What is a Satellite Media Tour? How have SMTs Evolved in the Digital Age?
A Satellite Media Tour (SMT) is a broadcast PR tactic utilized by public relations agencies, corporate communications departments and non-profit organizations to efficiently share key messages through a series of back-to-back interviews within a given time window in a single morning or day. SMTs typically originate from a studio in a major US city, but a satellite truck can broadcast from most remote locations such as a private residence, a golf course or Grand Central Station. This type of remote location adds a unique element to the interview and is received well by the media.
From the early 1990’s to the early 2010’s, it was common for an SMT to book nearly 30 earned back-to-back TV interviews is a single morning. Regulations, the emergence of digital media and the embracing of the PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) model dramatically changed the standard for a successful SMT in the mid-2010’s. Many satellite media tour companies (public and private) failed to adapt to the new media landscape and went out of business.
Today, PR agencies and brands continue to effectively use media tours as part of their comprehensive program or strategy, but a complete execution now includes TV, radio and online interviews – which can come in the form of social media streams (like Facebook Live), influencers/bloggers and high level outlets including Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, People and more. Paid media integrations are available in target markets where earned media interviews are not obtainable. This will allow you to maximize outreach for the brand and efficiently use your spokesperson’s valuable time.
The SMT Lifecycle
When evaluating Satellite Media Tour companies to partner with, it’s crucial they include all media platforms listed above, making the SMT more of an Integrated Media Tour. At the onset of a project, it’s best to get your vendor in on the planning stage as early as possible to tap into their expertise and experience, and to make time-saving suggestions. This is the perfect time to ask about incorporating a market research survey to bolster your SMT topic. While four to five weeks out is ideal, executing a tour can be done with less lead time, but allowing as much time as possible will ensure the best outcome for your initiative. Once you’ve decided on a vendor, start with a kick-off call with everyone involved. This will make sure all are up to speed with the client’s messaging and goals. From there, the vendor will draft media materials and when they are approved, the media pitching and booking begins. Booking updates are issued daily or weekly until the day of the tour.
In addition to media training your spokesperson and making sure they are comfortable with messaging and key talking points, other items to consider are set design, props, food stylists, etc. This will vary depending on the subject matter and whether it is an in-studio tour or remote. Your vendor will be able to provide you with sample set designs to help create the look that best suits your client’s style and overall theme.
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Satellite Media Tour Terms to Know
- Satellite studio – a brick & mortar establishment where video segments are recorded live and/or taped and transmitted via satellite to TV stations across the country
- Satellite truck – a mobile control room with satellite uplink capabilities that allow a live broadcast/SMT to originate from almost anywhere on the globe
- Satellite time – Securing specific satellite coordinates for a certain amount of time which allows a live broadcast to originate in one location and be transmitted via satellite to a different location 3 miles or 5,000 miles away.
- Remote SMT – a media tour that does not originate from a satellite studio, but from a location such as a sports stadium, a zoo or a retail store. A satellite truck is then needed to uplink the interview to TV stations.
- Site Survey – This is needed for remote SMTs to make sure there is enough space for a satellite truck to be parked for 4-6 hours during the SMT and to make sure there is enough electrical power, and a clear view of the southwest or southeastern sky to hit a specific satellite.
- Run-through – a mock interview done the afternoon before a tour or morning of to make sure the spokesperson is comfortable in front of the camera and everyone else is ready for the SMT to run smoothly.
- Generic Interview – This is usually a :60 second interview with the producer asking questions as if they were a media outlet. It is recorded and then sent to specific TV stations that have requested the content but were unable to conduct the interview. This can also be used for a paid network feed to extend viewership as well as for on-line placements.