Applying the 4T Filter to Your Media Tour

Teeing Up Success

I recently wrote about applying the 3T Filter (Topic, Talent, Timing) to your SMTs as a predictor of success. Satellite media tour companies should ask questions related to the 3T’s in discovery. Honest counsel from the answers leads to picking the most successful tactic.
Over the last few months, I’ve added a 4th “T” to consider. There’s even a wild card 5th “T”. I wonder if you can guess the 5th one now without looking below…First, let’s review…

Original 3T Filter

Counseling PR pros on their Satellite Media Tour options is a blast. My career path gives me a unique perspective to offer guidance. (I’m a former broadcaster with agency experience now in the SMT world.) As a major market personality, pitches filled my email and phone inboxes. (Over coffee sometime, I’ll share the irony that I was a PR person’s worst nightmare.)

When transitioning to agency life focusing on media relations, I had the benefit of creating multiple angles/pitches and earning media over a longer window. A couple of years in SMT land taught me a few things I want to share with you.

It’s important to remember with a media tour your “fishing hole” is small. If only offering interviews during a certain day and hours, so many variables can lead to passes.

      • Already booked, but are they available tomorrow?
      • This week is our telethon for (insert cause) awareness so we just can’t fit this in.
      • We can cover this with our local (insert subject matter expert)…

***Note: This concept was originally focused on satellite media tours. It’s valid for a potential radio media tour or internet media tour.


Your spokesperson has the largest impact on the number and quality of your media bookings. While this isn’t breaking news, do not take this factor lightly as I’ve seen over the last couple of years.

media-tourProducers and hosts will bend over backward for A-List celebrities and athletes. Even stations that usually take SMT interviews for “technical reasons” will force engineering to make the connection happen for the right talent. Suddenly, schedules open up. Trekking from the Lower East Side to Midtown Manhattan for an in-person interview is no problem. Again, I get it. I’ve been there as a broadcaster. Turns out, the top tier talent doesn’t have to be currently hot. Some of my best bookings come from 80’s and 90’s pop culture icons. #NostalgiaFactor

On the flipside, influencers and subject matter experts are always available. It doesn’t mean they don’t have value with the perfect topic or timing. Remember it’s so much easier to hit DELETE or send a PASS when the talent isn’t noteworthy.

IF you can push budgets to secure a top talent, do it! Or if the celeb/athlete might be under contract for some PR hours in their spokesperson agreement, ask for even 1 hour of media tour time. The difference in number and quality of impressions is worth it.



We now live in a world of clickbait and headline porn. Heck, most of us now contribute to the new reality thanks to our jobs in PR and marketing. Smaller media tour pitch windows won’t typically allow for major bookings unless there’s breaking news or the topic is one unheard of before. A great topic can secure outstanding coverage if you have a 3 to 6 week window to secure placements. When the timeframe shrinks to 3 to 6 hours, it’s just a different ballgame.

Good news, conducting market research in the form of a quick PR survey to get that bookable topic is possible! Ask the right questions to the proper panel sample size to get back meaningful and credible data. Then use the results in media pitches and alerts.

Prepare yourself for your great topic to get taken by a local outlet and a segment done by a local SME. It happens. If you commissioned the survey, quality media outlets will still give proper attribution. Continue working hard to create a unique topic and angle. Just understand why it could result in better placements during traditional media relations and not a tight SMT window.


Certain days of the week are better for media tour bookings. No doubt about it. In general, my favorite SMT window is 8 AM to 12 PM Eastern on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Avoid Mondays and Fridays if possible. You can read more about picking a media tour day.


Other timing factors include elections, major sporting events, holidays, etc. Any event dominating the national conversation will impact your bookings in the weeks and days before and after it. If your talent and topic mesh with these occasions, then take advantage of the timing for media placements.

If pitching to calendar benchmarks (New Year, Spring Cleaning, Summer Travel, Back-to-School, Holidays), try your best to begin early. Three to four weeks for pitching media tours is ideal. You’re probably pitching much earlier for long-lead opportunities. Plan ahead for SMTs and RMT. Being late to the calendar opportunities might require paid media integrations to secure coverage.

Target Markets

The right combination of Talent, Topic, and Timing will lead to a successful media tour – unless the 4th “T”, Target Markets, is unrealistic. Every client wants the biggest coverage to maximize ROI. However, expecting TV coverage in a top 5 DMA with an influencer or internal spokesperson is unlikely. (Exception to the rule: perfect topic and timing.) Please manage client expectations.


Even if you have a top tier celebrity, only wanting 35 TV interviews in the top 20 DMAs isn’t realistic. It’s an acceptable goal to strive for but don’t be surprised if you end up with 30 interviews in the top 50 DMAs in the 4-hour window. That’s still incredible.

Suggestions for a client needing coverage in specific cities:

  • Create tiers for target market success. Tier 1 includes top 5-10 markets. Tier 2 the next most important 10-15 cities. Tier 3 includes all other markets where coverage is a win.
  • Prepare for paid media integrations. The industry now embraces the PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) model. Guaranteed coverage in a show or in a commercial with an advertorial look/feel is an option.

Bonus “T”, Trump…

President-elect Donald J. Trump is a reality. The 2016 election taught us about the power of publicity (and Twitter). The billionaire was a media wild card and many a media tour was impacted by “breaking news” on the campaign trail. We’ll see if the same breaking headlines will disrupt the news cycle over the next 4 to 8 years. Don’t take the Trump factor lightly.

Connecting the Dots…

Pitching a media tour is different than it was even 5 years ago. Digital media and paid integrations altered the landscape. Tight time windows fill up with top tier talent and/or fresh topics. Even those opportunities are taped these days. Mid-tier talents and topics will still get coverage, but the execution is slightly different and needs to be more strategic.

If you are considering a media tour, please apply the 4T Filter to begin to manage expectations and even alter the game plan. It’s the perfect starting point for evaluating the best media tactic.



As SVP of Digital Marketing & Media, Alex strives to develop and deliver shareable media impressions. “Cut through the clutter and create memorable content with the potential to go viral!” That was his mantra during his nearly two decades as a broadcaster for CBS Radio, iHeartMedia and ESPN Radio in major markets including Washington DC, Atlanta and Tampa, Florida. Alex has been featured in the New York Post, PR Daily and numerous other publications. He was WFLA (NBC) News Channel 8’s on-air social media expert in Tampa Bay on afternoon and evening newscasts. The Dallas native graduated from Texas Tech University and lives in Bentonville, AR with his wife Jeni and their two children.