If television and the movies are to be believed, press conferences are the backbone of the public relations industry. Every time a character in a movie makes good, he or she is often seen standing in front of microphones from the likes of the BBC and CNN while dodging rapid fire questions from reporters. But the operative phrase there is “in the movies.”
While it is true that public figures such as the President, or celebrities and sports stars involved in contract signing or sultry scandals do indeed hold press conferences, many PR people will go their entire careers without presiding over a single press conference.
A press conference is a gathering of key people from your company or organization speaking with reporters in a question and answer format. Public relations people tend to favor them because they attract the media to a set location on the company’s turf.
Unfortunately, over the years the allure of the press conference has led many public relations professionals to call press conferences when they are unwarranted. This has led to many journalists viewing press conferences as a waste of time. And you don’t want to invite a bunch of reporters to your big waste of time do you?
If that wasn’t enough, here are three more occasions when you should not hold a press conference:
When Not to Hold a Press Conference
1. When a Press Release Will Do – Can you squeeze all the information you want to send to reporters into a one or, at most, two page press release? And can follow up questions be handled via phone? Then there is no reason to gather key people from your organization and reporters in a room together.
2. When Your Target Audience is Far Afield – In this day and age, few but the largest media outlets have the budget to send reporters to your doorstep. The telephone has long been a journalists best friend, and nowadays that’s more true than ever. If you hold a press conference, you may find that your story receives less coverage than if you had gone the press release route.
3. When you Want to Maintain Your Credibility – Irritated reporters talk. If they’ve schlepped all the way out to your factory for a press conference and do not come away with any vital details or inside scoop, you PR team and your company will suffer a credibility hit. If reporters feel that your current press conference has wasted their time, don’t count on seeing them at your next one.
When to Hold a Press Conference
1. When Nothing Less Than a Question and Answer Format Will Do – There’s a reason that the President holds press conferences often. The issues he talks about are complex and require a two-way dialogue with the press. If your company is in the midst of a complicated controversy or has just unveiled a complex new strategy for changing the way the world consumes energy, for example, then it’s likely that reporters will have quite a few multi-part questions. In that case, everyone – your company, reporters, and the general public – will benefit from the press conference environment. Otherwise, press conferences are generally just a big waste of time and a surefire way to damage your credibility with reporters.
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.