Free Publicity – Press Conferences Made Easy

October 13, 2011

                                                                                                                                                         The Beatles at a press conference, 1964. Image courtesy

Imagine your section or branch wanted to ensure news coverage of a significant project.  Sending out a press release may not get you the results you want.  What’s another tool to get publicity? A press conference is an event to notify the media of something significant. It should only be held for something that is extremely timely, controversial or newsworthy. To be successful you will need to plan ahead, but these tips will ensure that your press conference helps to achieve your desired results.

Get the word out
* Two weeks to one month prior – post information on your website, calendar listings and community boards; utilize social media; and use word of mouth to spread the news to other groups and organizations
* One to two weeks prior – send out a media advisory and notify “daybooks”
* Day before – send out a media alert and follow up with invited media

* Make it in a place convenient to the press
* Be aware of security and space limitations
* Schedule it in the mid-morning, between 9 and 11 a.m., which is well before most reporters deadlines.

* Choose the right one! – depending on the topic, this could be a Section president, a Report Card committee chairperson, or a section/ branch member with previous media training and experience.
* Have a limited number of speakers, no more than three
* Answers to questions should be in 10-second statements (called “soundbites”)
* Use your answers as way to reinforce your key messages
* Practice, practice, practice!

Other considerations
* Be a good host; select a space that has easy access have restrooms, and provide beverages such as coffee and water
* Pre-test the A/V equipment before attendees arrive
* Have press kits, statements and business cards ready to give out at the door
* After your event, monitor newspapers, blogs, and websites for mentions in order to evaluate the effectiveness and reach
* Have photos, videos and spokespeople available for follow up calls

For more help on planning a press conference, you may want to check out a recent eLearning webinar, “How to Plan a Media Event.”

Perhaps your Section or Branch has held a press conference in the past to release a local Report Card, dedicate a historic landmark or announce a special community outreach event. What worked? What didn’t?

What additional tips can you offer other Sections and Branches while they plan a press conference of their own?

Tracy Withrow – Manager, State Public Relations

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