eliminates the risk of being challenged later and ensures that program success can be proven in business terms, she says.

"When you can demonstrate your effectiveness on specific initiatives, you'll gain the resources you deserve," she says.

Also, PR measurement programs allow for PR results to be compared with other areas within the marketing and communication mix, so that resources can be reallocated based on "what works," rather than "what our budget was last year."

Video delivery

How well is digital delivery of video to stations working?

"Digital delivery is working well," says Michael Hill of News Broadcast Network (NBN). He adds in the last year alone (July 2004-July 2005) the company has seen a 35% increase in the success rate of its video feeds.

Hill notes that a reporter at any of the 600 stations on Pathfire's digital delivery system can get immediate access to a broadcast-quality version of stories. And these stories stay on the station's server for two weeks.

"It's a tremendous advantage for our clients," Hill said. "We use satellite feeds as well as digital delivery through Pathfire and we are experimenting with video delivery over the internet."

PR Toolbox is edited by Erica Iacono, New York-based reporter for PRWeek. Submit questions to her at Also, please contact her if you are interested in contributing to PR Toolbox or to suggest ideas for future columns.

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