If you are fortunate enough to have a hit on your hands, your publicist may look to promote your project with a press conference.
But a few wrong moves can mortally would your campaign.
Here are few tips to avoiding a disaster.
Make Sure You Have Actual News to Announce
If you’re promising the media a fresh juicy steak, don’t serve them late-afternoon, half-priced sushi. First and foremost, a press conference is a news conference. It is not an opinion conference, a complaining conference, or a this-is-what-I-plan-to-do conference. If you don’t have any news, you should not be hosting a news conference. And, your project or launch should be newsworthy, as in something that would have a legitimate shot at coverage. Don’t be the boy who cried news.
Do Not Fight Scheduling Conflicts
Life is not fair. Sometimes countries get invaded, entire economies implode, pop stars drive drunk, politicians get caught with their pants down, and housewives release cook books. Unfortunately, there is little you can do when major news starts breaking. However, do not be oblivious and act like the other story is not happening. If you have the chance to postpone, take it.
Use a High Profile Speaker, With Media Training
Offering an influential Subject Matter Expert, either as the spokesperson or a panel member during the press conference to field questions, can help drive attendance. Also, a celebrity with a connection to your project can draw journalists who may otherwise have skipped your announcement. But make sure you’re your celebrity spokesperson has media training, or she may make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Leverage Multiple Channels
How you deliver the message can be as important as the news itself, so take advantage of multi-media tools such as Web-casting, Website press rooms, expert-type services, audio and video news releases and satellite video capabilities to augment, and in some places supplant, press conferences. Web-casting your event will ensure that those who do not have the time or availability to attend still have the chance to view and hopefully cover your announcement. And archive the press conference to further extend its reach.
Technology is Not a Crutch
Technology should be more than a toy in your hands to play with. So, while you may have a fantastic presentation, killer audio/visual support and superior professional printed collateral, if there is no news, there should be no news conference.
Don’t Take Things Lightly
A press conference is not a forum to just wing it. A press conference will be stressful, so hunker down and execute according to a playbook. You may have the makings of the Perfect Storm for PR—dense concentration of media, convenient venue, plenty of food and giveaways, slow news cycle at the beginning or end of the day, celebrity spokesperson, etc.—but something can go wrong. Minimize the damage is through proper advanced planning and preparedness, and making sure you are alert during crunch time. And, do a dry-run of the presentation and check you’re a/v in advance, or shame on you.
Check the Facility
I am sure the brochure or web site walk-through looked great, but until you actually check out the facility, you never know what strange sounds and awful smells may be lurking. Drop by in advance, preferably when the space is in use. And remember, nothing looks sillier than a press conference staged in a massive auditorium, attended by a handful of reporters.
Use Common Sense
Never hold a press conference around midday, and definitely not after cocktails. Never divulge damaging information, criticize critics, poke fun at rivals, or speculate on topics that can damage your reputation. Come to think of it, if any of these recommendations are causing you to rethink your strategy, maybe you should step away from the whole press conference idea to begin with.
Develop Your Collateral
Do not take for granted that your entire message will be digested in that one sitting. Develop and distribute comprehensive (though readable) press kits with contact information. Also, post information online where it is easily accessible.
Be prepared for the free-loaders. Instruct your staff/friends to conduct themselves respectfully. But, if the press conference starts to spin out of control, shut it down and extend invitations to attending journalists for one-on-ones.
Perform Your Follow-ups
Do not get offended if you get stood up. Do not take it personal. Just because a journalist had a more attractive appointment does not mean she hates your band. Follow up with news organizations that attended, as well as the no-shows and offer interviews and information in electronic format.
Avoid Mondays and Fridays
Even if plenty did not happen over the weekend, Monday is still bad day for a press conference, because there are more pressing matters. Likewise, with everyone spent after a long week and some taking long weekends, Friday should also be avoided.
Don’t Forget the Food
For some journalists, the food is the only reason they show up at your press conference. In their minds, you have an obligation to feed them, so don’t give them a reason to resent you (and take it out in their coverage). In fact, include it in your cold/confirm calling, especially if it is hot food, and of course if it includes alcohol. Inevitably, you’re going to get your fair share of media moochers, but if your message is truly newsworthy, you’ll be more successful pitching a belching, belt-loosening audience, then trying to squeeze a few column inches out of a famished mob.
To contact Craig McGuire directly, please email Craig@BrooklynCreativePartners.com.
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