Press conferences are media events held by newsmakers and attended by the media to give news, updates, launch products or to make other announcements. Through press conferences, the press is able to get breaking and important news quickly.
A press conference isn’t the solution for any and every news announcement but is an ideal source for getting news out quickly and accurately for events that are of high interest to a mass audience.
Just like in every other aspect of business, there are good ways and bad ways to conduct a press conference.
Over the course of my career, I’ve held hundreds of press conferences for clients. While I was working for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 (SLOC) we held a press conference every Monday morning at 11:00 am and multiple other press conferences during the week. The frequency of our press conferences increased the closer we got to the Games.
As I conducted these press conferences, and others since the Games, there are a number of tips and best practices I’ve learned. I’ve listed these below to help you maximize your press conference opportunity.
Start early. The earlier the better. Sometimes it seems like there is plenty of time to get started, but time flies, especially where there is a deadline. If you can’t make a deadline, you’ll lose credibility with the press. By starting early, you can also eliminate stress associated with conducting a press conference.
Prepare pertinent information. Pertinent information includes dates and times for the press conference, venue, identifying key spokespeople, identifying key attendees and key media targets.
Identify the key media targets for your client. By identifying the right targets you’ll increase the odds of media attending and providing coverage of your news announcement. If you identify a reporter that doesn’t cover your industry you’ll get discouraged quickly when the media declines your invite.
Identify other potential media opportunities. These opportunities include pre-press conference interviews, exclusives, embargoed interviews and pre press conference “Wine and Dine” opportunities.
Know who is going to participate/attend the press conference. Identify key spokespeople and establish a time to do media training for these key spokespeople and review key talking points. I recommend doing this as early as possible to give key participants time to prepare and know the correct messages. The more time they have to prepare, the easier it will be for them to rely on muscle memory and not freeze up once the questions start flying.
Identify key messages/strategy for the press conference. Key messages include product launches, partnerships, sponsorships, new client announcements and partnerships as well as who will deliver these messages, how and when the messages will be delivered.
Make team assignments. Include key details such as talking points, provide a list of contact info for key participants, assign somebody to oversee press kit materials and assign somebody to oversee setting up a backdrop and signage at the press conference.
Establish goals/deadlines for the press conference. With no goal you have nothing to work towards. I’m a firm believer that nothing drives like a deadline. The media works on strict deadlines and it’s an effective way to accomplish time sensitive tasks.
Practice your brief presentation and questions that could come up during the press conference. Doing this will help you feel comfortable presenting your message and will enable you, as indicated above, to rely on muscle memory when you get nervous.
Onsite/The day of the press conference. The previous points were items specifically designed for completion prior to the actual press conference. This next set of tips pertains to the actual execution of the press conference. This set of tips will provide the foundation for conducting the press conference and leveraging the benefits associated with a press conference.
- Be on time. Plan to arrive early to allow plenty of time for set-up and a walk through.
- Set up a time to go through the press conference and answer client questions.
- Be prepared with all pertinent materials, including:
- Press kit materials
- List of key contacts that can provide insight or clarification on items discussed during the press conference
- Media list
- FAQ documents
- Brief key participants before the press conference and conduct any pre or post press conference interviews.
- Set up the press conference backdrop and signage.
- “I don’t like to carry things” doesn’t fly. Nobody does, get over it.
- Ensure the media has what they need and that they are taken care of.
By following these tips you’ll eliminate the stress and nerves associated with preparing for and conducting a press conference. I keep these tips with me at all times and use them as a checklist when preparing for and conducting press conferences. These tips allow me to check that I’ve done each item so while others are scrambling at the last minute to make sure everything is under control, I know exactly where things stand and can focus on making sure the press conference goes off without a hitch.