5 Tips for Planning Your First Press Conference

February 10, 2010 at 8:21 am 13 comments

By: Samantha McCain

For the last five months, I have been interning with a local community foundation. It has been, by far, the most rewarding and challenging public relations work I have done to date.

Recently, our Executive Director tasked me with planning a press conference for one of our funds. I have worked in many different realms of PR, but media relations have not been one of them. Even as confident as I am in other areas of PR, I was a little (A LOT) hesitant; but I like a good challenge, so plan I did.

Online resources were a tad low in the “HELP ME I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING” department, so I followed my gut and went for it.  For your planning pleasure, here are a few nuggets of wisdom to help anyone as they embark on planning a press conference.

1. Make a list! I am a listing fanatic. I create to-do lists daily, and then I merge at the end of the day for the next day.

Make a list of everything that needs to be done and a time line for yourself. If you don’t give yourself a deadline, tasks will begin to overlap and become overwhelming. Be sure to write down questions you need to ask, and it also helps to list important people that need to be involved.  Find your story and figure out what will help the media make an appearance… because after all – it’s not much of a press conference without them.

2. Know who you need to talk to. Our foundation works with A LOT of different organizations and projects in the community.  Knowing the president of the organization we represented was key to planning this event. It was important for me to figure out what he wanted represented at the press conference and how he saw the day unfolding. From my initial meeting with him, I also realized that there were about 5 other people that I needed to talk to as well.

3. Be sure all parties involved are on the same page. For our particular event, we needed to coordinate with the local police department AND the mayor.  It was pivotal to book these two departments to tell our story.  Communicating with the public information coordinators for these two offices helped keep our event on the fast track of success. It was important to have all three of us on the same page with the who, what, when, where, and how.

4. Befriend the media and PICK UP THE PHONE. We should always be fostering relationships with our media entities. However, if this is your first time working in media relations (Hey, that was me!) – know your outlets, and those that report on specific topics and beats.  This only takes a little background research.  Check out their respective web sites and look at past stories they’ve written.  THEN, pick up the phone. I will say it again, PICK UP THE PHONE.  It’s so easy to send an e-mail, but you will garner a more effective response from an initial phone call.

A week and a half before the event, I called our four major news outlets and spoke with specific reporters.  I asked them if they were familiar with our organization and the fund we represented.  Lucky for us, the organization had already been in the news and their interests were peaked.  THEY asked me to e-mail them follow up information.  When I e-mailed the media advisory, I told them that I would follow up in a week by phone.  All four e-mailed me back with a commitment to be there. It only took three tiny steps.

5. Media Kits are essential. They may seem a bit old-fashioned in the world of everything social media, but we felt it was important to hand the media everything they needed to know about our organization and then let them retell our story in the manner they saw fit.  We trust our media and wanted to help them where we could.  They have deadlines, and if it saves them 10 minutes of Internet searching, then we’ve served our purpose.

For our event, we included a brochure about our foundation, a brochure about the organization featured in our press conference, a fact sheet about both, a news release AND the agenda for the press conference.

Connect with Samantha: @samemac | http://samanthamccain.wordpress.com/

Entry filed under: Beyond the Campus Bubble. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Just Another ‘Kell on Earth’ Blog Post Edelman Saves Face with Social Media

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Guest Post Alert! « Samantha McCain  |  February 10, 2010 at 9:46 am

    […] 5 Tips for Planning Your First Press Conference […]

  • 2. Mary Fletcher Jones  |  February 12, 2010 at 9:01 am

    While there is so much more to planning a press conference — you could probably write a book on that, right? — these tips are a great start to the planning process, and should be helpful to anyone who is trying to get all their ducks in a row.

    Just FYI, the expression is “pique” interest, not “peak” interest.

  • 3. Samantha  |  February 12, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Thanks for the comment! Yes indeed, there was WAY more to it.

    And thanks for the correction. We learn new things every day!

  • 4. Ellen Porter  |  February 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

    As a media relations specialist, I am appalled that your organization left it up to an intern who had never before worked in media relations to plan an entire press conference. But it sounds like you jumped right in and did a great job!

    And, um, actually, it is “peaked.” Pique is a fabric.

    • 5. Samantha  |  February 12, 2010 at 8:51 pm

      Thank you for your comments!

      And I appreciate your contribution to the pique v. peak discussion.

  • 6. Kristie Aylett, APR  |  February 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    This is a great post! In addition to providing helpful tips on planning a news conference, it also shows the value of being a PR intern at an organization without a full PR department. There’s always a first time for everything, and I’m sure you’ll tackle the next assignment with the same vigor. I’m sure the clips and project summary will be a great addition to your portfolio too.
    BTW: I vote for piqued.

    • 7. Samantha  |  February 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm

      Thanks Kristie!

      The media coverage was very successful. We ended up with a 2 minute piece on both the 6 and 10 for WDAM, as well as coverage on WHLT and the American. We were pleased, and I am thrilled to have it all to add to my portfolio!

      I like piqued as well!

  • 8. Kris Schindler  |  February 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm


    Yes, media kits are essential and in the format you used, old-fashioned. If you really want to save the media time, create online media sites where they can copy and paste, watch videos, download photos, see examples of related coverage…

    PS: Pique over peak; piqué is a fabric.

    • 9. Samantha  |  February 12, 2010 at 8:55 pm

      Thank you!

      While a lot of news outlets in Mississippi have started their trek through the social media world – we figured it was just easier on us AND them to do it the old-fashioned way.

      I’m excited to help our Director move towards the use of social media!

  • […] 5 Tips for Planning Your First Press Conference […]

  • 11. Jacob  |  May 23, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    They protect it from heat and split ends, even rejuvenating already damaged
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  • 12. Cheltenham Regency  |  May 29, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I remember my first one and it was horrible but the location was amazing so it did help out. I will have it at conference facility cheltenham again as its a really good place to have it.

  • 13. Edmund  |  January 12, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Thank you Sam. I feel a lot relieved in my head right now as i am planning for my first in a few days from now.

    Thank you again!


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