How Press Conferences Work

Putting Together a Press Conference

Decide in advance who will speak.
Decide in advance who will speak.
© iStockPhoto/Millanovic

Step Three: Invitations

Journalists are typically assigned a "beat", or particular news area to cover. Target press conference invitations to journalists and publications that have a proven interest in your news or event announcement.

Once you've narrowed down your list of journalists, write a press release and/or media advisory. The press release should explain the news or announcement without giving away the entire story. It should also list which key spokespersons will attend the event and their availability for one-on-one interviews.

Shorter than a press release, media advisories function as an invitation, detailing the date, time, location and other logistical information for attendees.

Press releases and media advisories can be sent by e-mail or fax, depending on the journalist's preference. Both should be sent out at least a week in advance of the press conference, and it's a good idea to make a reminder follow-up call or e-mail to the journalist a day before the event.

Step Four: Deciding Whom Will Speak and What They Will Say

Press conferences need a moderator or facilitator to introduce speakers and run the Q-and-A session. Choose the speakers carefully: informational experts who are well trained on working with the media.

Here are some media training tips for speaking at a press conference:

  • Statements should take 10 minutes or less and be built around key "talking points."
  • Speakers should be prepared with short, clear answers to expected questions.
  • Limit press conferences to two speakers so the message doesn't get confused.
  • Consider using visual aids such as posters or multimedia presentations to make your message clearer.
  • Rehearse statements on camera, including mock Q-and-A format sessions.

Step Five: Assembling a Press Kit

A press conference's main goal is to make the journalist's job easier. Supply good sound bites and photo opportunities. Give journalists any additional pertinent information in a press kit, which should include:

  • A press release summarizing the story, important facts and key players
  • Bios and photos of the key players
  • Fact sheets including copies of any graphs or charts presented during the press conference
  • Contact information for follow-ups and interview requests

Many journalists now work in a digital environment, so it's helpful if the press kit includes digital copies of documents and photos, perhaps on a CD-ROM. The CD-ROM could include other promotional materials like TV commercials, video and audio files, and official logos and images.

Now that the planning stage is through, let's find out how to make things run smoothly on the day of the press conference.