Organising a press conference
Before the press conference
- Why do you want to hold a press conference?(1)
- Is there a better way of getting across your message?(2)
- How much is it going to cost
- Who is likely to attend?
- If the story isn’t strong enough will they be angry for being called to the press conference and write a negative story?
- Are there any risks involved?
- Do you have a venue?(3)
- Which is the best day, date and time to hold it?(4)
- Who will you invite?
- Who is going to speak?
- How long do you anticipate it will be?
- Will you give the media anything to take away with them?
Sending out the invitations
- Send out a lot of invitations and expect to get about between 5% and 10% response?(5)
- Invite more than one person from the key media outlets, possibly an editor as well as your key contact and any specialist reporter
- Make sure key speakers can make the date & are important enough to bring in an audience
- Give as much notice as you can to ensure a better attendance?(6)
- But remind them closer to the date (the day before) and confirm if they expect to attend
- Make sure that you send a map of how to get to the venue
- Is there any security they will need to get through if so advise them in advance?(7)
- Do you need to give them notice that they will need extra time to get through security?
Preparing your speakers
- Don’t let your speakers go on stage without a rehearsal beforehand
- Prepare your statements and then practice them
- Have a pre-press conference briefing and discuss the day’s news and any impact it might have upon your announcements
- Think in advance all likely questions and then prepare answers for each?(8)
- Make sure your speakers are aware of any last minute developments?(9)
- Mingle with the journalists before the press conference, try and get a feel for the stories they are interested in and then make this part of your last minute briefing to the speakers
- Always tell the speakers who is present before they go on to the stage
- Don’t allow your speakers to be late?(10)
- Have a press pack prepared.
- Make sure everything is working – microphones, translation booths, camera points, pa system, video, PowerPoint and any other technical equipment you are using
- Have back-ups or at least know where you can get your hands on a replacement at very short notice
- Make sure that telephones, spare computers linked to the internet and fax machines are available to the media, if not in the room then within the building. Think about other needs such as photocopiers and scanners
- Make sure there are enough power sockets in the right places for camera crews or put in extra power cables and power sockets
- Have catering facilities available
- Have a technician on hand to deal with all technical problems
- Do a technical check the day before and then another one at least one hour before the press conference
- Have fewer chairs than numbers expected and then put out more on the day if needed?(11)
At the press conference
- As they arrive get the media to sign in so that you have a record of who attended ?(12)
- Give them a name badge?(13)
- Give them coffee, tea, biscuits etc but don’t be overly flamboyant?(14)
- Hand out press packs?(15)
- If the press conference is held in your HQ do not allow lots of staff to attend
- Also minimise the number of guests you invite – it isn’t a circus!
- Put the name and job title in front of each speaker and make sure that they sit in the right place – it should be large enough to be seen at the back of the room
- Start on time – keeping the media waiting is asking for trouble; they get scratchy very quickly because other stories are waiting for them out there
- Keep presentations short and to the point
- If a podium is used make sure it has your organisations logo on it?(16)
- Don’t have more than three speakers and make sure that each has something worthwhile to say?(17)
- Have a Chairman who is not one of the speakers?(18)
- Get the Chairman to outline what will happen and any procedures
- Have raised areas for the snappers/camera crews but be prepared for them to wander around?(19)
- Make sure that there is a question and answer session (the most important bit for the journalists) and that you give plenty of time for this
- Have the key speakers available afterwards to do ‘one to one’ interviews.
and these days put the material on a complimentary data stick, CD Rom or DVD
Post press conference
- Post up on your website all the contents of the press pack
- Send complimentary copies of the pack to those journalists who were invited but didn’t attend
- Contact all those that did attend and make sure that they have everything they need
- Make sure that you monitor the coverage so that you can evaluate the success of your press conference
- Also make notes about what worked well and where there were any problems.
There is a big difference between knowing the theory and making it happen. For help in implementing your communications practices email us now.
(1) Reserve them only for major announcements
(2) Such as a press release, photocall, video-conference
(3) Is it easy to get to for the media and does it have the right facilities? Not a mobile phone black spot.
(4) Think about the media you wish to cover and their copy deadlines. Think about the best day, a Friday perhaps for weekend newspapers, early morning to get the daytime news etc
(5) The better your invitation and the juicier the story the more likely your attendance rate will rise
(6) Ideally ten days in advance
(7) If so make sure that there is enough security on to get them through quickly and efficiently. And be prepared for cameramen who really don’t like all their kit being pulled about at a security check
(8) These are often called ‘lines to take’ – they should be truthful and factual
(9) There should be no surprises for speakers once they are on the stage
(10) You should hold a pre-press conference briefing to coincide just before the press conference. This should help to guarantee the speakers are at least in the building
(11) There will always be some that don’t attend and you want the room to look full
(12) This should be name of journalist and the title of their media outlet
(13) Both for your convenience and for theirs (they may not know some of those attending)
(14) If it is around breakfast time you could and should give them something like croissants, after all you have called them out at an early hour
(15) These will normally include brief biographical details of each speaker, copies of their speeches, presentations and any accompanying press releases, names and contact details of your press officers, photographs and complimentary copies of the product (where relevant)
(16) A podium would normally be to the left of the stage as you look at it
(17) At least one is likely to be a specialist who can answer specialist questions
(18) This person then takes the role of an independent Chair making sure that order is maintained
(19) Either make sure that there are barriers preventing them from getting on the stage and taking back shots or put people on the sides of the stage with a brief to stop cameramen getting on the stage