You may have recently witnessed NBA commissioner Adam Silver respond to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s controversial racial remarks. Announced at a press conference, Silver’s highly anticipated final decision to ban Sterling from the NBA garnered worldwide media attention.
Whether responding to a crisis or announcing good news, a press conference can be a cost-effective promotional tool that results in free publicity. Other advantages of a press conference include the ability to build anticipation for your message and enable you to reach all media outlets at the same time while controlling the message. You may hear the term often, but have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? How is it organized? Who is involved? If executed correctly, a press conference can give you leads through coverage on multiple media outlets resulting in successful media hits, established media relations for future projects and experience for the next one.
So what’s the plan?
Your goal is to make the press conference easy for everyone involved. For seamless execution, you need to follow a specific plan that will get you from start to finish successfully. Let’s talk about what should go on prior to the event date.
1) Topic: What news or useful information will be significant to your audience? Remember this must be a newsworthy subject in order to pique media’s interest. Local events that affect the community, emotional subjects, and product launches are a few examples that merit a press conference.
2) Where: Here is where you need to think about the big picture. You can easily hold your press conference at a hotel or in a conference room. For visual purposes, brainstorm strategic locations that are relevant to your subject.
3) When: Try to select a date that doesn’t conflict with other major events going on in your city. A good source to go by are your local community calendars along with your city’s website. Try to schedule your press conference on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday during the week between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Having it in the morning gives media a chance to prep and include your story in local news.
4) Distribution: Days prior to the press conference prepare a press release or media advisory and distribute to your media contacts, along with other relevant contacts. This press release is a tool to draw media and your audience while describing why they should attend.
Alternatively, a media advisory can be drafted and sent, that is shorter than a press release and more like a detailed invite with all the necessary who, what, when, where and why details. Making follow-up calls won’t hurt either. Having that extra buzz in their ear is beneficial.
5) Press kit: A press kit allows you to supply media with all the information they may need on a tight deadline. You should include these materials if relevant to your message: a press release, bios or photos, fact sheets, and contact info. If there are audio files, CD-ROMs, or logos and images you need to distribute, package them in the kit too. If your press kit is online, include a link in your press release for media to access and print a tangible copy for distribution.
6) Other Arrangements: Prior to the event try to schedule time for media interviews immediately following the press conference. This will make for a better flow after the event.
It’s the day of, what happens next?
Creating a plan of action prior to the press conference ensures you have all the material ready for the conference day. However, there are necessary steps to take after the planning period once you arrive at the venue.
7) Stage: Podiums, microphones and signage should be ready to go for placement. Prop the podium in front of your backdrop and test out the microphone to ensure there are no issues with sound. Arrange seating in a way that makes the speaker the key focal point.
8) Coordinate: As attendees and media stroll in, make sure to have a greeter who can coordinate media in place and guide attendees to seating. This is also where your press kit comes in handy. It is important that all media attending receive a press kit that was prepped prior to the event and ready for distribution before the conference starts.
9) Final Touches: If step six fell through the cracks and specific interviews were not scheduled in advance, you still have an opportunity to get your speakers interviewed. At the time you distribute your press kit, you should have a good record of media attendees. Prioritize and coordinate interviews and photo opps on the spot. Be sure to personally thank media for attending.
Your main goal is to get your message out and have it heard by your target audience. Executing all the necessary steps through planning and communication does not always ensure a successful press conference; however, it sets you up effectively to yield the best results.
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Written by Amanda Garcia
Amanda Garcia, a University of Texas at San Antonio graduate with a degree in marketing, is currently serving as esd’s Communications Intern. She has contributed to event planning, social media and content development efforts for a variety of client and internal projects.