PR book On-line Readings in Public Relations by Michael Turney
Working with the media:
Host news conferences and media events
© 1998 Michael Turney Table of contents Practicing Public Relations main page About the author

"A press conference should only be called when there's a reason for two-way communication between the organization's spokesman and the media."

-- Albert Feldman, public relations director
New York Multiple Sclerosis Society

Sometimes an organization wants the media to come.

Hosting news conferences and other media opportunities such as interviews with visiting dignitaries or subject matter experts or tours of facilities can be very helpful and very effective in gaining media attention and coverage. But, activities of this type will only work if the media's needs are kept in mind and if what's being presented has substantive content that will be of interest to the media's audiences.

News conferences -- Traditionalists and newspaper-minded folks persist in calling them press conferences. -- are the most popular and most standardized media opportunity. Some of their popularity is no doubt due to the popularity and glamour of televised presidential news conferences which have inspired corporate executives and public relations practitioners alike to see themselves glibly responding to every tough question thrown at them. Alas, most news conferences aren't as glamorous as the President's.

Save news conferences for truly significant occasions.

The sad truth is that an awful lot of press conferences that are called shouldn't have been. Even the public relations practitioners who called them know there wasn't any real news to announce, but they gave in to the prodding of company managers or mid-level public officials who think calling a press conference is a good way to get some extra attention for what is an otherwise insignificant announcement.

In defense of these practitioners, we have to admit that when the boss is pushing for a press conference, it can be tough to resist. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "What possible harm could there be in doing it?"

We won't bother to consider the possibility that the boss who's pushing so hard for the press conference, and who may envision him/herself taking center stage to banter with reporters, may slip up and make a mistake. Let's simply focus on the fact that calling unnecessary news conferences about non-newsworthy topics is about as popular with reporters as falsely crying "Wolf!" It may may get attention the first couple of times, but it's counter-productive in the long run.

Routine information and simple announcements that aren't likely to provoke a lot of questions are much more easily and effectively handled by issuing news releases. And, news releases are much more likely to get into the paper or onto the air, albeit perhaps on page 16, than a ho-hum, meaningless news conference.

"If everything can be made clear in a press release, then a press conference becomes superfluous. Don't call a news conference unless you have something world-shaking to announce. Some of your big shots may be so puffed up with their own importance that they think we'll come every time they call, but friends, that isn't the way it works."

-- Frank Martineau, editor emeritus
Association Trends

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Issue media advisories
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29 Aug 2011