By Christa Skiles
You have an exciting announcement to make. So, of course, you want to maximize your chances of getting your news out quickly to as many people as possible. Is a news conference in your future?
It’s important to remember that reporters and editors are bombarded every day with far more messages than they could ever answer. While they’re always on the lookout for great stories to share with their readers and viewers, it’s the rare item that warrants their attendance at an event in which you get to control the exact time and setting.
A news conference may be the best way to share your message if:
- Your story has high news value.
- Your message impacts a broad base of people.
- Multiple media outlets will want simultaneous access to your news.
- You can provide great visuals reporters will need.
If you can’t answer yes to all of the above criteria, that doesn’t mean your news doesn’t have merit. It simply means a news conference may not be your best option. Announcements that cater to a niche audience or are relevant just to a targeted group of outlets are better served by pitches to a specific reporter or handful of reporters that you contact directly to discuss potential coverage.
On the other hand, if you found yourself shaking your head affirmatively to this list, congratulations! Now get ready for a lot of work. Follow these steps to ensure your news conference goes off without a hitch:
Pull together your team, and touch base regularly.
Planning a news conference means juggling a lot of details, usually in a short amount of time. You’ll be less likely to pull your hair out if you have colleagues with whom you can share some of those duties. Pull together your team, and then touch base daily (even if only for a few minutes) to ensure your plans stay on track.
Choose your perfect setting.
The setting for your news conference is one of the most important choices you’ll make, as it is likely to impact a plethora of other decisions … not to mention your budget. Our team recently helped the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plan a special event to celebrate an announcement by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao awarding a $67.5 million federal grant to support improvements in Boone County. It was important that our setting communicate the benefits this funding would provide for Kentucky drivers, so we opted for an outdoor venue near one of the project areas with clear views of the highway. Remember: The visual messages you send are as important as what you say.
Establish your critical path.
As soon as we learned we’d be helping organize the event, we created a critical path document outlining all of the tasks we’d need to accomplish before the big day, from venue logistics and invitations to onsite audio-visual needs and collateral materials we wanted to have on hand for reporters. Then, we assigned specific responsibilities for each task, created individual timelines and identified key milestones for every line item, large and small. We updated and referenced this document every single day so that we knew immediately if there were issues we needed to address and could adjust our priorities accordingly.
Plan for the unexpected.
An outdoor event in late August in Greater Cincinnati — what could possibly go wrong with that idea? The answer is nothing – if you plan for the unexpected. For our event, we set up a large tent with clear, removable walls and plenty of (quiet) fans at a location with a nearby indoor alternative if Mother Nature had decided she wanted to have fun with us that day. Ultimately, we were lucky, with clear, blue skies and temperatures in the low 80s. But knowing our event could proceed even in the midst of a pop-up thunderstorm or sweltering heatwave gave everyone involved enormous peace of mind.
Do you need assistance planning your next big announcement? Give us a call or send us an email. We’d love to partner with you … and help you navigate your way through these and many other details.