Radio still a key factor in media coverage

New technologies, among other factors, help RMTs to remain a good tool for client exposure.

New technologies, among other factors, help RMTs to remain a good tool for client exposure.

The emergence of HD radio, satellite distribution, and podcasting underscores radio media tours (RMTs) as an effective way to generate media coverage.

With the recession and subsequent layoffs further depleting news departments, radio PR professionals say outlets are now more receptive to RMTs featuring relevant messages delivered by the right messengers.

“With reporters doing more with less, we have found that stations and networks are eager to accept outside content, provided it's newsworthy and presented in a way which does not create more work for them,” says David Beasley, marketing manager at News Generation.

In August News Generation handled an RMT for The Weather Channel to promote a special program on hurricanes, enlisting three on-camera meteorologists.

Beasley suggests media training for spokespeople, especially those that have not done an RMT before. This ensures familiarity with the topic and focus on key message points.

“One area to be aware of is a spokesperson who is an expert on the subject matter getting bogged down in jargon,” he adds. “And, it is important that spokespeople practice making their information accessible to the average radio listener.”

In pitching an RMT, timing is critical. When the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Foundation issued its end-of-year annual report summarizing the number of law officers lost in the line of duty, it turned to Strauss Radio Strategies (SRS) to develop an RMT that would place its executive director on radio stations and networks across the US.

“The timing of the radio tour was scheduled for the weekend after Christmas and before New Year's,” says Richard Strauss, founder and president of SRS. “This time of year provides both positives and negatives: besides holiday stories, it is generally a slow news cycle, so stories are easier to place. However, stations are correspondingly low staffed, so they are harder to reach.”

To maximize such situations, he suggests providing interviews in advance on an embargoed basis and being prepared to make accommodations.

“We were able to make the spokesperson available for early and evening interviews, as well as on the weekend, in order to work with reporters that were staffing newsrooms, even if they were understaffed,” he says. “Additionally, we worked with the client to draw greater details from the report – finding local statistics for cities, states, and regions, localizing the story, as well as finding African-American and Hispanic numbers to help reach out to stations and networks that reach out to specific demographics.”

It's also important for the RMT subject to be both topical and relevant.

The National Federation of Independent Business tapped Zcomm in 2008 to book Bill Rhys, tax counsel, to discuss the impact of the economic stimulus package on small businesses.

“That tour did well thanks to several reasons,” says Risë Birnbaum, founder. “It was tied to recent legislation, the economy topped the news, most listeners are involved in or interested in small business, and the spokesman, Bill Rhys, was available over two months.”

Birnbaum advocates embracing new technologies to extend the reach of RMTs. Because they provide hours of valuable, recorded content, she says the audio can be repurposed to create radio news releases, radio podcasts, a client-sponsored syndicated radio series, or PSAs, depending on the content.

This provides several services for a client from one single tactic. “If the budget is not there to repackage and distribute all those services at one time,” she notes, “they can be distributed to target demos or posted on Web sites throughout the course of a year.”

Technique tips

Arrange for media training

Make topics timely, relevant, and applicable to local audiences

Repackage content for multiple purposes

Walk in cold. Re-hearse and prepare for all possible questions

Muddle the interview with jargon

Overlook your target audience

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