How to organize a press event?

Businesses and nonprofits of all shapes and sizes use press events to draw media attention to their work. To organize a press event, you will need to invite guests, arrange for a venue, choose a date and time, and present talking points about your subject. You may wrap up the session by responding to the reporter’s questions. This task has many layers that will determine whether or not the event is successful.  A press event can be conducted to announce the launch of a new product or service, a new invention or discovery, a piece of legislation, or a statement from a political or business leader. Whatever the reason, any press event needs to follow a certain press conference format to ensure its success. This article will lay out the press conference format and how to manage media events using them.

 Before you get started:

 It is important to get organized before planning your event. The first step is make checklists for the key elements of your event: one checklist for the press release, one for the press kit, and one for the invitation process, which should include a media advisory. Always get every step and task checked twice by different people to avoid overlooking errors. A concise and neatly laid out agenda is the key to a successful press event. It’s important to have one point person from your team paying attention to the agenda or schedule throughout the event and keeping time. This person can also welcome the guests, explain the order of the events, and walk the guests through the program in a brief manner. 

Be clear and precise with your message:

 As discussed above, if the press event is organized to announce an arrival or discovery of a product, the message has to be well-articulated and clearly explained to the general public. Some press conferences are also organized as a response to a claim. In this case, a precise and clear message is still extremely important. A press event can be  an opportunity to clarify wrong claims and let the public know your team’s perspective. Some press events are used to build an organization’s reputation. Whatever your purpose, make sure to make a list of all the points that have to be highlighted at the press event, your talking points, and review them with your team.

 Pay attention to the language that you use to draft the message. The aim is to clearly explain  the message to attendees. Avoid jargon unless they are absolutely required. Always keep in mind to make it as clear and crisp as possible. In fact, the reach depends on the clarity the message offers. End your message with a clear conclusion that lays out next steps for the event’s attendees, and lets them know where they can get more information. 

The Guests:

 The guests to be invited for the event will depend upon the purpose of the press event. Prepare a list of guests to be invited and their contact information. If your guest list contains people with busy schedules, invite them well in advance (at least 2 weeks) to make sure they will be present during the event. While preparing the guest list, you must also consider unconventional media, such as social media, blogs, podcasts, etc. As for the representatives of the press, decide outlets, editors, and reporters who are a good fit for your message. Also see if you or anyone on your team has connections to any press. Include the value addition that you will be providing the journalists to get them more interested in the event, and follow up with e-mail or phone calls. 

Once the initial invite is sent out, follow-up is a must especially, in the case of people holding important positions. Since they are normally invited well in advance, it is always a nice gesture to follow up, which also highlights the importance of their presence during the press event. For the other invitees and friends from the press, draft a formal e-mail and send it out. It is always better to follow up with a phone call if they were originally invited via a phone call. In case of phone call invites, it is highly recommended that you also send an e-mail containing a summary of the telephone conversation.

A press kit or media kit is normally distributed to the guests of the press event that contains the main points discussed during the press conference. Prepare this press kit with great care and attention as it reflects the quality of work gone into organizing the event. It must contain contact information, a small section about the company, and the team involved. You can include photos of key people and past events. In case it is a product launch, include the details about the product too. Ideally, you bring more press kits than are needed so you do not run out. 

 If you’re hoping to break into the news, keep the newsiest elements of your announcement under wraps until the press event. If the surprise is broken or the news is already leaked, why would anyone be interested in attending?  

If your press event is invite-only, it helps to have some kind of control at the entry point. This is to make sure that only the invitees get access to the press event. This can also help you track who attended the event, so you can follow up. At the end of the event, this sheet can be used to thank the guests for attending. Mentioning their names while thanking them is always a good gesture and definitely contributes towards building a good reputation. While having an internal control in place on the entry is important, it is also important to keep the entry and exit process simple and easy.

 Depending on the length of your event, it may be helpful to plan a short break during the event. Time this well in such a way that it is neither too close to the beginning nor to the end. Sometimes it is appropriate to serve refreshments to the guests, or coffee in the case of an early-morning event. 

Location, date, time, and duration:

One of the key aspects of managing media events is to pick up the right venue. Choosing a venue that is the right fit for your event is paramount. While picking a venue, look into the following criteria. Make sure it is spacious enough to accommodate all your guests and their press equipment. It is very important to find a venue that is easy to locate and easily accessible by local transportation. Make sure there is ample parking for all the invitees or easily accessible public transportation. Often, the arrangement of the location is overlooked despite the fact that a proper arrangement can have a huge impact on the guests. Also think through your layout inside the room – make sure you have enough seats for all of the attendees. Lastly, make sure that the venue is ADA compliant and you are aware of where the handicap accessible entrance/exit and restrooms are in the venue. 

Anticipate key dates related to your field or message, like conferences, holidays, or other major announcements, when choosing a date, time, and duration of your event.  This will help the event get good coverage even by journalists who may have a busy schedule. When you plan the duration of the event, take into account the time required to clarify the questions at the end of the press event. Also, it is very important that as organizers, you arrive at the venue well in advance to avoid last-minute hassles. Choose a date and time that does not clash with some other big event that is likely to garner more coverage. Choose convenient timing, allowing people from various places to attend the press event.

After the event, keep monitoring the news and social media to record the reach it has attained and to measure your progress. For instance, before an article is posted online, a reporter may tweet about your press conference while it is happening. 

These are some simple yet effective steps to  manage a successful media event. Documentation is very important in every step of the process. This will help run your current press event smoothly, as well as laying the foundation for future successful events.