November 24, 2010 1 Comment
A well timed press conference can be an important PR tool if used effectively, but it can also be a risky approach. It’s important to know when and where to hold a press conference. Unless you have a strong breaking news story, an extremely timely story, or a story that involves a celebrity, chances are holding a press conference is not your optimum choice. Even if your story does fall into the listed categories keep in mind that just as you’re about to start your press conference a fire could break out, or a national news story could hit the wires and you could end up delivering your story to all but empty room.
Although press conferences are held for myriad reasons, the successful ones are primarily utilized to give the media up-to-the-minute information on breaking news stories, or when a celebrity or known personality is addressing a topical issue. Countless other types of press conferences are announced, but few receive any significant coverage. When you are asking the media to be at a certain place at a certain time to cover one specific story, keep in mind that the odds are against you.
When you schedule a press conference, your story is being set on a very specific timeline and will compete with every other potential story locally, nationally and internationally. If you are going to hold a press conference, hold it in the mid-morning. The later in the day you hold it, the less media you will draw because of deadline scheduling conflicts. If a story that the media considers more urgent, or more ratings worthy breaks at the same time – you’re out of luck. We have held some very successful press conferences. But we’ve also held some conferences that were passed-over because of a high speed car chase in progress, a breaking murder story or a celebrity drug bust. Those are the breaks.
There was one case where two TV crews had arrived and were setting up to cover a press conference we had scheduled, suddenly each producer was paged. Next thing I knew they were packing their gear and heading out the door. A fire had broken out at a local refinery and they were on their way to cover it. Needless to say, that was the end of that particular press conference.
Whereas there is a time and place to hold a press conference, in my experience most press conferences are ineffective, because the story or pitch usually does not warrant that type of media approach. Try to think like the media, play devil’s advocate with yourself. If you were a harried producer or editor, and were pitched a story on your proposed press conference would it be of interest to you? If the answer is no, forget going the press conference route. Reframe the hook and pitch it as a feature to the various outlets. Chances are you’ll be more successful and your story will have a much longer lifespan.
Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010