Where to hold your press conference
Sometimes the subject demands an on-the-scene location; other times, it's not necessary. Either way, find a good setting for your press conference. Determine where most major media offices are - you'll receive better coverage if the conference is in that part of town. Hotel conference rooms are often used for press conferences, as well as private clubs and other centrally located meeting rooms. Don't hold a press conference in a building with restricted access. If you must use such a facility, know which reporters are coming in advance. Give the list to the security guard and have a person on duty to make sure reporters are admitted immediately.
If you expect extensive radio and television coverage, consider sound and lighting. Ask in advance whether the meeting rooms have sound systems. If you cannot find a meeting room with a sound system, rent the sound equipment you need.
Check to see if the room has suitable lighting for television cameras. Decide how to light the scene so your speaker and props look best. Check each potential site to see if it is accessible to television crews. Make sure the passageways, doorways, and elevators are large enough to accommodate bulky equipment. If the crews bring their own lights, verify whether there are enough heavy-duty circuits for them.
Consider holding the press conference on location instead of in a conference room if it's about a highly visual topic that television reporters and newspaper photographers will want to shoot. If your press conference will be outdoors, plan for bad weather, adequate lighting, crowd control and noise control.
News releases - They should always be typed with wide margins and limited to one page. Use a format that covers who, when, where, why, how and what. Mention any photographic possibilities. If the conference or event is not in a well-known location, include travel directions. Whether you're contacting newspapers or broadcasters, send your release to the reporter who actually writes about your subject. If your event or press conference will offer photo possibilities, send a duplicate release to the photo assignment person. Let the reporter know who else the release has gone to.
Reminder calls - On the day of your event, preferably between 8 and 9 a.m., call each reporter, editor or assignment director to remind them. Be brief. Introduce yourself, inform the reporter or editor that you're having a press conference or special event, describe it in 15 words or less, and ask if he/she received the announcement. Briefly convince him/her that your conference or event is newsworthy. If the person asks for background material, offer to fax or e-mail it. If you have already sent the person a release, ask if he/she is planning to cover the conference. Ask the reporter if you can provide a any additional background material.
Preparations - If possible, prepare visual aids. Your message will be more effective. Charts and graphs allow reporters to better understand facts, figures and comparisons more quickly. Pictures, props, slides and videotape make for a more interesting presentation. If TV reporters can use your visuals, it makes their stories more interesting to viewers.
The speakers should be brief and to the point. A 20-minute presentation is long for a press conference. Some publicists limit their speakers to five-minute opening statements. Don't cover every detail; if issues aren't clear, reporters will ask questions.
Your speaker should be able to make a central point in 10 or 20 seconds. They will have a better chance of getting a statement on the air uncut and unedited.
Radio and TV people might ask for brief interviews after the conference presentation. Be prepared to schedule them on the spot and have an area set aside to conduct them.
If you expect a demonstration or harassment from your opposition, take steps in advance to quickly and quietly contain it. Make a list of things that could possibly go wrong and figure out how you'll cope if they do.
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