Where to hold a press conference?

When I typed “four” into Google just before starting to write this post for you, the top suggested result was “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” in Philadelphia.

The online frenzy over the Trump campaign’s choice of location for their Saturday press conference reminded me of a question I get from time to time:

Where should we hold our press conference?

And 99 percent of the time, my answer is:

Don’t hold a press conference.

It’s obvious to you and me that the type of news we work with isn’t presidential-campaign-level significant. But that fact is sometimes lost on the executives we advise.

Yes, your bosses will be bummed when you turn down their request to have a press conference. But they will be much madder if you acquiesce and no journalists show up.

Have you ever been to a press conference with no journalists? I once worked in the media center for a Winter Olympics, and there was a space they used for press conferences for outside groups who thought that the international media gathered to cover the Olympics would be interested in some “news” they wanted to share. Sometimes a frantic PR rep would come running around and try to get us fellow PR pros from other organizations to go sit in the seats so it would look like someone cared. The first few times I took pity and went along with it. It was, as my 16-year-old son would say, “cringey.”

So what do you do instead?

Think of it this way – if you have a newsworthy announcement, journalists want two things. In the past, when more of life was conducted in-person, these two things were conveniently provided at the same time via a press conference.

  1. The facts
  2. Access to someone credible who can answer questions

Nowadays you can issue the facts electronically – doesn’t matter whether it’s a news release, statement, blog post, tweet, or any number of other ways. And you can make spokespeople available by phone or video conference.

Generally speaking, the best way to break news is to email it to your media list, and include the details about spokespeople who are available for comment. In the rare event that you anticipate journalists will all want to talk to the spokespeople at roughly the same time, you can point them to a Zoom link and hold a scheduled “briefing” where they can take turns asking questions.

But in most cases your news won’t be that urgent, and you’ll get a better response by allowing journalists one-on-one time with your spokespeople.

And best of all, you don’t have to worry about all the logistical details that go into a press conference: securing the space, arranging parking, whom to allow in, the sound system, the backdrops, and possible confusion over a similarly named hotel. 🙂

This article was originally published on November 11, 2020

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