Satellite Media Tour: Spotlight Across the Nation

Satellite Media Tour Spotlight

A satellite media tour is a series of back-to-back TV, radio and online interviews conducted with affiliates, stations, and networks across the country over several hours.

Conducted from either a studio or field location, a satellite media tour, or SMT, is one of the most effective tools an organization or brand can use to reach key audiences nationwide. Critical to success, however, is choosing the right satellite media tour company as your partner.

So whether it’s your first SMT or your 100th, make sure you’ve done your research and asked the right questions of potential satellite media tour companies.

Satellite Media Tours (SMTs) are a PR technique used to connect brands with consumers by conducting a series of television, radio, and online interviews. They take place during one day, from a studio or remote location and the timing coincides with morning and afternoon news programs. Both live and taped segments are done during the duration of the SMT, also referred to as a media tour or just a tour. Select interviews can be done on another day if the television or radio hosts are unavailable during the tour. While stations are in control of conducting the interviews, suggested messaging and questions are provided to each producer before the SMT.


Satellite media tour have a spokesperson to speak on camera and behalf of the brand. Spokespeople can be in-house from the brand, an influencer expert, or a well-known celebrity. The talent must have a relevant and organic connection with the topic. Make sure that whoever you hire has a natural, easy on-camera presence, and has a fundamental understanding of the SMT topic. Anyone can memorize 4-5 key messages, but you need a talent that can answer ANY related questions and a personal connection to the story never hurts. Some companies will use in-house spokespeople, who have experience being on-camera.

Markets, Markets, Markets

Pitching media requires creativity, timely editorial messaging, a good relationship with the producer, or utilizing a well-known talent. Each satellite media tour should be evaluated based on all of these factors to determine how it will perform. An experienced team should be able to tell you what to expect. Incorporating earned media pitching with strategic paid placements will make for even better results.


Every satellite media tour project is followed by a series of reports. Reports should be updated every week and should showcase airings of interviews, updates on content placements, and Nielsen audience impression numbers. Online airings are typically measured in UVM’s (Unique Visitors Monthly). UVMs are typically divided by 30 to get the number of daily unique visitors and then incorporated into the report. Impression expectations should be discussed upfront. There should be ZERO surprises on an SMT report.

The smt lifecycle

When evaluating Satellite Media Tour companies to partner with, they must 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 satellite media tour 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.

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 satellite media tour – 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 satellite media tour 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 the morning of to make sure the spokesperson is comfortable in front of the camera and everyone else is ready for the satellite media tour to run smoothly.

Generic Interview – This is usually a:60 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 online placements.

Audience without breaking the bank

Another advantage of Satellite Media Tours is the ability to tailor your message to specific markets. With an satellite media tour, you can target specific media outlets and demographics, ensuring that your message is tailored to the needs and interests of your target audience. Back in October 2022, Virginia Energy Sense gave tips to cut costs on rising energy bills in the DMV area to reach the most relevant audience effectively with Big Whig Media. Netflix star Noah Centineo came to Big Whig to promote his show The Recruit internationally at our Washington DC studios earlier this year. This can help to increase the effectiveness of your message and ensure that it resonates with your target audience as opposed to blindly pitching.

Netflix Noah Centineo featured for a Satellite Media Tour at Washington DC Studios Big Whig Media with our state-of-the-art rooftop camera feed of the Capitol BuildingNetflix Star Noah Centineo in Studio 1 with a gorgeous view of the US Capitol Building from our rooftop camera on the Willard Hotel

Every Satellite Media Tour is different and no matter who the provider is, it is important to get a quote that outlines what your communication strategy and goals are as well as the time and potential manpower you need for the production.

Satellite Media Tours are an effective way to reach a broad audience and get your message out to the public. Whether you’re promoting a new product or service, raising awareness about an issue, or simply looking to reach a large audience, holding your next Satellite Media Tours at Big Whig Media’s Washington DC video production studio can help you achieve your goals!

Typical SMT Day

satellite media tour last from 2-6 hours on average and typically consist of 20-30 interviews with TV, Radio, and online stations. Many times, the schedule lineup will include target markets that can also be incorporated. During a series of back-to-back interviews, station anchors and hosts talk with the spokesperson, asking the suggested questions and diving into any relevant topics. satellite media tour tend to take place between 8:00 AM and 12:30 PM EST, as this is the best time for morning and afternoon news programs. During the satellite media tour, additional content should be captured for later distribution (Audio News Releases, Syndicated Video Placements, Online video placements, etc.). Crew call time is typically 1-2 hours before the first interview depending on the amount of hair and make-up required by the spokesperson. Rehearsals are also typically done the morning of the tour, to ensure the spokesperson is comfortable with the messaging and as a final check of the segmented flow with the appropriate use of b-roll. The set is usually finalized the day before the tour during a walk-through. All interviews will sound like they are live, but many will actually be taped and aired later by the stations (many times, airing multiple times).

A satellite media tour (SMT) remains an effective public relations tactic that can often generate high-quality results that matter to your clients. However, an SMT in 2016 is very different from 10 years ago, back when we all had MySpace accounts. Today, across the PR services spectrum, it’s all about the PESO—the Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned model—and the same is true for an SMT.

Because things have changed so much over the last decade or so, I gathered our experienced team of television, radio, Internet, and PR experts together to get their takes on what makes a mega client win…and mega migraine mistakes. Read on for their 16 tips:

Make sure your spokesperson didn’t do an SMT last month. This can directly impact the number and quality of bookings for your tour and it’s a more common problem than you might suspect. Make sure you ask your spokesperson or their agent if they’ve been featured in a media tour in recent months.

