Press conferences are not just for movie stars and multi-million dollar athletes. If you’ve got something to announce that is of interest to your community – a new business, a fundraising event, an important discovery or a new employee – a press conference may be a useful way to get the word out. But, how on earth do you organize a press conference? It is not as difficult as you may think…
If you’re certain you have an announcement that is newsworthy, or know how to jazz it up to create media interest, the first decision is where to hold your press conference. If you’ve got the space, or the actual news is happening at your business or organization, then that’s the place to hold the conference. Do you have enough space for cameras and bodies? Enough chairs or will you expect reporters to stand? If you don’t need to hold the event at your business, then be creative about the “where” – is there a volunteer or board member who might host a press conference? Is there a location in the community where it would make sense to hold it?
Next, you’ll need to think about the actual “conference” and what the program will entail. Put some thought into the time of day. Most press conferences take place in the morning, so reporters have time to put together and file their stories. Plus, you may get coverage on the noon and evening news broadcasts. Try to avoid holding your conference during the time of day (or even a day) when other things are going on – for example, during a major football game, on the first day of school (unless your story is related) or when the press is less available such as late at night or too early in the morning.
Who’s going to speak? More than one person? Can you get a celebrity or a local personality to host and speak at the press conference? If you are considering putting together a panel, you’ll want to keep the number manageable and keep in mind that the press will have limited time to cover things.
Prepare a press release and put as much detailed information in it as possible: the time, the place, who will speak and why. Try to put an interesting “spin” on things so the media will have a reason to come to your press conference. Make sure you put contact information and include images if you have them. Follow up the release of your information with a phone call and/or e-mail to the stations, newspapers and press representatives you’ve invited. A reminder the day of the press conference is an important element to helping secure a good turnout.
For the day of your conference, prepare a simple packet or fact sheet to give to the press when they arrive with the program details, the correct spelling and contact information for key people, and a fresh copy of your press release. This way they will have the information in hand when they are asking questions and putting together their stories. Have someone from your business or organization assigned to hand out the information and greet each person as they arrive. Keep a quick list of who attends so you can follow up after the press conference to see if they need any additional information, have questions, or need images to complete their story.
It is important to begin the conference on time and move through as quickly and smoothly as possible. The more organized you are in advance, the better the chances the press conference will run smoothly and the increased likelihood you’ll be able to get the press to future events.
Keep in mind that in the world of the media, you are somewhat at the mercy of what else is going on in your community on the day you’ve scheduled your press conference. If something major happens, the attendance will understandably be poor at your conference. You can either reschedule, or consider alternative ways of getting the word out to the press.
Don’t be afraid to give a press conference a try. With some planning, organization and attention to detail, it can be a dramatic way to share your news!