A few weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made headlines by announcing that the Fed would hold a news conference. You read that right, he made news by announcing he’d have news to share. This was news because banks, investors, lenders, economists and the financial media hang on the Fed’s every move.
Too often, executives want their public relations team to arrange for a news conference to make an announcement, share a milestone, issue a statement, etc. But a news conference may not be appropriate and it’s important to keep in mind that news conferences aren’t necessarily newsworthy.
(BTW, I prefer to use news conference over press conference, because press doesn’t accurately describe the audience you are trying to attract.)
So when do you actually need to hold a news conference? Here are four reasons:
- You have news that everybody wants to know about. These tend to be best served for major economic development announcements, a serious public safety issue, response to a major organizational crisis, any announcement for a product that begins with a lowercase “i” and a few other scenarios. Bottom line: The more people affected by the announcement, the more appropriate the news conference.
- You expect the media to have many of the same questions. The main point of a news conference is expediency. If you can have a few phone conversations or face-to-face meetings with a few journalists, you don’t need a news conference. Bottom line: If you expect drones of media to be calling and asking you the same questions, hold a news conference.
- You have a visual. This is especially true for working with television news. Nothing is more boring to a television news director than a bunch of talking heads behind a podium in a drab meeting room at a hotel or convention center reading a verbose speech written lots self-serving statements. The same holds true for the whole large check and ribbon cutting with extra large scissors. Those might be good for your own website, e-newsletter or even a printed newsletter or magazine, but they don’t make the news because if the media did that, that’s all they would have time to cover. Bottom line: If you have a visual that people must see for themselves, hold a news conference.
- You have a guest speaker with serious media cache. If your spokesperson is a well-respected professional and highly regarded in their field, guess what – the general public still doesn’t know who they are! If your spokesperson is a local celebrity who is in the news all the time or not necessarily a household name, even that person might not be a draw. Most local news outlets are appealing to the general public. Bottom line: If your spokesperson is somebody the media and the general public is hungry to hear from, arrange for a news conference.
So if you shouldn’t hold a news conference, what should you do? A simple pitch is likely the best route. In today’s local Indianapolis news, a philanthropic act grabbed headlines. Indy residents woke up to news that Wishard Health Services and Wishard Hospital will get a new name thanks to an extremely generous donation by the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi. Wishard staff could have held a news conference, but they went a different route and it worked!
Other, more guerilla ideas include the flash mob, a rally, or some other publicity “stunt”.
The other popular method these days: the tweet. Yes, with 140 characters you can eliminate worries over scheduling a bunch of busy executives, checking the weather forecast every few minutes, podium and audio rentals, purchasing donuts and coffee, the big check and the big scissors.
When do you think a news conference is necessary? What alternatives have worked for you?
Although my primary business is focused on public relations and strategic communications, I sometimes take on a freelance writing assignment, most often for Indiana Living Green magazine. I find it gives me an opportunity to dig deeper into sustainability issues that I wouldn’t necessarily encounter in my client work.
I also enjoy the chance to turn the tables and play journalist. However, I have to be honest – I’m amazed at how many sub-par PR professionals there are out there, from account executives at small agencies to directors of corporate communications at major companies and organizations.
I don’t claim to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer or J-school classically trained investigative reporter, but the folks who practice public and media relations who blatantly ignore basic, tried-and-true principles marvel me.
For example, if a writer calls you and asks for information or an interview, call them back. I can’t believe I have to say this!
In my most recent assignment I emailed, phoned, left voicemails and even left a message via the assistant of not one, but two, PR executives for a major organization in Indianapolis. Didn’t. Hear. A. Peep.
When I practice media relations I return messages to the smallest of media outlets to the big boys. And I don’t take my sweet time getting back to them either – I’m back in touch with them ASAP because that’s my job. Based on their name appearing as the media contact on their company website, it’s their job too.
The other thing that blows me away is when a PR executive doesn’t follow through. On this same recent story, I spoke with an executive who said she would provide me an answer to my ONE question and I told her my deadline. The deadline came and went but the info never arrived. Upon my follow-up, there was silence – as in no response.
