Press conferences. In times of super-fast news consumption and scoops, they sometimes feel a little outdated. Can you still make it to require busy journalists to come and listen to your announcement at the same place, at the same time?
Many organizations and companies have already come to realize that there are better and more efficient ways to get a message across to the media. Classic press conferences are organised less and less often, and even then organizers are always anxiously waiting to see if anyone shows up at all.
After the corona crisis, a lot of things will never be as before, and with press conferences it will be no different. Relying only on a traditional press conference is definitely over. After COVID-19, live streaming will be part of the new normal in corporate communication. The online press conference, already very well established among listed companies that want to explain their quarterly results to the global financial press, is now also being discovered by other companies and organisations that immediately see the benefits of it.
An online press conference is easy, quick and cheap to organize. The main logistical concern is a reliable streaming platform, a stable internet connection and a good master of ceremonies. You can also reinforce the content of your message with a customized tone and style; an impact that you will never achieve to that extent with a press release alone.
This formula also has many advantages for the journalist. Time savings are, of course, the most important. But flexibility is also an important asset. Ivan De Vadder, journalist at the VRT: “Six months ago I would have said without hesitation that press conferences are a waste of time. Today I want to nuance this a little more. Online press conferences offer many advantages, but still, we do appreciate some human contact. So I would argue that the online version is a functional extra option to bring your information to the different media. For the journalist, it is a question of balance between efficiency and loss of time. If, due to time constraints, I don’t think the content is important enough to actually go to a press conference, I’ll be more likely to pick up on the news with an online version.”
The traditional press conference certainly still has its place. Many journalists tell us that the cosy after-chat, the networking and the discussions that can take place in response to well-chosen questions are still reason enough for them to attend some press conferences. “At political press conferences I like to talk to people physically. There is often some ‘other news’ coming out, with some unexpected angles or ‘off the record’ information can still be useful for later,” explains Simon Andries, political journalist for De Standaard. “The added value of press conferences is not so much the news itself, but the fact of ‘being present’. And obviously, a little chat afterwards also gives you the chance to get to know each other better”.
Pieter Lesaffer, editor at het Nieuwsblad, is also of the opinion that both virtual and traditional press conferences have a future: “when I started as a journalist so many years ago, you went to a press conference, then you typed up your piece and the next day it appeared in the newspaper. Of course, it doesn’t work that way anymore. But I still like to go to certain press conferences. Not for the information itself, because it will be available on all news websites an hour later, but just to be able to talk face-to-face with people. This helps to create a bond, especially if you come up with a difficult dossier or difficult questions later.”
So while she will never be able to replace human contact, a virtual press conference is a nice addition to the media toolbox you can use to communicate with the media as a company or organization. If you want to get started to organize one yourself, keep these tips in mind:
Prior to the online press conference
- Choose an online platform you’re familiar with, so you won’t face any technical surprises while presenting.
- Send the journalists the link with which they can log in to your online press conference in good time. Send the link again about an hour before the start of the livestream. The advantages are clear: journalists receive a reminder and they don’t have to search their mailbox for the right link.
- Create a sober, functional setting, just like you would at a traditional press conference. Avoid elements in the background that could distract attention.
- Provide a chat box for gathering questions while you are presenting, and have a colleague follow them up.
- Start at the agreed hour. The videoconference is recorded anyway, so if a journalist is late, he or she can watch the recording again later.
- Think of a master of ceremonies – a person who ensures that everything runs technically smoothly during the videoconference.
- Make sure you have a clear structure of your press conference and clearly indicate the agenda in advance.
- If there are several speakers, present them at the start.
- Clearly indicate that you will deal with questions in the end. Preferably use a video platform with chat function, and invite journalists to submit their questions during your presentation. A team member can keep an eye on the questions and ideally cluster them.
- Be concise and to the point.. Keep the focus on your core messages, because even more than at a traditional press conference, people will be easily distracted.
- Think of what your audience will see, hear and feel. Even virtually, you can radiate self-confidence, enthusiasm and empathy. It is important that journalists get the full picture, even without leaving their newsroom or office.
- Please mention to whom journalists can address themselves if they still have questions afterwards. Consider proposing a timeslot during which you or other presenters will be available for additional questions.
- Post the video recording of the press conference and the press file online and send the link, not only to the journalists who were present, but also to those who could not attend.
Did you already organize an online press conference yourself? We’d love to hear how you experienced that.
Do you have any questions or doubts about when to choose this kind of presentation, and how best to handle it?