The best friends any event coordinator can have
are editors and writers for the mass and trade media who cover his
The care and feeding of the press is not an alien art form. It
takes common sense and a bit of sympathy for those who have to make
sense of your complex business and analyze it for your
The following, adapted from IBM’s model, provides a plan for a
What’s on the program? Begin by analyzing the agenda. Who are the
key speakers? What messages do you want the press to pick up? Which
audiences do you want to reach? Which media outlets
(publications/broadcast) can reach those audiences?
Make contact. Try to find out which writers
and broadcasters might cover your event, and determine their
availability. Ask what special arrangements they need.
Determine interest. Based on the number of
reporters who will attend, coordinate interview opportunities and
press conferences with the public relations representatives of
conference sponsors and speakers. Prepare tip sheets to help the
media make sense of your event.
Find a room. Reserve a breakout room for the
press near the epicenter of events. Fill it with plenty of phones,
electrical outlets, land lines and broadband access. Offer computer
stations linked to the web for those who don’t travel with laptops.
Keep the coffee and soft drinks (and snacks, if you can afford
It’s Show Time
During the program, help reporters find the people with
whom you want them to speak.
" Post speaker schedules.
" Establish an interview room (soundproofed and well lit) for
" Honor exclusivity. If one outlet fingers a source, don’t make
that source available to everyone else. Have clear rules of
" Follow up with interviewers to remind them of your
After your meeting is over, you’ll want to compile all the
media coverage, which will help determine whether having a press
room was worth the effort and if it makes sense to have one next
" Gather clippings, radio tapes and videotapes, then highlight
how your organization’s messages showed up in the pieces.
" Distribute media reports to your superiors, conference
sponsors, speakers and other meeting stakeholders.
" Prepare highlights for those who couldn’t attend.
" Solicit feedback from the press on how to make their job
easier next time.
In Case of Trouble
For most meetings and conventions, the media’s
relationship with the host organization is a symbiotic one. But
every so often, your company or association is enmeshed in
controversy, and the press might try to dig up dirt. The following
tips should help you manage such situations.
Run interference. Before any reporters can get
to your leaders, brief them on what they can and can’t say,
coordinating with higher-ups on the message to be delivered. Make
sure all other employees know not to speak to the press about the
Set boundaries. Let members of the media know
where they are and aren’t welcome, making sure they can’t enter
private meetings or other off-limits gatherings by strictly
If the whole meeting is closed to the media and there is no
press room, but the event might be inundated unexpectedly by
inquiries, designate an empty room for the press and bring the
leaders/spokespeople to them.
William Shaffer is a general partner of Downers Grove,
Ill.-based Consultants in Public Relations, working with clients
such as the American Medical Association.