Imagine the dilemma of having a bunch of invited journalists in a room, eager to hear what you have to communicate to the public only to later hear some of them say, “There is no story here!” The worst part is the huge effort you made in pitching to the relevant editors to assign a senior journalist to cover your news conference, only to realize you have wasted their time!This is now a common occurrence in our communication industry.
But there was a time when calling for a press briefing meant that news to be communicated was ground breaking. Journalists would attend and have the opportunity to interact directly with the stakeholders to get more insight in to what was being reported such that follow-up stories become mandatory.Unfortunately, this seems not to be case anymore. Organisations have resorted to using media briefings to communicate even when there is nothing really new to communicate! In fact, there is a belief amongst some companies and institutions that the only way to get publicity is through media briefings.As PR practitioners, this has become a nightmare. It is worse if you try to explain it to the client and they adamantly refuse to listen to your advice meaning you are stuck with organising that media briefing.
So how can you make a press conference worthwhile?
What are you telling the media? This is very crucial as the media has been known to choose their own lead based on the news philosophy of the publication or broadcaster. Find that key messaging that will hook the media and make communication uniform. Decide and agree on the kind of messaging that needs to go out with management and stakeholders. If need be, draft talking points for all stakeholders to ensure consistency, that way you can at least get some relevant information published.
I know for a fact that if you get this wrong, you may not get the publicity you are seeking at all. You have therefore got to identify which media is best suited for that particular press briefing.Is it business journalists? Perhaps you need lifestyle writers or only sports reporters? This really matters to get the best from your briefing because then the media will ask the appropriate questions.
It is well known that when you call for a press briefing, there is always someone to address the media from your organisation. It could be the MD or communications personnel. Everything we communicate has a ripple effect in the public and is often balanced with an industrial or regulator perspective. Therefore when calling for a news conference try to have a panel with representatives from the organization and industry and if it’s a partnership, make sure all partners are represented.This of course works towards believability and makes the story more objective. Remember, you want to control the disbursement of information under one roof rather than letting the media source for stakeholders to balance their stories.
This may seem minor but very important when it comes to addressing media. Your timing should put into consideration deadlines in the news room. Different media houses and their products have different deadlines. If you want to have news in the papers tomorrow, make sure your press briefing is done by latest 10:00am. This means all stakeholders should be able to keep time putting into consideration the one-to-ones that may follow to clarify certain points. This brings me to Q and As
This has to be factored within the programme. You want to allow the media an opportunity to get clarification on the information they have picked up during the news conference. However, keep in mind; this can easily spiral into topics not related to the media briefing. When this occurs, interrupt gently and communicate a limitation to that day’s news. You could actually approach the journalist and set up an appointment for that discussion later to prevent feelings of frustration at a missed chance for a separate story.
These are crucial in ensuring consistency. Tools such as press releases, brochures, speeches etc must have uniform information such that when distributed to the press it’s all good. Meaning all stakeholders should have gone through the available material and are well conversant with the messaging.
There could be probably more that could make your press briefing worthwhile but I find the above have always worked for me and my team! Perhaps they can work for you too.