Hosting a media briefing or press conference is great way to create a buzz about a story and to get news out to multiple media outlets, all in one go. However, get it wrong and it could be seriously detrimental, not to mention embarrassing!
Knowing your audience and keeping an eye on the controllable elements is of the essence in a press conference and immediately after. We’ve included some of our top tips below to ensure any briefing has the best chance of being an overwhelming success, but please do feel free to give us a call to talk through any events you are planning or for more support.
How it works
Most press conferences begin with an opening statement or announcement of no more than five, possibly ten minutes. Shorter is almost, always better. This may be followed by additional brief presentations but it is important not to try to include too much information or too many messages.
After the announcement, journalists should be given the opportunity to ask questions. In most cases you can cover off a press briefing in no more than 45 minutes. The exception is when you may have a lunch provided or a site tour to show journalists around. Reporters are almost always in a desperate hurry to get somewhere else, to file their stories, or move onto some other story.
During the Q&As and in regard to any subsequent individual interviews, the person organising the briefing must be in full control. It is up to them to decide which journalists get to ask questions and in what order. The rule is generally one main question and one follow-up question from a journalist before moving onto the next. Those in charge should stay alert and ensure that no one feels that they are being squeezed out of the questioning.
Top five tips to consider:
Timing is everything when it comes to speaking to journalists. Very rarely is a Friday afternoon effective, for example. Go for early in the week at about 10:30 although bear in mind online deadlines for e-mags and newsletters. Knowing the audience and what their deadlines are is paramount.
Pick a location close to the central mass of journalists in the relevant area. A press briefing room, or some other location, where journalists are used to going for news conferences is ideal. It’s even better if the conference can be held at a trade show or event where groups of journalists are already attending, as this makes for a ready-made audience. If a press conference is held at an event, its good practice to ensure full use of any media rooms. Make sure there is plenty of notice about the conference in the media room and that extra information is available there following the event. Sometimes, though it can work to take the journalist somewhere new – i.e. a venue they may otherwise not get to visit.
Generally it is advisable to have no more than two presenters. If there are five people making the same point, they will all make it in different ways. Reduce the possibility of confusion by limiting speakers and therefore strengthening the story. Remember that journalists aren’t the final audience. Develop key messages ahead of time, with the final audience in mind. And when speaking to that audience, relay those key messages succinctly, in a down-to-earth way.
Have press releases and additional information at hand ready to give out as people arrive or as they leave. It’s another way of ensuring journalists have all the facts and key messages at hand when they go on to write up a story or narrate the report. This could include printed documents, reports or presentations, as well as core photography and video content on memory sticks.
5. Getting people there
Give journalists plenty of notice about the press conference but always send a reminder notice out the day before. Don’t give too much information away either, just enough to make it so they don’t want to miss out!