The objective of a press conference being dissemination of information, it would be advantageous to invite all major newspapers, journals, radio and television channels and even website/Internet agencies. Formal invitations are sent out for the press conference well in advance, indicating the time and venue of the conference.
The nature of announcement to be made and the main person who will be addressing the press and media are also indicated in the invitation. Care is taken to address such invitations to the right persons—reporters, editors, etc.—dealing with the subject.
Businesses organizing press conferences should necessarily ensure that the subject matter of the conference is important enough to warrant a direct physical presence of media representatives. Otherwise, the invitation for the conference may not elicit much response.
Press conferences should be avoided if the purpose can be achieved by a press release. Depending upon the perceived importance of the announcements, media houses will decide who will participate—editors or senior reporters or just any representative.
Press conferences are convened by larger business establishments to make important announcements like annual results, major launches, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), overseas acquisitions, major ownership and organizational changes.
Since every business organization expects a high level of media response and attendance at the conference, the timing of the conference should be convenient to a majority of the media representatives.
Normally, early morning and late evening sessions are not convenient. Needless to add, normal courtesies like lunch, refreshments, writing pads, pens, etc., are provided. It is also desirable to provide a write-up on the subject matter of announcements, especially when technical or financial details are to be covered.
Press conferences have to be addressed by the CEOs, directors and other top management functionaries. At the end of the announcements, question-and-answer sessions are held so that media representatives may seek further clarifications.
In sum, well-attended press conferences help the business reach out to the larger public through media coverage. Like press releases, when press conferences are held before evening, participants are able to ensure its coverage the very next day or at the earliest opportunity.
Let us now look at the step by step approach to organizing press conferences:
1. Make sure that the announcement is of sufficient importance to the press and the media so that the media representatives find it worthwhile to attend the meet. What can be covered by just the press release need not be announced through a press meet. There should be good reasons for convening the press meet.
2. Choose the day, time and venue that generally suit the media persons. Avoid holidays and Sundays which are not working days. Similarly, avoid early morning and late evening timings that may not be convenient to a majority of them.
If possible, try to reschedule your meet if there is any major event already scheduled around that time. The venue too should be conveniently located and easily accessible.
3. Send out written formal invitations by courier or e-mail well in advance and make sure it is addressed to the right person. Also, remind the media persons on the day of the press meet and request them to attend.
4. Press meets are generally addressed by the chief executive officer or the head of an institution and the importance attached to them is quite high. Important announcements carry a high degree of credibility when they are made by the heads of institutions and people in very senior positions participate.
5. It is important to stick to the timing and start the conference on schedule. It is not fair to keep the media waiting and waste their time. On any given day, they normally have numerous such engagements.
6. At the appointed time, there is a brief welcome and the announcements begin. The presentation or address is made orally. It is now very common to see that such oral presentations are accompanied by audio- visuals or power point presentations. Power point presentations with appropriate charts, graphs and pictures add value to the announcements and make it easy for the media persons to absorb the details .The formal announcement or presentation is always followed
by a question and answer session. This ensures that media representatives get an opportunity to seek further details and get their doubts clarified.
7. It is necessary to provide a hard copy of the presentation or a write- up on the details of the announcements. This will ensure that the facts and figures are correctly understood and reported.
8. Some of the press persons and television representatives come with their cameras and camerapersons, and proper arrangements need be made to accommodate them.
9. It goes without saying that as a matter of courtesy to the invitees, refreshments and lunch are provided at such press conferences. Public relations departments of large organizations thus need to follow a methodical approach in organizing well-attended and effective press meets.
Like press releases, press meets too are a very cost effective method of getting extensive media coverage. What we need to emphasize, however, is the tremendous power of the media and hence, care needs be taken to ensure that absolutely nothing goes wrong. Press meets have to be addressed with tact, understanding and patience.