Even in today’s increasingly digital 24/7 news cycle, the in-person press conference, also called a news conference, can be an invaluable tool in reaching your key local and industry-respected media outlets. At a news conference communication is two-way and media can use their own equipment to record or plug in to get exclusive video.
In public relations strategy, it can be an either offensive or defensive tactic, depending upon the client’s situation. Defensive ones are necessary in unanticipated, controversial situations when a bare-bones statement is not enough or appropriate in response to a crisis. However, here we will focus on hosting a positive news conference.
For example, it may be used to launch an innovative new product, such as at the Consumer Electronics (CES 2020) trade show earlier this month, where press day featured more than nine press conferences introducing the latest advances in global technology. More than 170,000 people were on hand at the show this year, so it was imperative that the manufacturers spending thousands to secure their slotted time be as prepared as possible.
The good news is that CES is a unique, annual event. If you plan correctly, the day your press conference is scheduled, it will be the only one on the docket for the targeted media outlets that receive your invitation.
According to “Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics,” a respected collegiate textbook, the following basic checklist will help ensure your press conference goes off without a hitch:
- Select a convenient location, one that is easy for reporters to reach with minimal travel time.
- Set the date and time. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday work best, with times between midmorning or mid-afternoon. Make sure there are no conflicting events that day. Don’t do Friday afternoons or days before holidays.
- When possible, email an invitation media advisory with the date, time and location about two weeks, minimum a week ahead of time. The invitation should include the purpose of the conference, names of the spokespersons and why the event has significant news value. Be sure to follow-up the day before or the morning of, if the event is scheduled for the early afternoon.
- Prepare a press kit, including a press release and any other materials including speaker bios or fact sheets to hand to the media when they arrive. Distribute it via email to as well immediately following, along with any photos or video links from the day.
- Write a statement for the spokesperson to give at the conference and make sure he or she understands and rehearses it. In addition, rehearse the conference itself.
- Practice sample questions and answers, so the spokesperson can readily respond with confidence.
- Prepare visual materials as necessary including video, slides, posters or product demo.
Make advance arrangements for the room. Be sure there are enough chairs and leave a center aisle for photographers. Make sure audio is clear and media can plug in as necessary.
- Arrive at least an hour early to double-check arrangements and test the equipment
Follow up, as stated in #4. If any media outlets couldn’t spare a reporter to attend that day, most likely they may still be interested in the story.
- Remember, this is just an outline for planning a news conference. If you have a newsworthy enough story to tell, it will be worth your time to be as prepared as possible. And I’ll leave you with one last tip – know when to end it. A moment will come when reporters run out of fresh questions or time is running out. If your speaker is not getting the hint, be sure to jump in and politely bring things to a close.
If you’d like to learn more about planning your own press conference, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Bradford Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.