Are Press Conferences Obsolete

Someone asked folks on Linked In if press conferences are becoming obsolete. The responses range from “they are a classic PR tool” to a broadcast reporter exclaiming that PCs are “the last thing any decent broadcaster needs.” So, you know I can’t help but offer my two cents on the subject.

Personally, I have always disliked press conferences. Unless you are dealing with an in-demand celebrity (corporate or entertainment) or you are commenting on breaking national news, usually scandalous or crisis/disaster, it’s very difficult to get media to show up. And, I don’t blame them. If I were a reporter, why would I want to cover the same story with the same visuals and the same talking points offered everyone else?

On the flip side, as a PR pro, I surrender control in the PC environment. With a one-on-one interview, I have a better shot of helping my spokesperson lead the reporter to the angles we want to discuss. But, in a press conference, every reporter present hears every question asked. So, if a reporter from XYZ Magazine brings up a negative angle, every other reporter there is likely to go down that road with them. This just wouldn’t happen in a one-on-one scenario. Similarly, a mistake made with one reporter is much less damaging than a spokesperson blunder in front of a group, where it will be covered by everyone present. So, even if you are able to attract a crowd, you may regret it.

Now, some say a PC is still the best way to launch a new product, especially with demos. But, once again, new media has changed the game. Webcasts, podcasts, and RSS feeds are a much better (and cost-effective) means to get the word out because reporters can “attend” them on their own schedule and can watch and re-watch to ensure the most accurate reporting. Plus, you can post it to your own site as well as YouTube, Google Video and user-generated news sites to further the reach.

Similarly, if you do have news that is truly of national significance, a good Satellite Media Tour (SMT) can deliver the larger exposure of a press conference in the intimate setting of a one-on-one.

Most CEOs love the idea of standing behind a podium with a gaggle of reporters hanging on their every word. And, it can be a challenge to convince them that a PC is not the way to go. Sometimes, it’s a battle that can only be won in defeat. For example, a couple of years ago, only when my client was faced with just two reporters in attendance, did he really understand that he is not (much to his chagrin) Russell Simmons.

Now, as always, there is a time and a place for everything. If your CEO is facing a crisis/disaster like a chemical fire or product recall, I would absolutely recommend a PC. But, for the most part, there are much more cost-effective and strategically sound tactics to take.

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