“Press conference” is one of the most common marketing and media terms that those outside the industry are familiar with. And for good reason, it is a powerful tool for generating awareness about an event or organization. Because they sound rather glamorous, it can be tempting to hold a press conference for announcements that seem important to you. When timed correctly and with the proper planning and communication strategies, press conferences for big announcements can be an extremely effective method for promoting company news. But, before you plan the big event, be sure that this is the most effective way to share your news.
If your company is contemplating hosting a press conference, there are two major factors to consider. First, is your news press conference worthy? Second, when does the announcement need to be made? If the timing of your conference is off, you may have a podium and a speaker and no media in attendance. (A PR person’s nightmare!)
Press conferences should only be held if your company is announcing truly big news that will be of interest to a wide audience. If you think you have news that requires a press conference, ask these questions as a litmus test before you schedule the event:
- What is our goal in announcing this news?
- Why will people care about this news?
- How many people will be impacted by this news?
- What does this news mean to the community?
- Will public officials be in attendance?
- Who do we think will cover this news? More than one news outlet?
- Could we accomplish the same goal for our news without a press conference?
Press conferences should be held as the news is breaking; even one day after the news has happened can be too late. We live in a 24-hour news cycle and if the media is going to take the time to show up at a location for an announcement, it better be new, newsworthy news.
If the press conference has a legal nature, your case must be on file before you share the news. Many organizations require a documented case number before they will release the news. However, don’t make the mistake of filing your case too far in advance of your planned announcement. If you file a case on a Friday and hold your conference on Tuesday, it’s too late. The news has likely already been seen by the beat reporters and shared the way they want to share it.
If your business has a special relationship with a certain reporter or news outlet, you may consider “leaking” or advancing some of the information to them the night before or the morning of the press conference. This can help them get a jump on the story, and preserve a valuable relationship for your business. However, make sure you have the reporter agree to an embargo time, as you do not want a story published the day before the press conference is held. You will anger the rest of the news community and blow your press conference.
Once you’ve settled on a date and time for the press conference, it is very important to create a plan ahead of time. The first step is to establish a clear objective for the conference; the main point that you want the press to take away from the event. Next, you must identify the ideal location to hold the conference. Its best to hold the conference where the news is happening. If it is a joint announcement between two organizations, then pick the location that will be both secure and accessible to the media.
Next, make sure that designated spokespeople are prepared to speak to the media and answer questions. The number of speakers should be limited to just one or two representatives from the company, as everyone in attendance is likely on a deadline. Your representatives should have approved talking points that they have memorized and are comfortable sharing. Have spokespeople practice in advance. Blanking in front of the media could be very embarrassing! If you haven’t participated in a media conference or done public speaking previously, get media training before the event.
On the big day, be sure to have a “Master of Ceremonies” appointed. This is the person who will welcome the media, introduce the speakers and manage questions if needed. We also recommend having printed materials in support of the news available for the media. These materials should include not only the press release but also, background information on the business, bios of spokespeople and any supporting documentation that you want the media to have easy access to for their story.
Be sure to have each person in attendance check-in and provide their name and email address. This will make follow-up much easier for your team. Reporters should also be provided with your contact information if they need more information after the press conference.
Last but not least, don’t overlook the little things. An organized, comfortable room will make set up easier for television crews. Refreshments are also highly recommended. Coffee and donuts can go a long way toward press conference attendees having a favorable impression of your company!
The bottom line:
- Press conferences are still an important part of sharing news.
- They are an ideal way to gain media coverage on a mass scale.
- Press conferences allow you to tell your story, your way.
- Press conferences should only be hosted when the goal and the news are big enough to merit an assembled in-person gathering of the media.
- Treat your press conference like an event with the media as your guests.
- Spokespeople need to practice and be prepared before they hit the podium.
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