Friday, January 21, 2011

When to Host a Press Conference

In one social media hot spot dedicated to communications, one poster recently started a great thread about how to handle an assignment to organize a press conference when she knew it was not going to be newsworthy.

The most important thing she did and should have done was communicate. It’s vitally important to keep those who decided to have the press conference informed and aware. They should not be surprised by attendance when they get to the event. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier when attendance is lacking.

The best thing to do is to make the strongest case possible on when to do a press conference and when not to do one before a decision is made. Here are some factors to consider at that point:

Number One – Only have a press conference if you know you have such a big announcement that it will be a hassle to field a series of calls and perhaps miss some big news coverage opportunities because your spokesperson was doing another interview or is inaccessible. Never decide to have a press conference, thinking that the event itself will draw reporters. The days of “host it, and they will come” are long gone.

Number Two – Newsrooms are too understaffed. There just aren’t enough reporters to cover all of the events happening in a given news cycle.

Number Three – Technology has made the traditional press conference an endangered species. Reporters are used to getting information at their desks via Email or the Internet via Web casts or even through social media. This saves them time, transportation problems and enables reporters to be much more productive.

Number Four – Location, Location, Location. The traditional classroom style press conference with the podium up front may be great for truly big announcements, but if you are fortunate enough to draw media away from their desks and to your location, it is important to think visually. Take them into the plant or to a site where photographers can get what they need to tell the story visually.

Number Five – Local TV News Formats are Not What they used to Be. Very few local television newscasts cover business news today. They are more likely to cover fires, big snow storms and criminal arraignments than they are to attend a press conference about a job-creation program. Weather and sports now take up the lion’s share of a local television station’s resources and on-air time. Business news, good business news in particular, does not get ratings and in television, that’s what it’s all about.

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