The time has come to announce your big news and the press conference is set. Conducting successful press conferences takes more than just designating a time and place. True success involves planning before, during, and afterward.
Accommodating the media in terms of press conferences begins beforehand and continues until after their stories have run. How well you work with the media along the way can mean the difference between failure and success.
Beginning the Process
The process begins with making sure the media knows all the details of your press conference including the starting time, location, how to contact you, etc. Nothing should be taken for granted, especially in regard to how to reach a location. Follow-up calls after issuing a release announcing a press conference also offer an opportunity to determine if the media needs anything beforehand such as an advance copy of a study that is being released, background information, or other requests.
The day of the press conference begins with greeting the media when they arrive. Now is the time to again ask if they need any additional information, offer assistance in setting up their equipment, and for you to distribute any press material. Once this is done, there are other considerations that will benefit both you and the media:
- Start on time. Nothing is more inconvenient for other media outlets than waiting for a station or newspaper that does arrive in a timely manner. Those arriving late can always play catch-up, but you can’t replace time lost by those who respected you enough to arrive in a timely manner.
- Brief your speakers. Speakers who aren’t sure about what they are attempting to share or cannot communicate their thoughts are frustrating to the media. Not addressing this issue exposes you to reports that may lack details that were not properly communicated. Additionally, it is only fair to review with your speakers the message you want to convey.
- Spelling and titles. Is each speaker spelling their name when they go to the podium? Better yet, provide the media a list with names and titles when conducting press conferences with multiple speakers.
- Take time for questions but limit it to a certain period. This is beneficial for two reasons. First, it allows other media personnel to leave that may need to, but remain to assure they don’t miss something the competition gets. Second, you want to remain in charge and make sure the press conference begins and ends within a reasonable time period.
There are also questions/considerations that apply to press conferences, as well as scheduled interviews with you or your staff:
- When will the story run? It is your job as a public relations professional to know when your press conference will be covered and you can’t do that if you don’t know when the story is scheduled to run.
- What can you do to assist them in their preparation of the story? Be prompt in responding to any requests, both those made at the time of the press conference and if they contact you later. Also, make sure you ask reporters about their deadlines.
- Does everyone have a press release and/or press package? Make sure any late arrivals have the information they need, and also that there are no questions about the information that need to be answered.
- Are you accessible? Make yourself available immediately after a press conference or interview and again verify that the media knows where to reach you (in some cases you may be traveling or at another event and the media will need to know your cell phone number).
Developing and Marketing your Message
Promoting interest in your company starts with knowing how to share what you are about. Your marketing message may be right on target, yet fall on deaf ears if your delivery is wrong.
A public relations professional who cannot communicate a message that is focused and consistent is bound to fail. And the opportunities for failure in public relations are numerous:
- An organization cannot reach people if it is not specifically addressing the needs of the groups it represents.
- A candidate cannot succeed without embracing ideals consistent with his political party or local community.
- A new product will not sell unless consumers unless they know how it will improve their lives.
In a nutshell, public relations cannot be successful if the message does not do one or all of three things:
- Clearly defines what the organization, product, candidate, etc., is all about without resorting to discrediting another company, product, or candidate.
- Tells customers, clients, or voters specifically why what you represent or produce is best for them.
- Shares information that is consistent.
In regard to the first consideration, marketing a product that only claims to be better than a competitor’s accomplishes nothing. Consumers are left with a claim you have made, but still haven’t been told what makes your product superior.
The same holds true in politics. Candidates too often denounce their opponents’ stand on issues, but artfully dodge their position. Not only are voters left in the dark, but this approach can backfire if a candidate is found to support an issue he has attacked his opposition for supporting.
The second consideration ties in with the first. Consumers, voters and clients need to know what you are about. The name may be out there, but what does it mean?
- A consumer can look at your product all day but still may not know its purpose if you are marketing a new item.
- A political candidate can tout his experience and beliefs, and share dozens of family pictures in a campaign brochure. But that will doesn’t tell voters where he stands on the issues.
Finally, there has to be consistency in regard to the principles you represent or product you produce:
- A candidate who claims to be a Republican yet advocates liberal ideas is not likely to get a broad base of support because his focus is wrong. Republican voters are not likely to support him because he does not share their beliefs, while Democrats may also be skeptical as to whether he is really one of them.
- For a company, the focus should remain on marketing and promoting what they do best rather than attempting to please everyone. You aren’t likely to visit a Chinese restaurant to order a cheeseburger, and the same holds true for consumers believing in products or principles for which you are not normally known.
The delivery may be right, but the message is wrong. Your audience may be hearing you, but is still unsure about what you are sharing. Keeping your message consistent and focused can mean the difference between success and failure.