Our CEO sneezed; let’s announce it through a press conference! – There was a time not so long ago when this was the case, with press conferences being held every single day. The only thing missing was a press conference to announce an upcoming press conference!
If there’s one positive outcome from the financial crisis, it’s that companies no longer have the budgets to hold so many press conferences. I bet a lot of them look back at the good old days and regret booking all those fancy 5-star hotel conference rooms and giving away all those free BlackBerrys to the media!
If you’re not going to disclose the secrets of the operation that killed Bin Laden then why bother with holding a press conference? There’s nothing that can’t be told through a good old press release.
If you do have something of considerable importance to announce, and a press conference is the only way to go, then make sure it’s done to perfection.
First, choose a date that doesn’t clash with the launch of Burj Khalifa or Will and Kate’s big day! Make sure you invite your media early, preferably no less than 10 days before the event. Journalists these days are busier than ever, so give them enough time to pencil your date in.
Second, choose a central location with easy access; attach a map with the invitation, and make arrangements for parking and/or transfers from known landmarks if necessary.
Third, make sure that the venue has all the communication facilities available, including a projector, AV system and internet access, in case the news can’t wait until the reporter gets back to his/her desk. Testing all of these items is advisable because the last thing you need is having journalists deeply unimpressed when a screen fails to display information, or when a microphone makes more noise than the person speaking into it.
Fourth, Press Kits; and by that I don’t mean the company brochure and a pen with a fancy logo on it! I’m talking about press releases, relevant background material – such as specially prepared fact sheets, as well as handout versions of the presentation slides. It is also important to include biographies of spokespeople and relevant images. Make sure everything is provided on a CD or memory stick.
Fifth, CHECKLIST; trust me you will forget something! Don’t say to yourself: “I’ve done this a hundred times”. A checklist will take a few minutes to prepare and includes everything that will be required on the day – from name badges and table cards, to audiovisual equipment. And don’t forget your branding!
Sixth, treat all journalists equally and give them your undivided attention. There are a million places they’d rather be, so make it worth their while to attend. They will contribute so much more to your success than over-pressured journalists who might never turn up, or care!
Seventh, make sure that journalists are welcomed by personnel that are fully aware of all details. All staff on the day should be on the ball, totally informed, prepared for the worst and full of confidence.
If for some reason there are delays in starting the press conference, keep the media entertained and updated.
Finally, if your staff does a good job, that doesn’t mean they get to stuff their faces with the food made available to the media attendees, nor does it mean they get to take away any goodies! It’s not over until all media have left, so professional manners must be maintained till the very end.
If all goes well, journalists should go away pleased and that will reflect well in their columns or TV/radio slots.
If you get it wrong, just expect a big bill for your ill-fated efforts and start working on your crisis management plan.