How to Organize A Regional Media Tour

How to get live TV and radio exposure by organizing your own tour.

To the media, outsiders are more exciting than the talent in their own home town. Plus, I have done all my local media (Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver). Last year I did a ton of radio all over the country, but that didn’t sell that many books. It was a shotgun approach, spreading tidbits here and there, not concentrated enough to create enough impact. So this year, I decided I would maximize my ability to get TV media by going somewhere new and do an entire area thoroughly. Plus, I can do radio from anywhere. Why not get both?

I sat down with a map and planned a small circular journey. Start at Atlanta, the biggest market in the South, do a big circle, returning to Atlanta to drop off my rental car and catch my return flight home (makes your flight and rental car cheaper).

One good thing about medium-sized markets: you have less competition for people’s attention–in the media, and for special events such as booksignings. Many of these cities are perfect in size for that. Getting media in LA and NY isn’t that easy, and even if you get it, will that many people act on it? Not always.

So I arranged to spend about a day and a half each in the following cities: Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Little Rock, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Charlotte, and back to Atlanta. The drive between cities averages manageable 2-3 hours. Have to be in each city a minimum of 1-2 mornings, since that’s when most of your interview opportunities come. Weekends are mostly a bust, not much available, so plan your weekend for a city you will enjoy. Arrive Thursday so you can have Friday morning there, and leave on Sunday so you can Monday morning in another city.

First, I set up a booksigning in each city. The booksigning is just the bait for the media–and to get books in stock in the city you are visiting. One booksigning per city is plenty. Unless by a fluke or you are famous, you will sell few books for the time and effort. Say you spend 2-3 hours per signing (setting it up calling, mailing, stuff, following up, driving there, and doing the signing). Then you sell 15 books. That’s not much money for the time–but it gives you a local media peg.

Setting booksignings helps in getting media. Getting media also helps get booksignings. Tell them who you are “talking to” before anything is firmly booked, and they will know you are serious and could help promote their store/signing.

Once all cities had booksignings in place, (2 months out minimum), we then started approaching TV shows. They book the farthest out. Getting TV helps get radio and newspaper. Share the TV interviews you have lined up with the radio/newspapers, but don’t share TV interviews with other TV stations. etc. etc. You need to leverage all of your media to get more, even in other cities sometimes.

After sending books/press kits to all TV shows, we then followed up with phone calls. We also sent this info to newspapers, but waited a couple of weeks to stagger our calls. Lastly, we faxed press releases to radio; they could ask for press kits/books if they wanted. There are too many to just send these out blindly. (Be willing to send out info more than once; it gets lost a lot!)

We also would fax the producers/editors the night before we made a follow-up call, reminding them about the info they had already received (and probably put in a pile) and alerting them that we would be calling that morning (shortly after they got to work and got their fax.) This makes follow-up calls much easier.

A lot of the radio and TV stations I have been to so far (Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis) have been pretty small and beat up. Not nearly as high tech and fancy as I have seen in places such as Detroit, Vancouver, or San Francisco. This is good; the people who work in these environments are not as stuffy and their importance is not as self-inflated. Many people are afraid of the media producers/hosts. My experience in the South has been that they mostly are down to earth folks who are very nice and accommodating.

Keep your time zones straight when setting an itinerary, and make confirmation calls before you leave to everyone. You’d be amazed at how many times people were glad you reminded them, which makes you think they forgot to put it in their calendars. I have gone to interviews and they either didn’t expect me or had me slotted for a different time. When your interview is approaching, make sure you are all on the same page! Don’t assume.

Make sure you bring plenty of blank videotapes on your tour. Always bring professional grade for the best quality. They cannot be played on your home VCR, but you want to use them for masters, so you can create a promotional video with your best clips (to send to media contacts). Buy them from professional stores that sell to video editing professionals/cameramen/TV studios.

I use FUJI ST 120 Super VHS and Fuji M321 SP Betacam Tapes myself. Be prepared to have to leave them behind at the studio for them to dub and send later, although it’s better to get them right then and there. (5 studios are supposedly sending me tapes from this last trip.) Make sure they are all labeled with your name and phone, and address, and include DO NOT REWIND; otherwise, you’ll accidentally tape another show over them.

The Super VHS tapes are 120 minutes long, and the Beta Cam are only 30. Some studios use only one or the other format. It’s best to have both just in case. Do not use “high-grade VHS” tapes from your local store. That quality is too poor to make dub.

The media are relatively competitive sometimes, and often like exclusives, etc. So, if I go into one studio on Monday, I use a different tape to record a show at a different station in the same city the next day, just in case they do weird things because they see their competition was in line before them the day before. Just a precaution.

Preview David LeClaire’s book, Bridges To A Passionate Partnership, at http:www/