Public relations professionals quickly discover that to be successful, they have to learn how to think like reporters.
That's good advice for business leaders who have been tasked with organizing a press conference for their company. If you want your event to be a hit, you have to set aside your business goals and understand what journalists are thinking when they attend a press conference.
Hear are a few characteristics of journalists that you should keep top of mind when organizing a press event:
- Journalists are prepared. Although the press conferences you see on TV might seem spontaneous, journalists rarely act impulsively. Most of them prepare to participate in press conferences with lists of questions and background research that will give them the ingredients they need to create an interesting and informing news story.
- Journalists ask their most important questions first. Although journalists prepare long lists of questions for a press conference, they know that each media representative will only have the opportunity to ask a few of them, so they had better make their questions count. You can bank on the fact that the first questions journalists ask at your press conference are the ones they are most eager to have answered.
- Journalists are trained to look ignore spin. Journalists are acutely aware of the fact that you have an agenda for your press conference, i.e. to publicize and promote your business. But since their agenda is to deliver solid news to their viewers or readers, they have been trained to tune out spin and subtle promotional strategies in their search for information-based news items.
- Journalists won't let you get away with unsupported statements. Likewise, journalists are trained to filter out sweeping statements that aren't supported by facts. It's okay to make big claims at a press conference, but you need to make sure you can back those claims up with solid data. If a journalist asks for information you don't have, promise to find what he needs and then follow up with him as soon as possible.
- Journalists are competitive. Like business, journalism is a highly competitive field. The most effective journalists are the ones who are willing to push to get their stories. If journalists seem aggressive at your press conferences, don't take it personally. They're just trying to do their job by asking tough questions that put you and your company on the spot.