Optimize the time you have with your celebrity

 A common error we see is paying a spokesperson for eight hours and only getting five or six hours of actual service, which can result in hundreds of thousands of lost media impressions for your client’s messages. In any contract with your talent, be sure to specify that the hours you pay for are exclusively for publicity appearances. Things like make-up and hair or travel to and from the location are not part of those hours.

Never underestimate the importance of a B-roll for your SMT

 TV and digital are both visual mediums. Pictures are critical when producing a compelling SMT segment. Good video helps tell your story. Without it, a news producer is left with a talking head. This is especially important for any taped interviews. You want your segment to be memorable. A good, compelling video will get your story aired. Without it, it could be forgotten on a shelf. Has your client had a recent commercial shoot? Maybe that raw footage is available. If not, KEF Media’s team can create those visuals for you. Read, “Does Your B-Roll Distribution Meet the Viral Video Standard?”

If possible, avoid television sweeps months.

 Television real estate is always at a premium, and that’s especially true during sweeps months—February, May, July, and November—when Nielsen measures audiences to help TV networks and local stations set advertising rates. This matters to you because television media are especially busy during sweeps. Earned media interviews during sweeps without a truly compelling topic or talent can be particularly challenging. Luckily, there are integrated media tactics we can still use to get quality coverage.

Rethink settling on “Co-op” satellite media tours

 Co-op satellite media tours typically feature three to five brands that a spokesperson presents throughout a themed segment and are usually conducted as a result of budget restraints. There is a better solution if you’re considering a co-op tour! Thanks to technological advances and the PR industry embracing of PESO (Paid Earned Shared Owned), a co-op media tour solution that better accommodates your client’s budget while delivering a better ROI should limit the tour to two parties to maintain message integrity.

Understand the decision-making process in newsrooms

 Whether they work in a TV, radio, print, or Internet newsroom, the editorial decision-makers you want to reach need to know why their particular audience will be interested in your client’s story. Thus, a good media alert, tweet, or phone pitch should boil down to a few concise, compelling sentences. Something that looks like a branded keyword-packed press release will only hurt media interest. Remember, the objective is to book the interview. Your spokesperson will deliver the messages during the interviews when the real audience you want is paying attention.

Branding on set should be limited

Load up the set with branding and watch producers cancel the interviews they booked. That’s what happens because those producers can see your satellite feed before they get to the interview. It’s the best way to kill what otherwise would be a successful tour. One brand mention and one brand visual are acceptable. If you have a client who insists on more than that, we can offer alternatives that will deliver what your client wants to see.

Leave enough lead time to execute a tour.

 Ideally, four to six weeks is sufficient. This often includes the agency account team consulting with us to determine the best tour tactics, topics, talent, timing, and location. Of course, things aren’t always ideal. We’ve produced and executed satellite media tours in as little as a few days and delivered excellent results.

Encourage your client and spokesperson to agree to the best interview time window. An analysis of two years of SMT bookings and conversations with media professionals tell us this: for a standard tour with the main target of television bookings, we recommend 8 a.m. to noon Eastern. Radio Media Tours book

Pick a location set over a studio, if possible

 Television is a visual medium. Producers are always interested in an SMT staged at a visually appealing location that lends itself to your spokesperson’s topic. Over the last year and a half, we’ve staged satellite tours from the Winter Olympics in Russia, Yellowstone National Park, Walt Disney World, and the Super Bowl. But if you’re discussing something like lawn care, have your spokesperson do it from an attractive lawn. If it’s about car care, do it from a repair garage. When we stage media tours from locations, we always take things like weather, permits, and travel into account.
Don’t rule out satellite media interviews from foreign countries

If you are considering a satellite tour staged in a foreign country, know that it is eminently doable. Thanks to satellite and digital technology, the world is small now, at least from a communications standpoint. But you also have to know the ropes because things are often much different in other parts of the world. Over 30 years, we’ve produced hundreds of tours from Asia, Australia, Europe, and even Mt. Everest.

Be prepared for the broadcast news industry standard

 Live to Tape interviews. When we staged our first tour 25 years ago, all of the interviews were live. While a good pitch will always get attention, live interviews are now almost exclusively reserved for celebrities and all-star athletes. For everything else (lifestyle, medical, financial topics), to-day’s commercial-sensitive news producers overwhelmingly like to tape their interviews to see and hear what the message will look like. 

Then, those taped interviews air within a few days. What are the odds of your taped interview airing? Excellent! If a producer commits their anchors’ and crew members’ time to tape your segment, it’s because they like the topic and expect to air it.

Look for a hook

Timely, topical news hooks ensure media coverage so you should always be on the lookout for a hook. For example, if your client makes portable electric generators and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just predicted an unusually high number of hurricanes this season, there’s your SMT news hook. Media also love surveys and studies relevant to the interests of the average viewer, listener, or reader. For example, if your client sells golf balls, commission a survey to determine the 10 worst gifts to give dad for Father’s Day and then stage the tour at a golf course the Wednesday before Father’s Day.

Don’t get ripped off

We often wonder how some of our competitors can charge so much for a satellite tour and deliver so little by way of results. They can get away with it because they know the agency representatives often don’t know what questions to ask. We’re always looking to partner with our clients and partners don’t take advantage of partners. We’ll work with you on your budget and deliver, we hope, results that exceed your expectations. That way, you’ll partner with us again.

Expand your target markets.

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