31 Mar How to manage a press conference
In Monday’s post I blogged about whether or not press conferences were still a valid means of communication. The main point was that whenever you have breaking news that everyone is interested in, a compelling visual or stunt, or a crisis to manage a news event can be very effective. But how best to manage it? Here are a few tips that can help everything run more smoothly.
- Plan ahead, but not TOO far ahead. This sounds counter-intuitive, but TV and print plan stories on fairly short notice. It’s better to alert them a few days ahead of time that you’ll be holding the conference if it’s breaking news or a crisis. For a product launch or stunt a week ahead is great.
- Send an alert about the news conference – and use the press release and fact sheet for more in depth information. Too many times PR people send ALL the information. You really need to get them teased enough to be interested with the 5W’s – who, what, when, where, why. When they call for more information give them everything. Too much information can be overwhelming to an assignment editor who needs to scan and decide on stories in a few minutes. (Here’s more detail on pitching TV news)
- Pick a good time, which means late morning or mid-afternoon. Don’t schedule your news conference in the middle of the news shows or early in the morning when they’re still running morning news. Most reporters will tell you 10:30 or 11 is perfect. It’s still early enough for print to have plenty of time for their deadlines, and TV can easily make the evening news. Early afternoon is pretty good too, say 1 or 2PM
- Decide who will get individual interviews, if any, before the conference. I usually give one or two reporters an exclusive one-on-one – especially if I feel someone has been reporting fair, honestly and following guidelines I’ve laid down about contacting people directly, etc. This is particularly important in crisis communications and breaking news. If a reporter is really trying to get the story by going around me, they get shut down pretty fast. But that’s me. I’ll do anything to help a journalist get the best story they can. But if they break the rules, forget about it!
- Distribute all the background materials ahead of time, and have plenty more at the event. They will forget them.
- For your speakers, make sure they plan to talk very briefly, 5-7 minutes or less. And don’t have more than 3 people present if you can avoid it.
- Explain to those present how questions will be handled before the conference starts. Ask one journalist to kick off the question session ahead of time and have them tell you what question it will be. Knowing the first question will put your speaker much more at ease.
- Make sure you get all the media’s business cards.
If you are organized, communicate clearly to presenters and journalists and manage the questions carefully your press conference should be a great success! And don’t forget, follow up afterward to thank them for coming – and find out when the stories will run.
For more on running a press conference, check out HowStuffWorks.com