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Hitting the road, with EML

Posted by putsimply on 23rd July 2008

This week we’re talking to EML’s press tour king, Ben Smith. Since joining EML, Ben has been involved in more press tours than you could shake a memory stick at. Put Simply has interrogated him to learn his top tips:

“I hadn’t considered that event organising would be such a big part of the job when I first got into PR, but I think it’s actually the biggest thing we do. They take such a huge investment of time, money and effort from the client, so it is important to get them right. They are definitely hard work, whatever the scale, but they have such a big pay off when they go well, in terms of having a happy customer. It’s usually the more interesting products that we go on tour with, so the journalists are quite receptive to the news and I think they usually like to meet the company representatives to have a ‘real’ conversation – especially if they are based in a different country. Press tours are a great way to build the momentum of a campaign; they can be the keystone if they’re done right. It can really help to build relationships with the journalists by taking the time to go and meet them face to face.

I quite often get involved in organising press tours covering upwards of nine different countries, which can be a bit of a logistical headache! I’ve come to know what problems are likely to come up now though, which helps me to plan ahead to avoid them, or at least prepare the client for the inevitable lack of taxi at the airport, or loss of phone charger, or late journalist. There is a huge amount of planning that takes place before a press event – especially if there are other agencies involved. In those cases, you need to make sure you’re giving them the information as soon as possible, helping them understand the messaging, getting dates in the diary, checking for regional holidays and so on.

My top tips for planning a successful press tour would be:

1) Start very early! You can’t leave an event to the last minute and get the results you are hoping for. Simple things like venues getting booked up and journalists having other plans will ruin your plans at the best of times, but especially if you don’t give yourself and your PR teams enough time.
2) Make sure, if you are working with multiple agencies, that they all start early and are kept up to speed with the lead agency.
3) Make sure your pitch is right and that the product is right. There is no point touring the World and talking to people if you are just launching version two of what wasn’t an interesting/well received product in the first place. That is part of our job as a consultancy; to advise clients what will or won’t work for a press tour – what will be of interest to the press.
4) Manage expectations with your business group. Sometimes journalists forget, sometimes they get lost or stuck in traffic or have better offers. Your PR team should be in touch with the press regularly, but even a call to a journalist the day before an event will not guarantee they will arrive at your event on time, or at all.

It can be hard work pulling a press tour together, but it is all worth while when it works to plan and you see the coverage rolling in over the following months.”

This blogger is off on summer holidays next week, but when I’m back, we’ll be talking to EML’s resident Asia expert to find out how the approach to PR changes as you head East. In the mean time, if you’d like to see Ben in his sombrero from our summer party last week, leave us a comment, we’ll see what can be done…