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On the road.

ON THE ROAD Over the course of a year, visitors from more than a hundred companies are likely to drop by our offices to show off new products, explore strategy and positioning concepts, or just talk. Even though we try to screen out the road show equivalent of the "If it's Tuesday this must be Belgium" crowd, we still get a fair number of visitors who seem a trifle fuzzy about their expectations (and ours) from these visits. Considering that a road show can cost upwards of $10,000 to produce, that's a remarkable waste of both time and money.

But there are also whistlestop visits that are well-timed, full of interesting nuggets, and likely to yield good editorial material. Some of the most useful road shows, we've noticed, have been set up by West Coast publicist Shel Israel. So we asked Israel for a few tips on how to organize press tours:

* Send the top guys. "CEOs are more newsworthy than product managers," says Israel. "The higher the rank of the presenter, the stronger the news value." Best combination: "Two key spokespeople, one reflecting the company/marketing position, the other knowledgeable on technology."

* Schedule multiple trips. Because publications have different lead times and focus, Israel points out that it's a good idea to schedule as many as three different tours. Analysts should be seen "as early as possible, so they can intelligently comment on you to the weekly tabloids and daily newspapers," says Israel. "Monthly magazines are usually product rather than news oriented. These editors should be visited as early as possible, then kept informed as the product gets into final form." Finally, just when the product is ready to announce, visit the weeklies and dailies, being careful to give everyone an equal shot at the story.

* Rehearse your newsworthy points. Before going on the road, company executives should have a clear idea of "the three most newsworthy points" about their announcement, preferably customized for each publication. "Don't intellectualize," Israel adds. "People should understand your point without having to work at it."

* Make sure the demo is stable--and interesting. "A real product demo is usually not ready until roughly the fourth week of beta testing," Israel points out. A good demo should last about a half-hour and should focus on the same three to five newsworthy points that company spokespeople are stressing. "Most editors want to see a demo," he says. "That does not mean they want to see every feature and doo-hickey."

* Bring Mohammed to the mountain. "Whenever possible, see the press at their facilities. More members of the publication staff are likely to attend, and you will have extended the courtesy of spending your time in transit, not theirs. There are two exceptions--meals, and when the presentation is complex and equipment requires you to remain static in a hotel suite."

* Pace yourself. "Most people can be truly effective for 4-5 meetings a day, including meals," he says. Typically, press presentations last between one and two hours. Trying to cram too many visits into one day is "meeting macho," Israel says, and it's usually counter-productive.

* Have fun. "It may sound obvious, but too often nervous rigidity damages communications. Relax, have fun, and you will maximize both your credibility and your communications skills."
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:managing press tours and other public relations
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jun 11, 1990
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