What We've Found
If there is
breaking news or an event that will draw high-profile participants like elected
officials, entertainment stars, or athletes, this is the time to call a press
conference. The news media offers an important and powerful means of
communicating messages to broad audiences. Sometimes the attention a project
receives is not necessarily positive, such as when significant controversy
surrounds proposed actions. Our advice is to take a proactive approach in
working with the media to help ensure that their reporting best reflects your
own message and position.
Just the Facts
Press conferences involve an individual such as an elected official or a
spokesperson making a statement and then allowing reporters to ask questions
about the statement and possibly other issues
conferences can also involve more elaborate presentations: displaying graphic images
, guest speakers,
With the exception of late-breaking news, press conferences are usually
organized in advance. Because of news schedules, the most effective times to
hold a conference are between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or
Thursday. Journalists are invited to attend and possibly to also observe a
special event or take a tour
Some of the advantages of a press conference are that many reporters can
participate at the same time and all hear the same message. Attendance by the
media will depend upon other news that day and the topic and its relevance to
the media’s audience. Attendance will also vary based on the integrity of the
organization or the individual: calling a press conference to cover routine
issues or just to get free publicity damages credibility and could affect
turnout for future events. Keep in mind the different approaches for reporting
Press conferences are best for big special events or significant new
Press releases are best for ongoing newsworthy items involving local
people, issues, decisions and actions, and progress.
Interviews are best for offering exclusive stories, when requested directly
by journalists, and for getting expert opinions.
KYTC has many individuals who are responsible for media contacts including
the District Public Involvement Officers or the Cabinet Information
How To Do It1. Build
A media list should include reporters, columnists, editors,
news directors, assignment editors and talk show hosts at all citywide, regional
and community newspapers and television and radio stations. Begin creating one
by asking a friendly local organization or local government agency for its press
list. Other tactics are to scan the local yellow pages and call every media
outlet listed or consult a national media directory such as Bacon’s directories
or News Media Yellow Book.2. Get ready
Well before a
news event or crisis happens, appoint one person as the official spokesperson.
This does not have to be the president of an organization; it should be someone
who speaks with clarity and is composed under pressure. A pressroom should be
large enough for the typical number of attendees including chairs for reporters
and adequate space for television cameras. Have easels or tables for visual displays
front; position a reception table outside the room as a place for press sign-in
sheets and press packets; and have a podium with the group’s name and/or logo
attached to it. If it is not possible to maintain a separate room or for outdoor
events, create a banner with the group’s name and logo that can hang behind the
spokesperson or speaker.3. Schedule the event
should be informed about an event at least three to five days in advance. Give a
brief synopsis of what will be covered. Follow up invitations with phone calls
especially to key reporters. If the day will include a tour, make necessary
logistical arrangements. Prepare press packets that include contact information
for the spokesperson, a press release of the day’s event with carefully scripted
quotes from the speaker(s), and relevant background information such as a
history of the group or project, biographical sketches of key participants,
charts or other statistics or graphic images, a copy of the document being
released or being signed, etc.4. Present yourself like a
Just like with a major speech, take time beforehand to script or at least
outline brief remarks that capture key points. Then remember this advice: tell
the truth. If you do not know an answer to a question, tell the reporters you
will find out. Then make sure you do!
Do not ignore controversy or downplay bad news. This is your opportunity to
communicate your position and prevent rumors and speculation.
Be cool. Resist displaying anger at reporters’ questions, becoming
defensive, or responding sarcastically. Depending upon the situation, it is
appropriate to show emotions such as enthusiasm, concern, or
Speak plainly. Avoid jargon, speaking-down to the audience, or using too
many statistics. If there is one number-related statement that is powerful and
can be easily and accurately captured by reporters, give it; otherwise include
these types of facts in press packets.
A moderated gathering
of media representatives for the purpose of sharing newsworthy
Use It If...
- You want to keep people informed.
- You are trying to get, in writing, a sampling of public opinion to determine
the degree of support or opposition for a project or action.
- You need to collect names of people interested in the project or those who
may be willing to serve on a committee or volunteer.
Forget It If...
- You think every action your group makes is worth a press conference.
Consider writing a press release, or carefully reevaluate the topic. Is this
something unique or unusual or is it simply a routine issue?
- You are highly uncomfortable speaking in front of others and do not have a
skilled spokesperson who can moderate the press conference.
- You are likely to be preempted by another event or story. For anything other
than late-breaking developments, consider what else is happening in the
community before you schedule a special event or tour for journalists.
Timing is Everything
conferences can be held anytime there is immediate, big news.