Preparing a Winning Strategy—4 Steps to a Successful Press Conference
Holding a press conference can be a powerful and effective way to generate media coverage for firm news such as a lawsuit or verdict/settlement. However, hosting press conferences is its own beast and needs to be treated as such. While there are dozens of factors and strategies that go into making a press conference successful, the following are a few of the common considerations. Before you hit send on your media alert, read the recommendations below.
- Make Sure Your News is Newsworthy
First and foremost, ask yourself if what you’re going to discuss with media is truly newsworthy. This seems like an obvious answer, but sometimes your news may not warrant a press conference. Consider if it impacts the broader community; involves a high-profile individual or large establishment (e.g. LAPD, school district); or ties to a movement (e.g. #MeToo). These are just a few examples of when it may make sense to move forward, but be sure there is a reason to hold a press conference versus announcing your news via a press release.
Additionally, if other firms have already held press conferences on similar lawsuits against the same defendant, it can be an uphill battle to attract media to cover. The exception is if there are new allegations or new information to reveal that present a fresh angle to the story. Moreover, if you can offer access to the parties in the lawsuit or other key spokespeople that haven’t previously spoken with the press, this can help generate media interest. Oftentimes, bringing other spokespeople to the forefront, besides the attorneys, can be what entices media to show up.
- Get News Out Quickly—But Be Prepared
You’ve decided to move ahead with a press conference, now the question is when to hold it. One key factor is holding the press conference the day the lawsuit is filed or the settlement/verdict is being announced. You run the risk of the story breaking if the timing is too late. It’s also recommended that you avoid rush hour and find a central location for media to travel to—don’t make it challenging for them to attend. If it can be helped, you’ll want to avoid timing it around any holidays or upcoming long weekends since people could be out of town.
Keep in mind, there is significant prep work that needs to be done in advance beyond setting a time and booking a location—a media alert will have to be drafted and distributed; attorneys and clients should be fully prepped on communication points; materials for media will need to be prepared and printed; and more. Is your news relevant to the Spanish speaking community? You’ll want to have all printed materials translated and potentially secure a Spanish speaking moderator to translate. While you want to turn things around as quickly as possible, it won’t benefit anyone to rush this process so make sure you have dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.
Too, if media doesn’t have at least 24 hours’ notice, there’s a good chance the turnout will be low as reporters are busy. Regardless of timing, it is important to have realistic expectations about coverage. Breaking news can happen at any time and pull them away from your press conference. Have a plan B in place for getting your news in the hands of reporters, such as following up with those that couldn’t make it and offer phone interviews.
- Decide How Much Information to Release in Advance
There is a delicate balance to how much information to release in advance of the press conference. You want to pique the media’s interest while not giving away everything to give press a reason to decide not to come. For example, if parties of the lawsuit or high-profile spokespeople will be speaking at the press conference, announce their participation and what they’ll be addressing. Never mislead the media; you don’t want to overstate the extent of information they’ll be sharing if it’s going to be limited commentary. If there’s a specific time spokespeople will be speaking or it’s a town hall meeting format, make it very clear when media will have access, or not.
Similarly, if you’ll be addressing particular details of the lawsuit or announcing new information, this should be emphasized early on in the media alert.
- Expect the Unexpected
Attorneys, spokespeople and the public relations team should arrive several hours before the start time. This is key to assess the set-up of the room, ensure AV equipment is working, and provide an opportunity to talk through the flow of the press conference and last-minute questions. The last thing you want to feel is hurried or realize the microphones the venue promised are unavailable.
Be aware that media will arrive early, too. They’ll be bringing equipment to set up and vying for a front row spot for their cameras. It’s critical to set boundaries from the outset—particularly in highly-charged press conferences—and confirm everyone is on the same page about the “rules.” For example, make an announcement to remind media how long the press conference will run, if they can ask questions or not and if there are certain areas they’re not allowed to film. Also, consider having the venue’s security present as an added precaution. Generally speaking, members of the press are respectful, but it’s good to provide guidelines so you can avoid any surprises.
Check out our other blogs to learn more about successfully executing press conferences: