Media previews: How a small event can lead to a successful opening

We recently had the opportunity to assist Cabela’s with public relations efforts surrounding the opening of its Short Pump location – its second location in Virginia. One area where we were tasked to lend a hand was the media preview: which was an opportunity for local media to come out and get a sneak peek of the space, do interviews and get photos and videos prior to the official store opening.

Here at Hodges, we assist a number of clients with media previews, especially as they relate to retail, restaurant and other openings. They are a great way to create excitement, helping generate an early buzz prior to launch. If you’re interested in holding a media preview, there are several things you can do as the PR person to make the event as successful as possible:

  • Time it right: For Cabela’s, we held the media preview about two weeks before the official opening of the store. This was early enough to start some community buzz, yet far enough out from detracting from coverage of the actual opening.
  • Make it fun: When you’re planning a media event, think about what you can do to make it fun and interactive for your attendees. If you’re a restaurant, showcase your most popular dish or offer a tasting of various menu items. At Cabela’s, we showed attendees the heart of the store – they could dress up in camo, test out the archery range or cast a fly rod.
  • Be prepared: Media preview attendees will want to take photos, video and talk to key people. If you think about those things on the front end, your event will go much more smoothly. Ask yourself these questions: Who is your key spokesperson? What are the best opportunities for photos and video? Does it make sense to have a fact sheet prepared?

We garnered some great local coverage for the Cabela’s opening from both the media preview and grand opening events. For the grand opening, a local TV station came out and did several live shots from the store. They even offered suggestions about what makes a good live shot, which should come in handy for future media previews and openings.

  • Make it newsworthy: Send a news release where the “need to know” information is immediately clear. It’s helpful to have as a reference point. Lead with the important information – why should people care?
  • Follow up: Don’t be afraid to send reminders in the weeks and days before. News stations get hundreds of emails on a regular basis, so reminders are always helpful. (In addition to emailing the assignment desk, don’t be afraid to email individual reporters, too.)
  • A good spokesperson is key: Live shots are always best when they can be interactive. Have someone available who is energetic, knows their stuff and can represent the company well.
  • Is there a personal element? Facts are important, but so is heart. For example, a general manager might talk about the new store but they also can share why they started and like working there. People want to hear personal stories.
  • Extras: Viewers love action! Have props ready so you can give some demonstrations and have things ready to show the audience.

You can see why a media preview is definitely worth considering. What’s the best media preview you’ve ever been a part of? Tell us in the comments below.

Megan Irvin

Megan spends her days doing media relations, community relations, content creation and events for clients like Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Virginia Distillery Company and Mercy Chefs. Her favorite part of her job is working with clients and providing strategic counsel — and garnering media attention for clients in outlets like TODAY, Esquire, USA Today and Bon Appetit.

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