Your organization has a big announcement to make. One of the most effective and efficient ways to get the information out to the general public is to schedule a news conference, also referred to as a press conference. You pick a time and place to make the announcement, and invite as many members of the local media as possible to come hear the big news. Before you schedule anything or invite anyone to attend, though, there are several things to keep in mind.
Holding a News Conference
- Is your announcement really newsworthy? Do you know how journalists evaluate stories, and choose what to cover and what not to cover? If not, you might want to familiarize yourself with the elements of a good news story. If you schedule a news conference for an announcement that’s not considered newsworthy (or considered marginally newsworthy) by the media, you will become known as the “group that cried wolf” and be less likely to attract reporters to your organization’s future events or news conferences. News conferences should be reserved for truly big announcements.
- Timing. Time of day, day of the week, and the timing relative to other big news stories will all affect your chances of getting reporters to come to your news conference. Morning is best — late enough in the morning to give news crews enough time to start their day and travel to your location, but early enough to give them enough time to finish putting together the story and meet their deadline. If you’re able to gage slow news times versus busy news times, use that to your advantage. For example, the Friday before a Monday holiday is almost always a slow news day, which is a great time to schedule a news conference.
- The invitation. The best way to invite the media to your news conference is to send a press release. Don’t be afraid to follow-up with a phone call to make sure the appropriate person received the release. But don’t expect a firm commitment from anyone to attend your news conference. News gathering is a fluid process. Breaking news will always take precedence over events and news conferences. One other note about the press release. You want to include enough information about your announcement to get their attention without giving away all of the details. If you tell them everything in the press release, why should they bother attending the news conference?
- At the News Conference — giving reporters what they need. Keep your presentation as brief and to-the-point as possible. One or two people standing at a podium, talking, is boring — no matter how important or exciting the content of their message is. If the reporters need more information, they will ask questions, but don’t overwhelm them with details right off the bat. Also, to do a complete story, reporters (especially TV reporters) need visuals and interviews. You should do everything in your power to make those things available at your news conference. Get the major players there and ready to be interviewed. Have large graphics, photos or illustrations set up as a backdrop. Stage a demonstration. Think of this as “show and tell” on a grand scale.
- Follow-up and Networking. A news conference can also serve as an opportunity to get to know members of the media. While they won’t have time to chit-chat endlessly with you, it’s a good idea to give your business card to each reporter who shows up and ask them for copies of theirs. Tell them to get in touch with you if they have any follow-up questions and make sure you check your email frequently and have your phone handy constantly for the rest of the day. Keep their business cards as contacts for future stories.
What if nobody comes to my news conference?
It happens. For various reasons. The first thing you should do is, again, ask yourself with a critical but open mind whether your subject matter was all that newsworthy. It might be worth a follow-up call to the assignment editor and/or reporter who received your news release to ask why they didn’t show up. DO NOT BE DEFENSIVE. If they tell you the message just wasn’t that newsworthy, they have just done you a favor. Use it as a learning experience and move on. If they indicate that your story has news value, but they didn’t come because they had breaking news or other “bigger” stories to cover that day, you might consider rescheduling your news conference for another day. If just one media outlet showed up and you still want to get your story on others, call up the no-shows and offer to send them all the details and visuals you have. If you’re lucky, they’ll run the story anyway.
Just for fun
Here are some funny news conference moments for you to enjoy 🙂