How to Plan and Execute a Press Conference
Turn on the television and tune in on the news, where you will see a prominent person standing before a group of journalists or reporters who are asking questions. Open the news dailies and you will read news articles where this or that personality made announcements during a specific time and date that he or she met with members of the press.
In these instances, what took place was a press conference.
This guide explains 1) what is a press conference, 2) the pros and cons of a press conference, 3) how businesses utilize press conferences, and 4) how to plan and execute a press conference like a pro.
WHAT IS A PRESS CONFERENCE?
The simple definition of a press conference is an interview that is given by a prominent individual or personality to journalists in order to make an announcement, provide information, or answer inquiries. It is an organized event, meaning it has structure and order. Granted, you may have heard of press conferences being conducted on the fly but, more often than not, these are “ambush interviews”, due to their abrupt nature.
Why are press conferences important? Press conferences are very useful and actually play a very important role in society as a whole. Political and business announcements are made efficient by these press conferences. Celebrated personalities, and other public figures also benefit from press conferences. Here are some of the benefits of a press conference.
- It helps in information dissemination. Do you have important and relevant information that you want the public to know? Do you have something newsworthy to share? Then consider holding a press conference. Of course, you may opt to conduct one-on-one interviews with journalists, but a press conference will allow you to interact with more than one or two journalists at one time, thus saving you a lot of time, money and resources in its planning and execution.
- It is a helpful response tool. Are you currently facing issues against your person or that of your business, and you want to clear up matters in one fell swoop? A good way to do that is through a press conference. It is an excellent avenue to address issues that may plague you or your business.
- It is a very good public relations tool. Whether you are an individual, group or a business seeking to attract media attention, conducting press conferences will come in handy. Gaining media exposure is not limited to the traditional methods of advertising, since a press conference can also do the trick.
- It is a good advertising alternative. We mentioned media exposure earlier, and we all know that it could lead to greater brand recognition hence it is also another affordable way for the brand to gain an authoritative position in the market. The advantage of a press conference is how it actually costs less than your conventional advertising or promotional campaign. However, you need to already have a name for yourself before you can use it effectively.
PROS AND CONS OF A PRESS CONFERENCE
Here are several of the most common advantages and disadvantages of conducting press conferences. Go over them and decide whether holding a press conference is a good step for you to take.
- It is convenient and time-saving. As we said earlier, it accomplished the objective in one fell swoop. All the reporters or journalists are gathered in one place or one room at a single time, and the announcement will be made only once, as opposed to meeting several journalists in turn and making the same announcement or answering the same questions over and over.
- It ensures maximum impact for the information or announcement made. To the general public, the mere fact that a number of reporters or journalists paid attention enough to attend the press conference means that the announcement is, at the very least, newsworthy.
- It lets you reach a larger audience. There may only be a dozen reporters in the room when you hold the press conference. However, once these reporters disseminate the news you provided in their respective channels, you can be assured that your news will reach lots of people.
- It helps you build a relationship with members of the press or media. Having friends in the media is seen to be a good thing, and involving them in your press conferences is a good way to start.
- It lets you control the flow of information. You only tell the press what you want them to know. It is entirely within your control what information to share and what to withhold.
- It requires planning. A press conference has to be planned in order for it to be successful, and this means taking into consideration logistics, correspondence between the parties involved and several other factors.
- It is less targeted. More often than not, the audience will be the general public.This means that even those who are not part of your target audience will be exposed to the information or announcement you shared once the journalists release them.
PRESS CONFERENCES IN BUSINESS
From the above discussions, you may already have an idea how press conferences could be beneficial to businesses. We can actually sum it up in two words: public relations, and this could encompass aspects such as advertising, marketing and press relations.
Businesses often hold press conferences in the following instances:
- To announce changes in organizational structure, such as changes or transitions in management and leadership. If a new CEO is appointed, it is a good platform to introduce him or her. You may have heard about previously privately-held and owned companies going public. One of the steps they take is to hold a press conference to announce their upcoming IPO.
- To announce the launch of new products and services, or product lines and services.
