One of the biggest PR victims during the COVID-19 pandemic was the press conference – the bastion of communication which has been one of the most powerful and commonly used tools in the industry for news sharing for decades. As face-to-face events, they were effectively terminated with immediate effect.
But the PR industry is nothing if not adaptable, and we quickly saw the advent of the virtual press conference. However, now travel is back on and social distancing measures have been all but scrapped, we seem to have landed on a “hybrid model” which mixes in-person and online participation. But getting them right is far from easy.
Here are some of our Difference Collective key watchouts and best-practice recommendations to have front of mind when taking the plunge.
The Pros and Cons
- Fully virtual press conferences which see everyone dial in remotely can meet media relations objectives in a cost-effective way. They’re an easy way to get your news out while facilitating discussions between your spokespeople, experts (KOLs) and journalists. However, relationship development is limited. PR is built on personal connections and building relationships was one of the major benefits of a traditional press conference. This is far more difficult, if not impossible, when people aren’t face-to-face.
- Hybrid press conferences on the other hand have an added layer of complexity and their cost can very quickly soar (room, studio, tech staff, facilitator) so you need to keep an eye on ROI and whether that is the most value-for-money way to share your news.
- Managing hybrid press conferences can also be tricky. Depending on the size of the event, small issues can very quickly escalate. Connection problems or people forgetting to go on mute are just the basic ones but they can be distracting and interrupt the meeting flow.
- Managing any Q&A session must also be carefully choreographed and considered to ensure it is seamless and everyone can ask what they need.
- Hybrid events are also a very different experience for key spokespeople. Not having them face-to-face with a room full of journalists, cameras and microphones just feet away is a very different experience. However, one benefit of not having journalists “in the room” is that it’s easier for leaders to be put in front of the media in a more controlled way.
- Getting journalists to dial in to a virtual or hybrid event is hard. What are they going to get from investing that time that they need over and above a press release/pack which you will have sent out? This will be their consideration when deciding whether to attend so make it your priority when organising the event.
- There is always a juggling act in terms of who “owns” journalist relationships globally. That’s why building relationships with internal comms colleagues in different markets is absolutely vital to make a hybrid or virtual event a success. They need to be onboard with the comms and broader business objectives in order to want to actively engage with their local media contacts to get their key journalists signed up for it. So, cultivate relationships with your internal colleagues to maximise journalist attendance.
It’s clear that virtual meetings have come into their own with the tools to run them getting ever more sophisticated. There’s no doubt that there are major benefits to running hybrid press conferences particularly at conferences and when there is a great story to get out there. However, they do have their place and it may be other ways to reach journalists are more effective, depending on the outreach.
If you want to understand more about how to help your clients run a successful virtual press conference or are a client and want our to help run one for you, then get in touch.
About the Author
Jo Willey has been a journalist for almost 20 years, working across a range of national newspapers from the Daily Mail to The Sun. She is now a highly sought after communications specialist offering media strategy and content development expertise as well as media training both for in-house teams and spokespeople and is an expert facilitator for advisory boards and meetings. She also still works as a freelance journalist writing for titles including the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times and The Sun.