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How To Organize a Press Conference
A press conference can help
publicize your event to many news outlets in
your region. If you are putting together a
rally, vigil, free clinic or large event, a
press conference can be used to publicize the
Contact Lizette Jenness Olmos
at email@example.com or (202) 833-6130 ext. 16
for help in planning your press conference.
Star Quality: To maximize
media attendance at your news conference, it
is beneficial to have at least one
high-profile personality participating (e.g.
dean, AMSA national officer, community
organizer, police chief or the mayor). It is
important to plan ahead and give enough
notice to your invited participants.
Diversity: It will be
important to show a cross-section of
participants. This will demonstrate that the
issue is a concern to everyone. Try to
enlist participants from medical, religious,
business, education and civic organizations.
Strive for ethnic and gender diversity among
Eye candy: Use a location
that is easily accessible but also visually
interesting for the media. Examples include
a hospital emergency room, local school or
steps of the state capitol. Obtain a permit
in advance if needed!
Visuals: Use visual aids
at your news conference.
When to hold the event:
Try to hold the news conference Tuesday,
Wednesday or Thursday. Avoid Mondays and
Fridays. If at all possible, hold the event
between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Earlier than
10:00 am is hard for reporters to make.
After 2:00 pm is sometimes too late for
evening news. 10:00 am or 11:00 am are the
best times-because many noon newscasts will
include the event.
Write a media alert that
will serve as your announcement of the news
conference/event to the press. Be sure to
include who, what, where, when and why. Keep
it short! Make sure to include a contact
name and phone number.
Contact the National
Office for press materials. The
Communications Director can provide you with
background materials, fact sheets, etc. Do
not reinvent the wheel-this information is
already available for you.
Most important media
contact: The Associated Press daybook. This
outlet lists press events for the following
day and goes to almost all medical outlets.
Call to make sure the event is listed. By
noon the day before the event, FAX the
advisory to the daybook editor.
Fax: One day before the
event, all area media outlets should receive
Follow up: One day before
the event, call the assignment editors to
confirm fax transmission, and make sure they
know about the event. Talk it up as much as
possible to encourage coverage! Many TV
stations do not make their assignments until
the day of the event. It is worth calling
the TV assignment editors again between 8:30
am and 9:00 am the day of the event.
The right equipment: Are
you using a microphone? Is there
electricity? Do you have/need a podium? Do
you have something for the microphone to sit
on or attach to?
Arrange a press table:
This is where reporters sign in and pick up
materials. One person should be the "meeter
& greeter" of reporters.
Permit: Do you need a
permit for the location you have selected?
Get one, bring it.
If it is an outdoor event,
is there a rain location?
All participants should
stand together behind the mike or podium so
that everyone is in the picture.
Make sure that visuals are
not placed too high so as to be out of the
picture, or too low so as to be blocked by
Short and sweet: Each
speaker should keep remarks short. The
overall length of the news conference should
only be 20--30 minutes (including Q & A
period). If there are a lot of speakers,
each may only be able to speak for 2
minutes, or so.
Not all participants need
to speak. Ask groups to send a
representative, even if he or she does not
wish to speak-this aids in showing the depth
Speakers should distribute
copies of their statements to the media. If
they are ready in advance, they can be
included in the press kits. If not, they can
be placed on the press table.
Often the press will ask
questions. They may direct them specifically
to one speaker. If not, you, as the host
should be prepared to answer any questions
that come up. If they ask a question that
you cannot answer, don't be afraid to say
you're not sure and get back to them later.
Reporters often want
one-on-one interviews with speakers after
the Q & A period. This is your chance to
clarify or cover information not brought out
in the Q & A.
After the event, you will
want to send a good quality photo to the
newspapers in your region. Include the
basics of the event, such as the "who, what,
when, why, where" information, highlight any
special happenings and the successes. Think
of it as a news brief or mini-story.