Putting members of the media behind the wheel of your new car is undeniably the most cost-effective way of getting widespread, unbiased coverage. Over time, your budget might allow for certain selected journalists to have the opportunity to sample your new model for an extended evaluation, but a short term first look is likely going to involve a number of people in one location.
But not leveraging such an event can prove disastrous for everyone involved, since those initial reviews can be the most important ones your car will ever get.
A media drive is a major undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or burdensome. Let’s first examine the best way to get started.
Place and Time
Picking the location and timing of your media drive is essential. Too many have made the mistake of offering a drive opportunity at the same time as another major event in an entirely different location. Since many outlets are limited in the amount of coverage they can take on at one time, you don’t want to lose potential journalists just because they are attending a new car show on the other side of the country, or they’re at a major vintage event overseas.
Consult any calendar that might apply to your audience – you will be able to find dates that work well for everyone.
With a date selected, your next decision will probably revolve around a location. The most budget-friendly option is to hold your media ride and drive where your audience will already be. With journalists scattered around the country – and across the globe – the only time you’ll find them all in the same place is around a major auto show like SEMA in Las Vegas or the Los Angeles Auto Show. If your intended audience will be in tune with classic cars or enthusiast-oriented events, consider taking advantage of an afternoon during the Monterey week in August or even the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit. Or, you could run your snowmobile ride and drive during the Detroit show in January!
If you choose to piggyback and adjacent show or major event, you don’t want to intrude on the event, or else you’ll risk losing essential coverage. As exciting as your product is, journalists are in town first and foremost for the major event, which probably offers lots of exciting news worth covering. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to drive your car, but you have to be careful with timing. The days leading to and following a major event are prime driving time, but you’ll want to give journalists plenty of notice ahead of time.
Even if you don’t have all of your details carefully arranged, a simple “save the date” e-mail will alert reporters about an upcoming drive. It’s amazing how few major automakers even bother with this small effort, which serves as a convenience for all involved.