A news conference is an important tool in any company’s arsenal that will allow it to create buzz and hype prior to a launch. This can also be used to break any news to the public and to handle public relations. This post will discuss how to handle a news conference properly and what the different types are.
If you’re looking to build anticipation for the launch of a product or service, if you want to make an announcement to the press, or if you are for any other reason trying to get coverage for a product or event, then you need to create a press conference or news conference.
This simply means inviting members of the press in order to come and hear your news so that they can report on it across various forms of media. That may mean they write about it on their websites, it may mean they post about it on their blogs, or it might mean that it gets published in print media/covered in television items.
Either way, the objective is to ensure that the news is delivered in a controlled manner and that all the relevant members of the press are available.
Types of Event and Conference
There are multiple different types of conference and each can go by several different names. A press conference can also be known as a press briefing, which accurately describes the objective – that being to ‘brief’ the press.
Often this will mean that you need to ensure that there is a clear message for the audience present, and this might take multiple different forms. For instance, a briefing will often be used in order to handle the launch of a product. This might also be referred to then as a ‘launch event’.
Very often, a launch event will also include some kind of interesting event for the assembled press to report on or to photograph. However, it is still also a briefing/conference.
For example, I was once at a launch event for a new phone that I had to report on for the media. This meant travelling to London where the phone was unveiled and it meant going to the top of the London Bridge in order to use the camera on the phone to get photos.
Why would a company do something like this? The answer was that the event first and foremost encouraged more members of the press to attend the conference. Keep in mind that journalists are people too: if you offer them an exciting opportunity or something they would love to do, then chances are that they’re a) be more likely to want to attend the event and b) be more likely to feel positively about the event and therefore to write the nice things you want them to write!
Another benefit of a launch event like this, is that it means that those journalists are likely to Tweet and post to Instagram about the event. If they’re having an amazing time, then of course they’ll want to share it! And of course those members of the press also just so happen to have thousands of followers on Facebook, Instagram and other forms of social media in most cases.
In other cases, the plan might be to let the press know about an upcoming launch or event before it actually takes place. This is often referred to as a ‘prebriefing’ and the concept behind a prebriefing is that it will give the media the opportunity to learn about something that is about to happen.
So, for instance, you might use this in order to let them know about the upcoming launch event and what it is you’ll be launching. In the case of that phone launch I described (which was a real thing, by the way!), I first actually attended a prebrief.
At this prebrief I was officially invited to the launch, but this was also my chance to get a hands-on with the phone, to ask any questions and to hear their pitch. This gave me all the information I needed to write a fully in-depth article about that phone. And that in turn meant I wasn’t constantly asking questions at the launch, I could just play with the phone, get more pictures and write about it!
But a news conference could take a very different form too. Let’s say for instance that you are an athlete who has decided to change the course of their career in some way. IN that case, you might be interested in contacting the press to let them know. Your public relations agency will then set up the news conference, they will invite members of the press and they will let them know that you will be breaking very exciting news that their audiences will want to hear about and that they won’t want to miss.
How to Prepare a News Conference
News conferences can take a lot of different forms as we’ve already seen, and so the process might be quite different depending on the nature.
When we imagine the news conference, we probably think of one that is a little like the one at the end of Iron Man. That means someone standing up at the front in front of members of the press, speaking from a podium using a script.
This can be what a news conference looks like. But in just as many cases, the news conference might be a much more casual and relaxed affair. In this case, it might take place in a small conference room in a hotel or elsewhere around a table. You might pass around the new product, let members of the press play with it and then answer questions. There might be a presentation with a slideshow at the start.
In short then, it really depends on how you want to go about it, the size of the event etc.
There are a few things to consider in any case though:
Firstly, you need to make sure you know the message. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised just how often this gets overlooked. Recognize that the message needs to be something that you want people to hear but also something that the press want to share. Make sure that your event is news before you run your press conference. If you don’t? Then you won’t be very likely to get journalists through your door, they won’t report on it and it will be a waste of everyone’s time and money.
At the same time, you also need to make sure that you invite the right people. This is going to be the job of your public relations agency to an extent. They need to not only help you devise your public relations plan but they also need to communicate with the media for you and partly, this is going to mean leveraging relationships that they have with those members of the press. They should have organized previous events, they should have their details and they should have a working relationship with them.
It’s also important that this be organized correctly, that everyone receives the correct time and date and that they have been notified with enough warning to ensure they’ll be able to book time off to come visit.
You also need to make sure that you have secured the room of course for your event. Make sure you have it long enough to answer any questions and make sure it has the facilities you need, whether that is an overhead projector or a podium.
It’s also generally considered the ‘done thing’ to organize snacks for your assembled members of the press. You should offer light refreshments, maybe sandwiches and cakes and a few other things to sweeten them up and to thank them for making the trip. Some of these people will have travelled from all around the country and if you’re company has enough clout, they may even have come from abroad. They will likely be hungry and cranky and they will certainly be grateful if you can offer them some food and help to make the process a little more comfortable for them.
You also need to prepare a press kit. A press kit, or media kit, is essentially a collection of key details, of photos etc. This is to ensure that while taking notes, your audience doesn’t miss anything vital. This should once again contain all the information needed for them to write a complete and comprehensive story. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to cover it!
Prepare any speakers to answer questions, prep what the company line is and run through likely queries. Finally, confirm an embargo, which is the date at which the press can report on the news.