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Public Relations Basics: Press Conference Tips and Tricks

When you have a public relations message you need to get out to the media in a quick, efficient way, a press conference might seem like a good idea. Rather than setting up interviews with individual reporters, sending out press releases, and contacting editors and producers, you can speak to a roomful of journalists at once. But a press conference, like any media interview, can be tricky. The following tips should make your first — or fiftieth — press conference that much easier.

Stand rather than sit. A table can make reporters feel like you’re talking at them, rather than engaging in a dialogue. Sitting can also suggest a lack of energy; standing adds not only a sense of engagement but gravity as well. A podium provides a place for your notes, as well as a location for reporters to affix any recording devices or microphones.

Most of the time, holding a press conference with more than one spokesperson can be tricky. There are several reasons for this. The more speakers, the less control you have over the information that appears on the 6 o’clock news. Remember, “control” is the key word in public relations. If you get five people in a room, and they all make the same point, they will make it in five different ways. That gives the reporter too much to decipher, which increases the chances of being misquoted or misinterpreted.

Keep your speakers to a minimum. As with any media interview, you want to present your company’s viewpoint through one “public face.” Even if two people are presenting the same key message, they may contradict each other in some small way, ultimately confusing your audience. If you assign one person, especially someone versed in public relations, to deliver your presentation and field questions from reporters, it’s less likely you’ll be misquoted.

Remember that the reporter isn’t the final audience. You want to get your public relations message out, but reporters are merely intermediaries. Your actual audience is made up of all the people watching the press conference at home or reading about it the next day.  The people who may want to buy your product or service. The people who are interested in changes at your company that may affect their lives. Develop your key messages ahead of time, with that final audience in mind. And when speaking to that audience, relay those key messages succinctly, in a down to earth way.

Watch out for reporter spin. Journalists are obviously very savvy when it comes to spin during a media interview or press conference. If it seems like a reporter is attempting to spin your news in a negative way, offer a positive response to their line of questioning. Beware of parroting a reporter’s negative language in your responses.

Be helpful, even if you don’t know the answer. If a reporter asks a question and you’re unable to offer an immediate response, tell them that you’ll have someone in your company furnish them with an answer as soon as possible.

A press conference is an efficient way to disseminate information about your company, but only if you treat it seriously and plan in advance. As with any media interview, journalists want information, but it’s up to the public relations department to dictate their access to that information.

This article, written by Al Rothstein, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from 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/.

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