Handling the Media

by Jennifer Stenhouse

Holding a press conference

Press conferences need careful planning to ensure their success. Some can be planned well in advance (for the launch of a new report, for instance) others might be more immediate, because of breaking news.

Here’s a checklist

  • When? Try to give three weeks’ notice to allow the media to plan.
  • Where? A venue that will take all the people you want to attend plus your own team, is easy for the media to reach, is appropriate to the reason for the conference and has all the services you need.
  • Invitation: A simple press release will do. Cards and teasers can also be effective. Make it easy for the journalist to reply if you need to know numbers ahead of time for catering or having the right number of press packs and badges.
  • How many will come? Fewer than you’d like. Check beforehand by ringing up all journalists who haven’t replied to your invitation.
  • Programme content: What will be said, how will it be said, how long will it take and who will be there?
  • Logistics: Organise microphones and equipment, display boards, leaflets, staffing, catering, security, filming, photography and anything else that might be required.
  • The venue: Check out the platform for speakers, direction signs, seating, power points and supply. Make sure everything works and there will be no distractions, such as fire alarm tests, from elsewhere in the building.
  • Be prepared: Think up all the possible questions that could be asked and make sure the speakers have good answers. Rehearse everything.
  • Timing: Arrive early and do a run-through if you can. Check everything before journalists start to arrive, and leave time for questions (a good 30 minutes is usually enough, but you must judge the interest).

Despite all this, you might still not get the results you wanted because of the unexpected. By the afternoon of September 11, 2001, there was only one story the world was interested in...

Tip

When taking information on board, people will respond to a greater or lesser extent to being stimulated through the five senses (hearing, sight, touch/feeling, smell and taste), so the more you use those five senses the better your message will be received. A press conference is an ideal opportunity to hit all the bases.