They way I work is like this: If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. And if it’s something I can’t do, I will contact the reporter and let them know if I’m unable to fulfill their request. Call it courtesy if you will, but I call it good PR.
Ever since I began my career in public relations more than 12 years ago, I’ve taken seriously the advice and wisdom of my wiser and more experienced colleagues. Therefore, when I frequent the monthly luncheons of the Hoosier PRSA chapter, attend a “Meet the Media” program, or listen in on a webinar, I sometimes listen to the speaker and think to myself, “Really? Isn’t this obvious advice!? Doesn’t everybody do this?!?”
So if you’re new to PR or you’ve been in the trenches for decades, the lesson of this post is simple – Responding is NOT optional.
Whenever I tell somebody the name of my business, I often hear this, “What is the significance of two21?” or some hybrid of that question.
It’s a fair question. After all, I could have named my business something more obvious or descriptive like Ryan Puckett Communications, RMPR (my middle initial is M), Ryan Puckett Consulting, etc. But those just didn’t do it for me and I settled on two21 LLC.
The name two21 is a reference to one of my favorite movies as a child and it remains a comedy classic – Mr. Mom starring Michael Keaton as reluctant stay-at-home-dad Jack Butler.
There is a scene in the movie in which Jack’s wife is getting picked up in a limo by her new boss, Ron Richardson (played hilariously by Martin Mull).
In a feeble attempt to impress Ron with his machismo, Jack grabs a chainsaw from the shed, puts on a tool belt and dirty clothes, a pair of safety goggles and swaggers into the room where Ron is waiting. He offers Ron a handshake with a live chainsaw in his other hand. After offering Ron a beer and a scotch at 7:30 in the morning, he goes on to tell Ron how he’s going to tear down some walls in the house, add a whole new wing and, of course, re-wire it all himself.
Ron asks, “Yeah? You gonna make it all 220?”
Jack, having no idea what he’s talking about replies: “Yeah. 220… 221, whatever it takes.”
Enter Jack’s wife…
So that’s where the name two21 comes and I like it for my business because a) I think it’s a funny scene and b) I’ll do “whatever it takes” to make a communication project or campaign a success.
After sitting on this name for some time, my wife gave birth to our son on September 26, 2009, at 2:21 a.m. I thought it was serendipitous and provided yet another reason to go with two21 as the name of my business.
With his presence in my life, I’m even more committed to sustainability issues and challenges that confront our American culture. I wish a brighter future for him and I want to support companies and organizations working to make this world a cleaner, healthier, smarter and better place to live.
Hello. My name is Ryan and this is the brand-spanking new blog for two21 LLC. Welcome!
For the past several years, I’ve watched blogging take off. About eight years ago, I remember my wife reading some entertainment journalist’s blog during an awards show. The author was posting live throughout the event. I thought, “why would anyone want to read that?” Apparently my wife, she was guffawing at many of the blogger’s comments.
Eventually, I got it. I figured out why people blog. I even started my own blog just to try and get a laugh out of my friends – sometimes it worked. I blogged steadily for about a year and then it faded into the cyber-distance.
I watched company after company launch blogs and I watched company after company neglect their blog.
More recently, I’ve contributed to other organizations’ blogs as a guest author, regular contributor and vlogger. I’ve attended Blog Indiana, twice. I’ve edited others’ blogs and even debated over the ethics of ghostblogging.
So in this obligatory first blog post for my new business, I want to tell you about what I plan to post. It really comes down to two things: communications and sustainability.
The majority of my posts will revolve around public relations, marking and communications issues and where that intersects with sustainability topics such as conservation, environmental issues, urban ecology, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, recycling, multimodal transportation, improving community health and even education.
Of course, this is my blog and I reserve the right to post whatever I want, change course, whatever.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Tell me what you like and/or what you don’t like. Feel free to agree or disagree. And most importantly, let me know if you there might be an opportunity to work together.
Thanks for reading.