Friday, December 11, 2009

Reasons to Hold a Press Conference

The six most dreaded words for a PR person are: "We should hold a press conference!"

Most business people don't realize that unless you're making a significant announcement that's of interest to a large percentage of those in your community, journalists won't attend your press conference.

The problem is that what's big news to us isn't necessarily big news to others, and a press conference requires news that's interesting to a large, wide-ranging audience -- the local rich guy is running for public office, a large employer is announcing the location of its new factory, a college shares news of the largest donation in its history.

In addition, even when you have "real" news to announce, there's a lot of competition for the attention of journalists, many of whom work for news gathering organizations that are cutting back until the economy rebounds more. They have fewer reporters and photojournalists out reporting because they have no choice.

So...your boss announces, "We should hold a press conference!" Ask him or her these questions so that you can both decide if it's an appropriate option for your organization:
  1. Who cares? Seriously, who will care about your announcement outside your company? And if they're in your industry, not your community, perhaps you should hold a press conference -- but at an industry trade show.
  2. Does your news have an impact on the people who read/watch/listen to the media outlets you would invite to your press conference? It needs to.
  3. Who should make the announcement at your press conference, and will that person be available? Sometimes, it's access to an individual who is normally hard to reach that draws a reporter to a press event. If you can make that hard-to-get-at person available, it's a check mark in the plus column.
And here's one strategy to use if you don't really have a good reason to hold a press conference but the boss insists on it anyway: Build your announcement into an event with a larger guest list -- members of your various stakeholder groups -- so that you've got bodies there and it's less obvious that there are no media microphones or cameras.

Did you ever hold a press conference that nobody attended? I did -- and it was for the community's pet charity, too -- the one that everybody is happy to help publicize. What went wrong? We'll save that for another blog posting. But in the meantime, share your story here!

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