With social media and live streaming becoming the norm, it may seem like the traditional press conference is no longer needed, but that is far from the case. When it comes to crafting a specific message to benefit your credibility, image, and brand, there’s nothing like a press conference to give you more control.  The question is, when is it appropriate to hold a press conference, what are the risks and potential benefits and, ultimately, will they come?

What is a press conference?

It is basically an organized meeting for the media. It gives brands or individuals the opportunity to share information, make an announcement or answer questions, all in one shot.

When should you hold a press conference?

A press conference is a great way to bring attention to special news that might be of interest to a broad swath of local, regional or national media, including print, broadcast and online outlets. Examples include a new headquarters or plant that creates new local jobs; a lawsuit with a compelling backstory, company, organization, property, government official or agency; an investigation, indictment, land use or business dispute; allegations of criminal activities; responses to controversies involving your company, key executives or products, safety issues, employees or unions; and major incidents with injuries or fatalities or crime.

Hence, a press conference may be appropriate when there is very good news or for damage control. If you’re facing the bad press, a news conference can help separate fact from fiction to ensure your message gets out there in a consistent way. It helps combat gossip and alternative facts that are prevalent in the age of social media.

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Who should attend?

Your invitation list depends on the goal of your press conference. If you are looking for news coverage, then you want to alert media such as TV and newspapers. If you are holding an industry-specific event, invite the proper publications. This is where an experienced PR firm is critical because you need to have those important contacts in addition to having the respect of top media outlets, key industry editors and thought leaders, and the major wire services and online portals. You should also consider inviting cultural and political influencers.

How should I promote my press conference?

Leave it to the PR pros, trusted practitioners who have the experience, team, and contacts to make the biggest splash while evaluating and mitigating risks. They know the proper steps to getting media attention: issuing a press release at least a few days before the conference. That's followed by a media alert the day before and day of; the streamlined advisory answers the who-what-where-when questions and explains why it is important to attend. The professionals may recommend distributing an announcement via a national newswire such as PRNewswire, Business Wire, Access Wire, or PR Web to reach the largest possible local and national audience. This should be used as a supplementary tool. And of course, picking up the phone beforehand, the day of and after the press conference to maximize attendance and news coverage.

How should I prepare my press conference participants?

Be sure your participants are ready for what is about to happen. Explain the process and how everything will work, down to what to wear, and where to stand. If the client will be taking questions from reporters, you may want to practice and review answers. Be sure to ask if they have anything negative that could come up, so everyone can be prepared. As a PR professional, it wouldn’t hurt to do some research on the client yourself before putting them in from of the media.

How can I minimize risks associated with conducting a press conference?

Planning is key. Public Relations professionals have a checklist in which they take care of simple but important matters such as checking the audio and video situation beforehand. They review the size of the location to ensure that there is enough room for everyone who is attending. They also make sure participants know how to end the press conference if they feel as though it is going too long or they are not comfortable answering questions. Experienced staff will make sure everything is ready to go as planned and will intervene if things go south.

What makes a press conference successful?

Organization. Public Relations professionals make sure you are clear on the time, place, and any logistical details that those attending will need to know. (Where should people park? Will news outlets need to string cable? Etc.) They help you make the point of your press conference clear and do not be misleading, even if you have the best intentions. For example, if it is a fundraiser with a famous attendee don’t promise an interview with that A-lister unless you are positive you can deliver.

Should social media be part of the press conference?

It can be your friend. Live streaming gives you the ability to share messages nationally and instantly. Years ago, local media had to send video to affiliates once the footage was back in-house. Now, we stream press conferences live on social media, giving national media and publications the opportunity to get your message out there immediately.