Dealing with the press: 5 steps for event organisers

Event organisers will be well aware of how important media coverage can be to increase awareness of brands, organisations and products, but capitalising on the press element of events planning is not the easiest of feats.

Knowing how to handle the press before, during and after the event can make all the difference to the coverage you receive, so follow our top tips for success

What sort of coverage do you want?

Before you set to work creating press releases or getting in touch with the media, think about the sort of coverage you want for your event; this will have some bearing on when and how you contact writers or broadcasters.

Additionally, you'll need to work out whether you want your event to feature in the press before it's underway, have someone on hand to cover the event or produce pieces afterwards. Coverage before the event will give people chance to buy tickets or register to attend, while having a reporter and photographer present to capture the day can make for a bigger, image-led story.

Make contact

If you want your event listed in newspapers, on the radio or online, get in touch with the media outlet to find out how soon you'll need to submit the information. This could be weeks in advance, so the earlier you make contact the better.

Prepare and issue a media advisory around five to seven days before your event will take place; this is a sort of invitation that should contain the most interesting aspects of your event to gain the attention of recipients.

Set up a guestlist using an online event registration system so you can keep tabs on the number of delegates attending your event and make sure you send the link to any media sources you contact so they can register their attendance.

Press conferences and interviews

If you'll be making a major announcement or hosting some famous (or even infamous) guests at your event, consider organising a press conference beforehand. Have some speakers attend the conference who will attract the media's attention and make sure you produce informative briefing documents that reporters can refer to when compiling their stories.

Another option to think about is interviews; you could arrange for local reporters to interview you before the event and publish the story in the local paper, or broadcast snippets of your interview over the radio, while it's also possible to stage interviews during the event. You can continue the momentum of the event afterwards by arranging a follow-up interview too, which can recap on the success of the occasion and give you chance to mention any forthcoming developments.

Awkward questions

It can and does happen that some reporters will pose difficult questions from time to time, but you can make sure you're prepared by assigning someone the role of spokesperson who is knowledgeable and tactful. It may be possible to bypass some questions but the best answer is to say that you're unsure but will give them a call, or to point them in the direction of your head office.

Interviews and conferences usually don't last for longer than 30 minutes, so keep your responses to questions brief and succinct. Know your facts and answer questions confidently and politely.

Sometimes you might have more than one spokesperson, so it's useful to compile speakers' notes or hold a briefing to ensure everyone has the same information - especially if there are any complex issues that may arise in conversation.

Be prepared

As well as awkward questions, the media can sometimes throw up other surprises, so make sure you're aware and alert before giving any direct interviews or statements. There are numerous questions you could ask beforehand, such as how long the story will be, when it will be broadcast if it's a radio or TV piece, whether the story is live or pre-recorded and what the format will be - a one-to-one interview or studio debate, for example.

It can also be useful to ask the interviewer what the aim of the item is; this might be simply to provide information, but could it also be used as a means of creating debate? Ask if anyone else is involved, too, such as a competitor or critic, so you can prepare for debate.

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