We saw Malaysia Airlines stage a media conference for MH370 and more recently Maria Sharapova front the media to explain her testing positive to a banned substance, but what is a media conference and why hold a media conference?
Because people live in a highly connected (at least technologically) world with real-time information sharing and media is feeding the 24-hour demand for news (read: content), a media conference is often the answer when crisis situations arise and timing and effectiveness, among other things, are critical in communicating a person, brand or organisation’s response.
In the same way staging a media conference allows an organization to announce to multiple media outlets simultaneously that it’s laying off 1000 workers in a crisis situation, it is also an effective strategy to communicate positive news if it is arranged properly and attracts a lot of media.
What is a media conference?
Media conferences typically provide a forum for a person, brand or organisation to announce something to media and they often also include a question and answer session.
How to host a media conference?
To ensure a properly run and professional media conference, consider the following points:
· Make sure there is news to announce - significant media conferences attract more media, so make sure you’ve got something to say. You want media on your side and you’d be a fool to waste their time.
· Timing – avoid clashing with other significant events or announcements on that day nationally and choose a time mid-morning that’s appropriate for media to attend.
· Location – choose a venue that can accommodate the requirements of media attending (i.e. space for microphones, cameras) and which is also visually appealing (i.e. appropriate lighting). Also ensure there are no parking issues.
· Branding and sponsors – don’t miss the opportunity for easy brand exposure at the media conference. Everything from the spokesperson’s uniform to signage are opportunities to acknowledge your organisation or sponsors.
· Choose the right talent – the CEO isn’t always the best person for the job. Use someone with authority, understanding of the announcement and good communications skills. If you’re announcing a new product release or a new event to a city, engage experts or dignitaries to give the announcement more juice and balance.
· Preparation / sound bites – if you have something interesting to say, make sure it’s said interestingly. Prep all spokespeople with appropriate tight, exciting and informative sound bites and media will use it. Blabber on and they’ll be lost. Preparation is key.
· Additional vision – if you’re announcing something interesting, you should create additional opportunities (i.e. extra talent to interview, a visual stunt) to enhance the vision available for media to capture.
· Host it – welcome media to the event, introduce your speakers and moderate the Q&A. Otherwise things can get unprofessional quickly.
· Snap it –Use images, sound and vision of the media conference for media unable to attend, as exclusive content for digital channels, and for important reflection and training for spokespeople.
How to handle media at a media conference?
· Invite media – give media plenty of notice to put the event in their diary, and follow them up at least three times prior to the media conference including first thing on the morning of the event to secure their attendance.
· Media kit – don’t forget to hand out media materials including media release, faq sheet, VNRs and high-res images (if appropriate).
· Manage one-on-one interviews – different media often need their own angle to your story, so allow time for additional interviews and vision with reporters.
· Follow-up – send media materials to media unable to attend and ensure you follow-up any questions unable to be answered.
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