10 Steps to Running a News Conference

(c) Robert Schaeffer, Public Policy Communications, 1988

 

I. Determine if topic is worth a news conference or if a news release is sufficient

A. Are you clear about goals, audience(s) and message?
B. Do you have a visual component for TV (e.g. backdrop,
graphics) and/or sound for radio?
C. Is there sufficient time to organize event coverage?
D. Does story gain credibility by bringing media together?
E. Can spokespeople handle question-and-answer format?

 

II. Choose convenient time

A. 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on weekdays is generally best for
morning newspapers, TV and radio

1. Must be early to meet evening paper deadlines
2. Weekends may look good because of little competition, but less news staff available

B. Try to avoid conflict with other newsworthy events

1. Look at schedules in newspaper calendars
2. Check with wire service day books, convention bureaus and other master schedule sources
3. Ask friendly media

 

III. Pick accessible location

A. Familiar to media and close to major outlets
B. Connected to topic (e.g. in front of location of story or site symbolizing issue)
C. Easy to get cameras into--sufficient space, light, electrical connections; no conflicting sound
D. Get needed permissions in writing

 

IV. Notify all media well in advance

A. Mail Media Advisory/Notice of a News Conference in outline form to arrive at least a week in advance
B. Send to news directors/editors as well as any journalists who previously covered story or related issues
C. Direct "pitch letters" to talk show producers to line up interviews after event
D. Hand deliver notice to reporters at State House, City Hall, etc. press galleries if appropriate

 

V. Rehearse spokespeople

A. Limit number of speakers to three or four--the entire news conference should take less than half an hour
B. Remember that one double-spaced typed page takes 2 1/2 minutes to read--keep presentations short
C. Walk through event at actual site to test logistics
D. Practice responding to "tough" questions
E. Prepare news release summarizing event and highlighting key quotes--include fact sheets/charts if relevant
F. Assemble copies of press kit for background information

 

VI. Remind reporters/producers at major media outlets

A. Consider sending reminder to same list to arrive 2-3
days before event with any new information
B. Call news directors and key reporters day before event
C. Place brief last minute calls on morning of event --offer voice feeds or release to those who can't cover
D. Visit press galleries to personally pitch reporters

 

VII. Run event smoothly

A. Sign-in reporters and give out releases/press kits
B. Introduce all speakers first and explain event format--spell out confusing names and point out data in kits
C. Cut off long-winded speakers by taking over microphone
D. Coordinate questions and answers--make sure less aggressive reporters get a chance
E. End news conference on schedule and offer individual interviews for remaining questions

 

VIII. Monitor coverage

A. Tape television and radio stories, copy newspapers
B. Consider hiring clipping service or asking volunteers to collect coverage from distant outlets

 

IX. Follow-up

A. Immediately respond to any unanswered questions or requests for additional information
B. Call key reporters who were absent--offer to do phone interviews or visit in person
C. Deliver releases to other outlets that did not cover--mail to weekly papers and magazines
D. Draft letters-to-the-editor to correct errors and elaborate on partial points
E. Call editors about particularly inaccurate stories
F. Use copies of news clips to get more coverage (e.g. by sending to talk producers and editorial writers)
G. Thank anyone who did an especially good story

 

X. Evaluate

A. Write up what worked and what did not to improve future events through "institutional memory"
B. Talk to friendly reporters to get feedback
C. Update media lists based on contacts