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News Conferences

News ConferencesChoose a Convenient Time
Choose an Accessible Location
Contacting the Media
Planning the Actual New Conference
The Actual News Conference

To determine if a news conference is warranted, you need to ask yourself several questions. Is the topic is worth a news conference or is a press release sufficient? Is your topic newsworthy, or is it merely noteworthy? (Newsworthy information can carry an entire dinner conversation; noteworthy information can only carry on for a minute or two.) Do you have video component for TV, graphics/charts, or a personality, if possible? What will you gain from a question-and-answer format? Could an event (for example, a TV crew on a tour of the library) convey your story better?

If you decide to go ahead and do a news conference, here are some tips:

Choose a Convenient Time

Try to avoid conflicts with other big events by:

  • Looking at schedules in your local paper.
  • Cruising online for upcoming events.
  • Asking friends in media regarding conflicts.
  • Praying.
Best Times
  • 10 A.M.–noon for print P.M. deadlines.
  • 10 A.M.–3:30 P.M. for electronics.
  • Weekends are often good since a “news hole” exists with less competition—but fewer crews and journalists are available.

Choose an Accessible Location

Your site should be:

  • Familiar to media;
  • Connected to your topic—such as in the library online room for a technology event—for visuals; and
  • Easy to get cameras into and, when possible, wheelchair accessible.
  • If the location isn’t yours, make sure you get any needed permission in writing beforehand.

Contacting the Media

Initial Notice/Advisory
  • Draft “Notice of a News Conference” in outline form including Who/What/When/Where/Why—list contact person and include that interviews are available.
  • Send/fax and e-mail to major news directors, assignment editors, wire services, etc., one week to three days in advance of news conference.
  • Send also to individuals who have covered the topic or related news conferences.
Reminder
  • Make calls to news directors and friendly reporters early that morning.
  • If you’re in the state capital or major city, go around the state House or city hall press room and talk to journalists and deliver your material.
  • Offer to do phone interviews or voice feeds for those who can’t attend.

Planning the Actual News Conference

Materials
  • Plan to have appropriate background materials, such as flyers, fact sheets, and brochures for attendees to take with them.
  • Draft a press release to go in the press packet summarizing news with key quotes and contact name.
  • Plan to use a colorful banner or poster behind the podium that says your library name and possibly has a logo or message pertaining to the subject of the press conference.
Program
  • Plan on few speakers—no more than four or five. Keep it short (Total time should be NO LONGER THAN fifteen minutes) and to one point.
  • Brief all speakers beforehand (initially by phone and, if possible, in a group prior to the press conference).
  • Talk to them about time, focus, and likely questions.
  • Choose someone to do introductions, direct questions, and end news conference.
Room Set-up

Work with the site hosting the event to ensure you have the necessary room set-up items. These may include:

  • Sign-in table outside or immediately inside the room.
  • Table to place background materials.
  • Easels for posters or charts.
  • Place to hang library banner.
  • Podium or table with podium for speakers.
  • Proper or desired type of microphones, one for speaker and others for Q&A.
  • Some may prefer lavalier microphones that clip onto clothing.
  • Mult-box: this is an audio unit that radio and television stations can hook their audio plugs into so that the sound comes directly from the podium microphone.
  • In cases of breaking stories—where you want to see a lot of microphones at the podium—it’s best not to ask for mults, just have media tape their microphones to the podium mike.

The Actual News Conference

Distribute the press kit with the release.
  • Distribute at same time to state House or city hall media if at legislature.
  • Prepare (or plant) several questions in the audience. Ask friends or friendly press who are sitting in the audience to open up the Q&A with one as soon as the news conference is complete.
  • Have back-up documentation, photos, and statistics available to help in answering questions.
  • Take attendance at a sign-in table. Note who asked sympathetic questions during the news conference.
  • Write down unanswered or poorly answered questions.

Follow-up

  • When the news conference ends, call people who said they would attend and did not to set up phone or in-person interviews or another way for them to get the story.
  • Fax, e-mail, or get releases to key outlets that didn’t attend and may be interested.
  • Get back to anyone who asked an unanswered question at the news conference.
  • Fax releases to weeklies or others who normally don’t send people to cover events.
  • Monitor press coverage—possibly use clipping service and distribute best clips online to an electronic discussion list, etc.
  • Thank those who covered well—supportive criticism also is appropriate.
  • Incorporate any new names, addresses, phone, or fax numbers into press list.
  • Review entire event to determine what went right and wrong.
  • Learn from experience!

Excerpted from the American Library Association’s A Communications Handbook for Libraries, published in Summer of 2004. To see A Communications Handbook for Libraries in full, please visit: http://www.ala.org/ala/pio/availablepiomat/online_comm_handbook.pdf.

  • Montana State Library
  • P.O. Box 201800, 1515 East 6th Avenue
  • Helena, MT 59620-1800
  • Phone: (406) 444-3115
  • Fax: (406) 444-0266
  • msl.mt.gov