During my time with the Wings, I have now seen five players retire thanks to one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Nick Lidstrom, announcing his retirement this week after 20 years with the team. With that in mind, I thought it might be prudent to point out some things PR departments have to consider for press conferences without using specifics from previous pressers.
Depending on the situation, not all of these are necessary to even consider but the goal is to give you an idea of the many issues and areas of the company that may be considered and involved in pulling off a press conference (sometimes with only 24-48 hours notice).
- Some announcements only warrant a teleconference rather than a press conference. Make sure you go with the appropriate route for the announcement.
- Schedule the time for the press conference and make sure the room is available at that time at least two hours prior to the start of the press conference so media can set up their equipment with ample time.
- Sometimes you can have no say in the timing of the presser because of the schedule limitations of the participating parties. If it’s something that you’ll have to really work to get media to attend, make sure there is no other big announcement planned for that day or big event that would take away from your press conference.
- Send out a media advisory with information about the press conference. It has to be carefully worded to avoid giving away the announcement if it needs to be kept under wraps.
- Make sure the operations department knows exactly how to set up the room for the presser and that there are enough seats for the anticipated number of media and guests.
- Work with your new media (video, web, social) to have teasers/promos about the actual press conference as well as have content ready to go for the website as soon as the announcement has been made.
- If possible, set up live streaming of the press conference on your website.
- Make sure your parking department knows to expect media and allow them to park for free when normally they may have a media list to follow.
- Work with your hospitality department to have at least the basic beverages provided for the media and guests in attendance.
- Have a press release, if necessary, ready to be sent out via email as well as distributed to media in person at the presser. Have numerous people review the release at least before distribution.
- Select an individual to act as moderator for the press conference to do a brief introduction of participating individuals, open it to questions and close out the presser. They’ll also want to make sure media know to raise their hand if they have a question and wait for a microphone before asking a question (or whatever your procedure may be to ask a question).
- Double check that the moderator has the correct titles for the individuals participating in the press conference.
- If a jersey or some kind of merchandise item is needed for press conference, do a rush request/order on the necessary materials.
- Make sure your audio guy has the right equipment and set-up for the press conference.
- Make sure you have people to handle the microphones for questions and that they know what they’re doing — having two reporters start asking a question at once is a big embarrassment.
- Put someone on recorder duty to record the press conference and transcribe it if necessary.
- Make sure you have the correct backdrop for the presser.
- If it looks like the turnout isn’t going to be what you expected, invite colleagues to attend to help fill up the room. If the presser is going to be packed, set up another room where colleagues can watch the presser so they aren’t trying to crowd into the actual room where the press conference will take place.
- If the announcement involves a retirement, make sure his/her teammates are aware of the press conference to attend, if possible, but do not tell them if the player is retiring because word will get out and the player wants to be the one to make the announcement. You don’t want a teammate essentially making the player’s retirement announcement for him.
- Make sure the front row or two are reserved for the special guests (i.e. player and his/her family, owners, company president, hockey ops personnel and former players).
- Assign members of the PR department to these special guests to help with any one-on-one interview requests after the announcement has been made. For example, I was assigned to shadow Red Wings great Ted Lindsay following the NHL’s 2013 Winter Classic announcement.
- Make sure building security knows what’s going on — that a large number of media and other visitors are anticipated that day. They want to keep out fans trying to weasel their way in if the presser is strictly for media and special guests.
- Communicate times to important individuals internally (i.e. company president, owner’s family, etc.). Obviously the sport operations side will know what’s going on if it’s a presser to announce a signing or retirement, but you need to keep the business side in the loop without letting too many people know and risk having it leak.
- If needed, put together press kits and/or media gift items to be distributed at the press conference. If you’re doing a press kit, keep in mind the quality of paper and know that a lot of high-profile individuals may be flipping through it.
- Ensure everyone in the PR department arrives early and has a clear schedule to handle last-minute problems. It’s important that they understand the rundown of the day so they can handle any inquiries from other departments. They will also want to wear darker suits to blend in so if they get caught on a camera, they’re not a distraction visually.
- Make sure the PR department has fully charged phones or whatever you are using to keep in touch on the day of the press conference.
- Above all, secrecy is key so in all that you do, so keep it to need-to-know personnel only and emphasize the importance that they cannot share the information with anyone outside the small group of individuals necessary to pull off the press conference.
For those of you who have not been involved in the planning of a press conference, hopefully you learned something new. For those of you who have, please add your suggestions in the comment section because I know I didn’t cover everything!