Giving SMTs a local hook is key in today's challenging media world.
While traditional broadcast PR tools like SMTs have struggled in recent years, they can still be effective, especially when targeting smaller markets.
"There's sensitivity to sponsored news right now, so it's really made us all step up our game in terms of what we offer producers," says Yvonne Goforth, EVP at KEF Media, who adds that it is no longer good enough to just put someone up in a studio set. "Now, we have to really ask those questions like: What are viewers in this particular market going to get out of this tour? What is the news they can take away with them?"
When narrowing in on a particular market, it helps to note that the smaller markets are the ones embracing SMTs and are interested in the informational-related topics, such as lifestyle, technology, consumer, and house care.
Recently, Medialink conducted an SMT for Aflac, in which Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith was interviewed by stations from various-sized markets. The story focused on the All-American High School Baseball Classic, where the best high school players across the country are chosen to compete in the game.
"What we did was that we had him live in a studio, and we also had the list of the kids who had made the teams and the markets that they were from," says Michele Wallace, SVP of client services at Medialink. When the company pitched WAGA in Atlanta to do the interview, it was therefore able to provide the station with access to local kids in the market who had made the team.
KEF Media recently worked on an SMT for "Together Rx Access," a program that brings pharmaceutical companies together to help make prescription medicines affordable to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to pay for them. Former Major League Baseball player Tommy John acted as a spokesman.
"What we did for each market is find out how many people are uninsured in that area, how many people this program will affect, how many kids are uninsured in that area, and how this program could be a direct benefit to them," explains Goforth.
Both SMTs were considered successful because they highlighted an event or program that was relative for the respective markets. But for any SMT, the focus should be finding an issue that is going to be of interest to the majority of viewers in any market, small or large, explains Bev Yehuda, VP of products for MultiVu.
"There are always some general themes that you can find to fit into the smaller market," Yehuda notes. "Even if it's something like shopping for the holiday, you can talk about budgeting costs - like gifts for the budget-conscious - something that would be a common theme."
And while the topic must be one that attracts viewers, the delivery of the actual pitch, along with the right spokesperson, is what differentiates a hit from a miss.
"It's very important to have a credible spokesperson," says Yehuda.
And the pitch has to be one that is of interest, relevant, and not too commercial. Equally pertinent is to have the pitch provide some information, a call to action, or even just educational perspective.
"If you're talking about allergies, and your spokesperson mentions the product name five to 10 times during the interview, that interview will never get aired," warns Wallace.
Goforth sees celebrities as an easier book because "people want to hear what celebrities are saying," she says. But it is crucial to use somebody who is relevant to the topic.
"If you have a celebrity talking about a new drug for a particular illness, you have to make sure that the celebrity has a relevance to the illness - that the spokesperson actually has the disease or a firsthand account of the topic," Wallace notes.
"If you have a good spokesperson, a good topic, and you structure it in a way that gives viewers some news that relates back to their lives, you can do an SMT for everything," adds Goforth. "You've got to give viewers news they can use."
Pick a topic that is newsworthy
Research statistics for the local market
Find the most credible spokesperson
Assume you can't tie in a topic locally
Use the same pitch for different markets
Use a star spokesperson just to get press