- To announce important collaborations or partnerships with other businesses or institutions.
- To address issues or complaints from customers or the general public, regarding the products and services offered by the company.
- To publicize an upcoming activity or significant event by your company that you want members of the general public or of your target market to participate in.
Before going on full “let’s conduct a press conference” mode, you first have to ascertain whether you really need to conduct one or not. Maybe there are other, more suitable, ways for you to get your message across, without having to organize a press or news conference.
If your evaluation shows that a press conference is the best method, then you can get started on planning and executing one.
PLANNING A PRESS CONFERENCE
Organizing a press conference starts from the planning stage. This is where you start from scratch, and work your way to the point where you are able to execute the press conference smoothly. The success of a press conference relies largely on the planning. If it was done poorly, then it is almost a given that the resulting press conference will not be as successful as expected or hoped for.
Give yourself ample time to plan the press conference. You do not want to be rushing in the 11th hour. It would be a good idea to start planning several weeks ahead of the target date of the press conference. Not only will this ensure that you will have more than enough time to get everything together, it will also give you more room to make adjustments if and when necessary.
When planning a press conference, here are the items that you should focus on.
What message do you want to convey during the press conference? What is the announcement that you want to make? What are the issues that your company wants to address?
You have to be clear on the message or the topic, so you won’t be diverted during the press conference. The topic will also be prominently displayed in the press kit that you will be distributing to the press, so you have to make sure you have all the correct details.
The date and time of the press conference
You cannot pick just any random date and time to have the press conference, or base it solely on which day on the calendar is blank, or when the senior management members who will be speaking in the press conference are free. Timing is also very crucial when scheduling a press conference.
Remember that you will be inviting journalists and reporters to your news conference, and they are ingrained to go where the newsworthy events are. If the news or information that you will share during the press conference is not relevant or newsworthy for them at that particular time, they are more likely to ignore you and look for other, more relevant and newsworthy events instead.
- Pick a date when the interest of the journalists for your announcement will still be high. Do not put it off for too long, to the extent that your announcement will no longer be of any interest to them.
- The time of the day when the press conference will be conducted is also important. Journalists are very busy people. If you hold it too late in the day, they may not come because they will be too busy working on their news articles for the next day. Choose a time where you can get the highest attendance by the media, ensuring maximum press coverage.
- Ensure that there won’t be a conflict in the schedule. Will there be other events that coincide with your press conference, with the potential of drawing the attention and interest of journalists from you? You should also consider the schedule of the media people that you will be inviting, especially if they have deadlines or equally important events to handle.
Select the location of the press conference
Location, or the venue of the press conference, is just as important as the date and time.
- The location must be accessible. It must be easy to reach by the journalists. Having a long travel time to get to the location is one way to discourage reporters from attending a press conference, and you do not want that to happen.
- The location must be relevant to the event. There must be some relation to, say, the announcement that you are making, or to the company itself. Some businesses conduct press conferences in their own places of business or headquarters, especially if they have rooms or spaces that are large enough to accommodate big crowds.
- The location must be well-equipped with the facilities and equipment that you will need in the conduct of the press conference. Consider the availability of network connections, parking spaces for the reporters, and other communication tools and utilities.
- The location should be visually appealing. It must be clean and even attractive. Imagine having to hold a press conference in a cramped space, with poor lighting and ventilation. If you are a business hoping to make a good impression, then this is not a good way to go about it. For sure, the reporters may no longer want to attend any of your succeeding press conferences. It can even affect their impression of your company.
- The location must be conducive to interaction and communication. This means that it should not be in the middle of a noisy street or thoroughfare, where your audience will have a hard time hearing you, or where the managers or spokespersons of the company will have a difficult time concentrating because of too much noise and distraction.
Select the main players and train them
There are two main players in a press conference: the speakers and the moderator.
During the press conference, the speaker or speakers will be the face of the business or the company. They are the ones to deliver the message, make the announcement, or answer the questions from the journalists. Therefore, you should not assign just any random person.
Even if the speaker is a member of the senior management, or one who is fully knowledgeable about the company, he is still not exempt from studying and training for the event.
