Now that you’ve made your list – and checked it twice – to decide who will be at your media drive and where and when you will choose to hold it, the time has come to start thinking about what will help make the event go as easily as possible.
Begin by thinking from the perspective of a member of the media. Why would someone have traveled, either on your dime or their own, to your event? What do they plan to get out of the day? For different members of the media, it might be something unique entirely. Some will be focused on driving the car or cars you have on offer. Others instead will want to use the event as an opportunity to talk with executives, engineers and designers because they know they will be spending more time in one of your products in the future.
Unless you are catering to a very small, specific group, you’ll need to do your best to accommodate everyone’s wishes. Among those, you need to carefully balance drive time with down time – that is, the time when your guests could interact with your team.
A general rule of thumb is that most average new cars need to be driven at least 100 miles, some of which should include driver changes. A 150 to 200-mile day would be ideal; over most roads, this would take between three and four hours not including a lunch break along the way. Roads should be varied and would depend on what your vehicle should achieve.
Conversely, some vehicles need time on a closed course – and not necessarily a race track or autocross course. If your budget allows, it’s nice to have competitive vehicles and a demonstration of something unique about your vehicle, whether it is the ability to tow or a distinct ride or handling quality that stands out compared to rivals. Securing a rival vehicle or two isn’t a challenge if you work out a borrowing fee with a local dealer.
Set aside plenty of time to schedule interviews with members of your executive, engineering and design teams. PR reps can gently engage media members into interviews that can help them write their articles or put together their videos. An extended lunch break or a pre-dinner gathering usually works best; let the media spend some time in the car before scheduling interviews.
The little things
Along the drive portion of the event, you don’t want to lose your media members. A well-planned route map with easy-to-follow icons, maps and emergency contact numbers will help your drivers stay on track. Some maps even contain occasional historical or regional facts about the route; although rarely used in content gleaned from the trip, these little bits and pieces are an easy way to build rapport and respect.
Make sure that the cars are stocked with water and a snack or two. You can show off an audio system by including an iPod in the vehicle for use on the road (but don’t forget to remind your drivers that the iPod is in the vehicle!).
If possible, a user’s guide to the car can be included in the media drive. Most new cars come with a quick reference guide; if they are complete in time for the drive, have a few on hand in the vehicles – but be careful, since members of the media might assume that they are promotional material meant to be taken home!
In future installments, we’ll discuss other ways you can make your media drive more useful for everyone involved – including video crews.