Tips for holding a successful press conference

A press conference is a tool used by an organization to generate news – particularly news that can benefit the organization. It may be an announced merger of companies, a politician entering a political race, a new product or technological breakthrough, grand opening, ground breaking, or simply acts of community service by the organization.

If carried out correctly, the press conference can be very effective in reaching a large audience in a short amount of time. And the news of the day can have long-reaching positive effects for the organizations involved.

Notify the media
Notify the media of your event and emphasize the importance of the event. Send them notification in the mail and, after it has time to arrive, follow up with a phone call. Contact them a week or more in advance. The day before your event, contact them for a quick reminder.

Planning the Press Conference
Unless your news is breaking news and needs to be released immediately, plan your press conference in advance. This will give you time to organize you message and the different aspects of your event.

When The best time to hold a press conference is Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. These tend to be slower news days. Schedule the event to start between 10:30am and 11:30am. This will give the news crews time to get into the office and have their morning meetings and still get to your event.  If you hold it any later, they may not have time to get it back to the station and into the evening newscast.

Where Pick a site that is conducive to your message. The cameras will be seeing what is behind your podium. Think about store signage, banners, logos, new buildings. Typically a darker background will make your participants look better on camera. If a specific location is not relevant to your message or organization, then find a location that is easy for the media to attend. Within 15 miles to the central area of the most stations is preferable. Things to consider include easy and adequate parking, easy access to the interstate, weather, and visual and sound aspects. Electrical outlets for your PA system and the news gear.
Example: A construction site is a great place to announce the ground breaking of a new building, but you will need to be able to control the sound of the construction equipment so your message can be heard.

What It is advised to have a podium for your moderator and key people that are going to be speaking. On the front of the podium, consider putting your organizations name or logo. If you choose to have people seated at a table between speaking or for question and answer sessions, dress the table and have name cards on the table in front of each person. Also, use a platform to raise the table and chairs a minimum of 8 inches if possible.

Bring relevant visual aids to the event. Charts, posters, new products, models of the new building, representatives from the group who are benefiting from the announcement, team jerseys, etc.

Rent a Professional Sound System
If your message cannot be heard, all of your time, effort and resources have been in vain. Hire a professional sound system and the technician that comes with it. This should include microphones and PA speakers as well as a press bridge for the media to plug into to get good clean sound. The sound technician should be able and willing to help the media plug in to get clean audio.

If you do not have one, it is very likely many of the attendees will not be able to hear. It does not take a very large crowd or big room to make it difficult to hear one person talking. You do not want your presenters to have to yell their message. As for the media, they will lay down their one microphone and get low grade and often unusable audio at best. If you have more than one person speaking, the reporters will either not get the comments, or get up and move the microphones, causing a huge distraction. Rent a good sound system with a competent technician. The benefits will pay off in the long run. Essential Production Services can provide a complete Press Conference system.

Develop a press kit
Develop a press kit to hand out at the event. This can be a fancy folder or brochure or it can be a simple one page flyer. Remember, if you make the reporters job easier, they will reward you. This also allows for you to control your message. The information in the kit should include:

  • A list of participants, their titles and, if relevant, a short biography
  • A press release, stating your announcement and highlights of the event. You can also include quotes from participants that you want the press to have.
  • Background information on the organization(s) involved
  • Contact information for further questions or clarifications.

Moderator
The moderator will start the event, introduce participants, orchestrate the Question and Answer (Q&A) session and bring the event to an end. If your message is a “hot topic” or a highly debated issue, the moderator will need to be able to maintain control of the event and the reporters, and bring the event to a close when necessary. Only bona fide reporters should be allowed to ask questions. The moderator should call on them, and they should introduce themselves by name and the organization they are affiliated with before asking their question. If you do not have Q&A microphones, the moderator may need to repeat the question into his microphone so everyone in attendance can hear.

The day of the event
Prepare the room – make sure the podium, tables and chairs are in place.

Start on time – Start as close to on time as possible, no more than five minutes late. Attendees have busy schedules and have made time in their day to be at your event. Don’t be surprised though if some news crews show up late. They may be coming from another event or breaking news. Help them get set up and get what they need. Your sound technician can help them get good sound from the press bridge if they need assistance.

Sign in pad – Have a sign in pad for everyone attending. This will help you know who attended and who did not. After the event you can follow up with them or offer to get them additional information.

Media Kit – Give each representative of the media your press kit before the event starts.

Record your event – Your sound technician should be able to record the audio of the event. You may also want to hire a videographer to record the event. These recordings can then be distributed to media outlets that did not attend, or can be used for future media projects within your organization.

Each participant should present for 3-5 minutes and the total length of the event should be no more than 45 minutes. If relevant, at the end, the moderator should also position participants for a “photo-op” to give every photographer the chance to get a good image of the participants.

Food – Everyone likes a little something extra. Water and even a light snack is appreciated by most and will be remembered for when you hold events in the future. Keep the press happy, make their job as easy as possible, and you will see the benefits.

After the event
Follow up with news agencies that attended. Most likely, there will be some that did not attend. There may have been breaking news that preempted your announcement. Contact those outlets and, if possible, hand deliver your press kit and/or a recording of your event. You may also offer to make available for an interview one of your press conference participants

                                                                                                                                                                 

Written by Chad Robertson with Essential Productions Services.
Chad has been involved with sound for Broadcast, PA and the media for over 20 years. He has been a part of many press conferences, including the sound system as well as a part of the media… from small organizations up to the President of the United States. He has seen many successful events, and some that could have been improved upon. He currently resides in Brandon, Mississippi just outside of Jackson.

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