Throughout 2021, journalists found new, digital ways to connect with expert sources for their stories. The pandemic and presidential election sped up an already fast news-cycle and created opportunity for new thought leaders to emerge. Public relations professionals took advantage of this new landscape by creating the virtual press conference.
While in-person press conferences and media interviews were limited by geography and narrower scheduling opportunities, virtual press conferences and media tours created space for spokespeople to spend time with media, and develop strong relationships without any travel time.
Successfully planning a virtual press conference consistently follows these 6 steps:
Research the media landscape
Prior to engaging with the media, PR professionals should do a deep dive into the types of stories reporters are writing. They should check national and trade outlets that are relevant to the industry their spokespeople work in. For example, financial services professionals may look into competitor coverage, market trends, and longer-term economic stories. This will ensure that the media tour covers pertinent topics and attracts reporters actively writing stories that align with the spokesperson’s expertise.
Select appropriate and available spokespeople
Press conferences, whether they take place in person or online, require a certain level of endurance. The right spokesperson will have not only expertise on the topic at hand, but also a high level of familiarity with navigating media interviews. The spokesperson should have availability and flexibility in their calendars, should any last-minute scheduling issues arise.
While virtual press events are less grueling in terms of travel, they still risk spokesperson “Zoom fatigue”— particularly if there are multiple one-on-one interviews with journalists. The right spokesperson will have the toolkit necessary to overcome these obstacles, as well as any tricky questions.
Prepare talking points ahead of time
Ahead of every media engagement, spokespeople should have a clear idea of the storylines and branding they’d like to convey. This provides structure to the interview and gives spokespeople more stamina to conduct multiple interviews in a single day. Make sure talking points are thought through for individual media interviews, making sure each reporter gets the insights relevant to their beat, which makes it more likely to be included in their coverage.
Pitch the right reporters
Once a plan is in place for the content and spokespeople involved in the virtual press conference, conduct further research into the media landscape. Compile a list of reporters writing stories on the topics relevant to the spokesperson’s talking points. Make sure to research each individual reporter at this stage to ensure that you have the correct contact information and communication preferences, especially if you need to write up a virtual event press release.
Offer something tangible for reporters to walk away with
PR professionals should be mindful of a key takeaway, so reporters keep the brand top of mind. If the spokesperson discusses a particular report or infographic, PR professionals should send the materials as a follow-up. If the brand has a distribution list, offer to subscribe journalists. The goal is not only a successful interview during the virtual press conference or media tour but also successful relationship building in the months to follow.
Keep it simple with technology
Finally, nothing is more frustrating than glitchy video or no sound. Ensure that your spokesperson has a good Wi-Fi connection, can meet in a quiet place, and—ideally—uses earphones. You will probably want to do a “sound check” ahead of time. Most reporters are now familiar with Zoom and Teams, but make sure to provide some optionality, as some reporters still prefer to dial-in via a fixed phone line. That will also offer an easy back-up solution if, for any reason, your A.V. fails on the day.
Contact us if you need help organizing your next virtual press conference.