How To Successfully Manage A Press Conference in Nigeria
Press conferences are among the major functions of media relations executives. Public relations managers also undertake this task, especially in organizations where the media relations officer is not separate from the PR manager. Press conferences are crucial features of effective press relations. You may lose opportunity to build a positive image for your organization if you fail to manage a press conference well. You could also lose your friends in the media because of a poorly managed press conference.
Whether a company is located in Nigeria or other parts of the world, organizing a press conference follows the same basic steps everywhere. But you must note that there is need to understand how journalists operate in a local environment before you can work effectively work with them. Journalists in a developing society may have a different idiosyncrasy from that of journalists in a developed society though the two groups of reporters cover stories basically using the same approach. Also, while considering venue for press conference in a developing society such as Nigeria you may be thinking of functional backup power generator in case public power supply fails. This is one of the basic considerations before selecting a venue. This includes accessible road to the venue. But in a developed society you don’t talk about these things. This is why it is necessary to localize press conference management tips to specific societies.
So what are the basic steps to effective management of a press conference?
Managing press conferences follows three basic approaches – pre-conference, on-conference, and post-conference activities. There are crucial activities that take place before, during and after a press conference. They all contribute in ensuring the success of the event.
Why do we organize press conferences? A press conference is a media event primarily aimed at presenting information to the press which an organization wants the public to know. A press conference aims at getting favourable media coverage of an issue about an organization. It could be about new product or policy, it could be to react to a negative report, or even to announce major business breakthrough. The reasons for organizing press conference are always serious so you can’t afford to make the wrong moves and ruin an opportunity to get good publicity for your organization through this event.
Press conferences are also organized when so many journalists are asking questions on specific issues about your establishment. Instead of answering several individual calls from journalists or arranging several interviews with individual journalists who want to interview the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of your organization, just organize a press conference and address the matter once and for all.
Make It a Story-Rich Press Conference: Let the news you want to communicate in a press conference be worth it. Don’t waste the time of journalists on a flimsy issue. Journalists love press conferences that are story rich. It must not be negative news. But let it be that there are interesting story angles one can get from the press conference. That way you are guaranteed media space. A story-rich press conference provides various angles to an issue which journalists can approach the story from. You must bear this in mind before you organize a press conference.
Press Invitations: Just make sure you don’t discriminate in selecting which media organization should be invited. You never know the journalist that could be of help to you tomorrow so if you don’t invite that person you could lose the relationship. Make a list media organizations that your target audience are a exposed to and make sure you write to them officially inviting them to the event. Of course, in these days of digital press relations there are several online platforms for press invitations. The media organization’s email or that of individual journalists could be used. Then whatsApp and other social media platforms could be used as reminders. Send the invitation on time to get journalists physically present instead of having to send speeches and press kit to their offices because they couldn’t attend the event due to late invitation.
In Nigeria where you have the “big media” syndrome you shouldn’t allow this to destroy your relationship with other journalists. Some journalists see themselves as ‘gods’ because they work for major national media outfits. They look down on other journalists whom they feel their stories are not widely read because of where they work. Don’t forget the power of the “small” media. They could ruin your company and cripple your business. Remember that most big stories reported in major national dailies may have started as “small” stories in the so-called obscure media, then followed up by the big media.
Logistics: You should be serious about this. The venue, the equipment, press kit and handout, timing of the conference (morning, afternoon or evening), company displays (banner with company logo or other branded displays), and such other facilities and considerations that will make the press conference successful should be taken care of.
You shouldn’t take selection of venue for granted. You should make sure it is well arranged to suit a press conference; it wouldn’t be a good idea for journalists to be standing during the press conference, though this could happen in extreme cases not in a well organized one. Make sure the public address system is working. In a developing society such as Nigeria you should make sure the venue has back of power generating set before you select it for the event. You may not have to rely on public power supply because it could fail you during the event. Check the press kit to ensure it contains relevant materials, including audio or written speeches if any.
Timing could be crucial to the level of media coverage you get from the press. Oftentimes press conferences are organized in the morning so journalists could have enough time to package the message and disseminate to the public. Make sure the budget accommodates the relevant logistics for the conference. A good budget is the backbone of a well planned, successful press conference.
Who Attends from Your Organization? This could depend on the issue involved. If it is a serious policy matter or negative information that could destroy the company’s image the CEO and other management team members are always present. But where you need to select who speaks on behalf of the company make sure it is an eloquent management staff that understands the theme of the press conference well in order not to commit damaging blunders during the question and answer session. You also need to note that it is always good for top management staff to be present at press conferences. You don’t expect journalists to take you seriously when they come to a press conference to discover you sent a junior staff or even a senior staff far down the pecking order to address them. Top management presence will make the event look serious.
Managing the Press Conference: During the press conference you also have a lot of work to do. You need to be alert always to know whether there is something urgently needed which you forgot to bring or include during the planning. It could be a slide for presentation or relevant equipment forgotten in the office. This sounds strange because you are supposed to have planned well before the press conference but anyone can make mistakes. The press kit may not be complete, the public address system could suddenly stop working; it could be an issue with power supply or stand by generator in Nigeria for instance. All you need to do is be alert during the press conference to quickly address unforeseen circumstance.
You also need to get who will coordinate the question-and-answer session if the CEO does not also take up the role of pointing out journalists to ask questions after making the initial speech. This session is also important to the success of the press conference. You have to spread the opportunities for questions among the journalists. Don’t let a few reporters dominate this session.
Post Conference Activities
Follow Ups: The press conference should not end with the event. You need to find out what happens after the event. It is always essential to monitor the media after the press conference to know where and how the story was reported. If there is any misrepresentation or misquotations you could call the attention of the reporters involved to the issue. If there was a blackout by the “major” media that attended the press conference you should speak with the journalists to find out why. Some media event organizers and PROs even send thank you messages to journalists after the event just to keep the relationship going.
Press conferences are very effective if well organized. Take note of the basics mentioned here to ensure you effectively manage your organization’s press conference in order to achieve positive media coverage.