28 Mar Are press conferences dead?
I remember the first press conference I ever ran. It was for the Sierra Club, to announce the results of a study in which they found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in most of the turkeys purchased in local grocery stores. 10 years ago this was shocking news and we had film crews, print journalists and even a few people from the agricultural companies there.
Today this wouldn’t be big enough news to hold a press conference, much less to draw people to an actual event. It’s too easy to do interviews, write a story, even get video without needing to leave your desk. That doesn’t mean the news conference is necessarily dead. It just means before you do one make sure you have a really good reason. Or something that will draw attention to your news. Here are a the few good reasons left to hold a news conference:
- If a crisis, whether company or personal, has drawn the attention of the media it can be a good tactic to arrange a press conference. By letting the media now you’ll answer questions soon you can take some of the heat off of the story. I had the unfortunate task of managing communications for a family who had lost four of their family members in a plane crash last fall. We arrange a handful of press conferences that kept the press at bay – and off the porch of the grieving family.
- If your news is BIG, and I mean BIG a press conference is called for. This doesn’t mean a merger, a great year in sales, anything like that. And that means it is news that all media is interested in. Announcing a $10 million donation to the relief effort in Japan and having Beyonce give your check to the Red Cross a the event would be one example.
- If you’ve got a great stunt with huge visuals you might want to schedule a news event, especially one that can be broadcast online at the same time. Maybe you’re going to open your restaurant by trying to get in the Guiness Book of World Records with the largest number of pancakes flipped at one time. Flash mobs seem to be another good idea for press events, and Peewee Herman did a great job of creating a spectacle to announce his new Broadway show.
- Finally, if you’ve got news that can be announced in a smaller media market – not a top 20 but still large enough to have at least one TV station – press events seem to make sense. Smaller towns have less news going on and sometimes bigger companies coming to a small town or projects completed in a smaller town can be a great way to gain coverage. Those stories can then as anchors for online and viral efforts.
The press event is not dead..but it’s much harder to pull one off these days. On Thursday, I’ll give you my top tips for pulling off a successful news event. Even if the media don’t show up.