Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anatomy of a Press Conference

I've organized press conferences for 32 years. We conducted one today. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how it works.

It begins with an issue. Make sure it's worthy of a press conference and will resonate with reporters and the public.

Location, location, location. Decide the best place for the conference to be conducted -- a site that reflects the issue. 

Then there's the planning. Who should speak? What should be included in the press kit? What are the logistical issues associated with the site?

The devil is in the details. Microphone, lectern, backdrop, visuals, table for press kits, chairs, sign-in sheet, permit if necessary, alternative in case of rain (if it's outdoors).

Burn the midnight oil. Research the issue and write the materials: key messages, media alert, news release, fact sheet, etc. Then send everything out for review by all the powers that be and revise as necessary.

Alert the media! A media alert serves as the announcement of the press conference. It's short, sweet and to the point with details such as the issue and why it matters, date, time, place, speakers, parking, and main point of contact.

Meet with the Team. Go over the final key messages (some call them talking points but I don't like that term) and determine which should be covered by which speakers. Discuss the order of the program. Make sure everybody's comfortable with who's on first.

Serve as the MC. Thank everyone for coming, introduce the issue briefly, announce the speakers and then turn it over to the them. Come back to the lectern to field Q&A and wrap the whole thing up.

Do the follow-up. When you get back to the office, send out the news release to all media to ensure that those who couldn't attend have the info. Double-check the websites of reporters who attended the press conference and email the links to speakers and the boss.

Here's how it worked today at 10:30 a.m.:

The issue is that there's a proposal on the table in Sacramento to once again balance the state budget off the backs of municipalities. The state is looking at a loophole in the law that could make it easy for them to shrug their responsibility and let cities pay the price. In Pasadena, public health will potentially suffer as a result.

A large room at Pasadena Public Health Department was chosen as the site. I led off the press conference as MC.

Mayor Bill Bogaard was the first speaker.

Then Bernard Melekian.

And Dr. Takashi Wada, our public health director.

The last three speakers were Mary Donnelly-Crocker, executive director of Young & Healthy, which is a community partner of Pasadena Public Health Department; Jacquelynne Jones-Corby, district representative of Senator Jack Scott; and Adam Carter, district representative for Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. Scott and Portantino are standing with cities on this issue.

Steve Mermell, our director of finance, was standing by to answer questions involving dollars and cents.

Reporters from several news outlets were there, plus Dr. Wada did a phone interview with KFWB prior to the press conference.

The Pasadena Star-News had an article posted online just three hours after the press conference was over. Janette Williams does quick work!

Many thanks to Joy Guihama and other staff at Pasadena Public Health Department for their assistance in the logistics, creating the fact sheet that was part of the press kit and providing these photos!

Here's the news release I wrote, which was part of the press kit and was also sent out later today after the press conference.


Anonymous said...

A very interesting post. I'm glad you told us about it & I'm glad I read it. Keep up your good work!

AP said...

What are the city protocols for pretending my blog doesn't exist?

Funny - because some of the other blogs listed on your blogroll, I write for as well.

Does that mean Steve Madison wants them taken down, too? :-)

- AP

Miss Havisham said...

Thanks, Ann. There's a lot more than meets the eye to your job, or any PR job for that matter. Some people think it's easy to be creative in advertising, too, or handle a client as an agent---it's sooo not the case.

Keep it up. Have some hummus and pita. Forget about the slapdiggity for a minute.

BTW, I think I recognize the guy in the front row of your press conference. Is
is him"

Petrea said...

I've been meaning to sit down and give this post some consideration. I think you make it sound easier than it is! It can't be simple to get all these people (speakers especially) into one place at one time. Of course when the issue's this important maybe it's easier.

Thank you for the work you do.

By the way, that "free online lotto" is spam. I got the same exact comment on my blog. You could delete it if you wanted to.