At one point or another, your company will need a press conference. Introducing a new product or service, tackling a negative perception or news about the organization, an important announcement, are all valid reasons for holding a press conference.
Although the whole affair lasts for about 45 minutes, it could easily build or break it for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make preparations.
Research. Coordinate. Step up.
Ask yourself these questions before you start working on a press conference:
Is the time right?
The day/date and time can be crucial and may have a direct effect on attendance and coverage of your news. Early evening Wednesday, Thursdays is a good time so you can follow up on reporting and monitoring before the weekend.
Is there another important event that media has to attend at the same time?
Check for events that may take media’s attention away from your event in turn ruining the attendance of your conference.
Does the news qualify for a press conference?
Find out, discuss within the team and talk to a few media representatives to find out about your conference’s news worthiness. If your company news is not meaty, find out ways to make it look good.
But if there is no way journalists will cover it, step up to say so to your company’s management. Poor attendance and mediocre coverage will make you and your company look bad. Do not be afraid to let your management know of your opinion. Once a press release goes out, you cannot bring it back. So make the event count.
Message is the medium
The most important thing is the message that you wish to deliver through your speakers at the press conference.
If it is a joint press conference, being hosted by two or more stakeholders, take a lead to ensure that all your messages are clear, uniform and accurate – do this even for your partner organization. Coordinate closely with the partner PR/communication teams. Remember, your job is to ensure that media takes away your desired key messages at the end of the day. So do whatever it takes.
Your Press Conference needs content. Loads of it.
Content in a press conference is as important as the mechanics of a Formula1 car. Nothing must go wrong here.
Get the invitations out of the way – make the message stand out.
Prepare a press release, background information, previously published reports, speakers’ profile, talking points for the speakers and event flow.
Put all of this information in a press kit folder to hand it over to the media and send this entire pack’s e-copy to them. Share the talking points with your spokespersons well ahead of the conference.
Some executives, regardless of how senior they may be, can get overwhelmed with a dozen cameras staring at them. They could surprise you with the length of their speech despite practice sessions and briefings.
Help them to deliver precise, effective messages. Brief them before hand and pop in to check in on them right before they go on stage. Some executives may almost faint speaking to a gathering or stumble involuntarily. Choose the right person as your spokesperson. Once you have, prepare them well.
Don’t forget to rehearse
It is a good idea to do a rehearsal with your press conference spokespersons. Ask them to read out their key messages aloud. Give them candid feedback. They will only have a max of 5 minutes to make their point. Make sure they have everything they need.
Moderator. Bleep. Bleep.
A moderator can truly make or break the game. A powerful moderator will observe keenly and make quick decisions.
If you are moderating yourself, lead the media to ask relevant questions and always limit the number of media questions to an appropriate number. Tell the audience politely that you will take the remaining points over tea – and make sure you are available for that. The way a moderator runs the show can have an effect on the overall messaging and reports that will be published.
Media is here. Now what?
Press conferences can be a tricky affair because you have to meet expectations of two major stakeholders: your management and the media who will be looking for news, information and a good event.
Engage the media before the event. Send out some catchy information with the invitations and talk to reporters personally. Greet them with a smile when they show up and escort the cameramen to their spots. Make yourself available and monitor closely.
My check list is growing horns
It is important to have a check-list. The one that I use even tells me to watch out for stains on the floor or the carpeting. Prepare your list and keep adding to it. The more the merrier.
Tips to make your check list
Here are some common things to keep in mind while making a check-list:
Check your sound and multimedia. Ensure you have enough microphones.
Check the branding. The text on the backdrop must not be too high or too low – Make sure it is visible and fits in the camera frame.
Make the speakers sit at suitable distance to get good photographs.
Remove water bottles and huge glasses or flower arrangements if they are hindering the view of the camera.
Make space for tripods when making seating arrangements. Leave the space empty.
Set up an interview space with a separate backdrop for on-spot interviews.
Make sure the food is available as soon as and only once the conference has ended.
The hall should be well-lit for photography and videos.
Do not create separate lounging areas for the media. Keep the seating theatrical style and limited to the number of guests. (If possible)
If there is a signing of agreement, make sure you have similar folders for both signing partners and pens that work!
I will leave you with a simple flow of a typical press conference with two speakers.
Total time: 40 minutes approximately.
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