Sunday, January 5, 2014

Don't Forget the Conference Call When Planning a Media Event

To have a press conference, or not to have a press conference, that is often the question.  To many PR pros, this is a dreaded question because we know how reporters work these days. They work in a world of time-crunched, short-staffed news rooms.  Most reporters I know tend to work on one story, knowing that there’s another story at that very moment that requires their attention.

Since a reporter can’t be in two places at one time, it helps to be in one place with access to two places in pretty close to real time - in other words, at their desks, on the telephone.

So, when we plan press conferences, we know it will be difficult to impossible to predict how the media will respond to such events. We know that as often as not, last-minute developments and other factors beyond our control could come to play. 

Another key factor is geography.  Some reporters with an interest in a story simply don’t live and work near where the news is to take place, and they can’t justify to their editors the time and expense of travel.

That’s where a planned conference call can make all the difference.  Recently, I handled a press event that was very well received in the traditional sense.  The room was packed with reporters and others.  And while that alone made the event a success, even better was that we supplemented access via teleconference. 

The reporters from all over the country on that line outnumbered the reporters in the room, and they represented a solid cross-section of the media we needed to reach.  They were able to listen to the event, submit questions, and we were able to have our spokespersons address them in the live event.

Other times, you may want to structure media teleconferences with more dynamic capabilities, from providing real-time conference call access to spokespersons for live Q&A, to the ability to archive the event for online playback later. 

While this technology is certainly not new, it still surprises me how often some organizations continue to plan press events without teleconference access. 

The simple tip here is just to make sure that any time you plan a press event, make sure to include a teleconference component. 

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Tim O'Brien, APR, is owner of O'Brien Communications, a Pittsburgh PR firm.

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