Arranging a press conference tends to evoke my greatest elementary school fear—inviting kids to an awesome birthday party… and then no one showing up.
Press conferences are excellent tools for companies that want to distribute news quickly, but they’re a one-time event. So like a good elementary school party, press conferences take a lot of pre-planning, and a even a little persuasion to be successful. Consider these six rules to make sure you have a roomful of media there to cover your news:
1. Choose the right time.
Reporters work on daily deadlines, so a quick way to sabotage your news conference is to host it at 4:00 p.m.—the crunch hour. Typically, earlier is better (9:00 – 10:00 a.m.). This gives reporters a chance to cover your news, then move on to their other stories for the day with plenty of time to pull it all together. Also remember to always start on time—never early, never late.
2. Give plenty of notice.
Always give the media plenty of advance notice so they can plan to attend your event. I tend to shoot for about two weeks. Create a media advisory conveying the basics—who, what, when, where and how. Ask for RSVPs so you know whom to expect, and make sure to follow-up with media the day before. Keep in mind, TV crews usually plan their coverage the day-of, so you may not know whether they’ll be joining until they show up at the event. Try to catch them the morning of the press conference for a final pitch.
3. Use visuals.
If possible, energize your press conference with a visual of some kind. Have renderings available, demo your products, provide charts/graphs or offer a tour of your new space.
4. Know your talking points.
Press conferences should be simple and to the point. Make sure your speakers know (and practice) their talking points and key messages, and avoid industry jargon. Carve out time for media training before the event and anticipate questions reporters are likely to ask. This will help your spokesperson feel calm, collected and prepared on the day of the conference.
5. Have materials ready.
The speakers at your press conference will be the focal point of the event, but the media may need additional information. Have your press release, speaker bios, fact sheets and other relevant material ready to hand to the media when they walk through the door. Be sure to send it to them later in digital form, as well.
6. Follow up.
Many reporters like to receive press releases digitally (per the above), and even if a reporter wasn’t able to make it to your event, he or she may still be interested in the story. Keep the phone lines hot after the press conference and make sure reporters have everything they need.
Follow these rules and you’ll be off to a great start, but remember – it’s the story that will drive your attendance. Make sure your event is newsworthy in the first place. A non-event will leave a bad taste in the media’s mouth and could hurt your chances of successfully recruiting them to your next conference.
Have you hosted a press conference before? Leave your tips in the comment section below.