The speaker or main participants:
- Must be knowledgeable, not only about the topic, but other related topics. They may start out by reading a written statement, but when they are going to be asked questions later on, they should be able to readily answer them with confidence, without having to resort to looking over notes the whole time. The speaker should make the effort to study the areas where he may lack knowledge of, in time for the press conference.
- Must be articulate, and can speak with command and clarity. They should be able to speak confidently, with the ability to command the attention of the audience and engage them in discussion.
The moderator acts as the master of ceremonies, so to speak, facilitating the whole exchange between the speakers and the audience. This person will basically control and regulate the flow of the discussion, so that the participants stick to the topic.
The moderator must:
- Be experienced with dealing with the press. Normally, businesses pick a moderator that has prior experience in moderating press conferences.
- Have more than basic knowledge about the topic or the issue.
- Have a commanding presence, since this is the person that has to be the one on the driver’s seat, in control of the press conference.
Train them by providing the necessary materials for the press conference, such as reading materials on the topic or issue and other related literature. Conducting a dress rehearsal is also encouraged, as it will put the moderator and speakers in a simulated conduct of the press conference.
Identify the media representatives to be invited
First, you have to come up with a list of journalists, reporters and media personalities that you want to invite to the press conference. Pick the journalists that work on beats related to your business, or have an interest in the announcement or issues that you will make or address.
Write and distribute the press release
Consider the press release as your invitation to the media for your event, which is the press conference. In your press release, indicate the following:
- The date, time and location of the press conference
- The reason why you are holding a press conference
- Why they should attend the press conference
At least a week before the slated date of the press conference, send the press release to the media people you want to attend the event. Contact the media people on your list via e-mail or direct phone calls, if only to call their attention to the press release you distributed.
On the day before the press conference, contact them again for final confirmation (and as a final reminder) of the press conference the next day.
Develop a press kit
To further aid the reporters and journalists during the press conference, you have to distribute press kits, which are basically folders containing the information about the topic, message or issue that will be tackled during the press conference. The usual contents are:
- Information on the speakers or other participants of the press conference;
- Information on the topic, including supporting documents such as photographs, case studies, and even related news stories, articles or other published materials.
- A copy of the final press release
When developing a press kit, it is better to have extra copies, rather than preparing the exact number and running out of copies in the event that more press people attend the conference.
Make sure all the necessary arrangements are in place
Naturally, you are expected to oversee the finer details, such as the reservations of the venue, if the press conference is to be conducted outside of your place of business. If you will require the assistance of external parties for the lighting, catering, sound system and the like, you also have to make sure the arrangements are all made and ironed out.
EXECUTION OF A PRESS CONFERENCE
On the day of the press conference, you have to be on your toes, since this is the culmination of what you have worked on planning for the past several weeks.
Before the Press Conference
- Check that the venue is prepared, along with the visuals, the seats, the equipment, the refreshments, and all others. Take note of the seating arrangement, as well as the tables and chairs prepared for the speakers and the moderator.
- Provide a means for the participants to log in their attendance. This is for keeping a record of attendees for future reference. You can also use it as a means of collecting information like phone numbers from journalists. Such information can come in handy in future.
- Make sure the participants (the speakers and moderator) are prepared for the press conference.
- Have someone welcome the participants as they arrive, handing their press kits to them.
- Start the press conference on time.
During the Press Conference
- Document the press conference by recording it on video. It is possible that the media may request for any footage you may take of the event for future reference.
- Try as much as possible to stick to the schedule, such as the amount of time allotted for each speaker.
- Allow the moderator to lead the flow of the question-and-answer portion with the press people.
- End the press conference by thanking everyone who attended.
After the Press Conference
- Review the documentation or recording of the press conference. This is so that you can see where you fell short in the conduct of the press conference. It is also one way to ascertain whether the message was delivered as planned.
- Contact the media people and outlets represented, in case they may need something else from you, such as additional press kits or documentation. You’d definitely want to establish a good relationship with the press, and keeping in touch with them. You can start by thanking them for their attendance.
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