Virtual press conferences have largely replaced in-person press conferences during the Covid-19 epidemic. The online events bring both challenges and opportunities for PR agencies and their clients.
Online press conferences make it more difficult to hold the attention of reporters and other guests, as attendees are more susceptible to distractions. They’re more likely to multi-task during the event. And if they become bored, they can easily leave the event. Delivering interesting, succinct presentations is more important than ever.
Online press releases can draw more attendees since guests need not waste time in traffic and can attend from long distances. They also provide PR personnel more control. Organizers can ask reporters to enter questions in the video platform’s “chat box,” allowing the moderator to pick and choose questions and paraphrase questions. Some agencies actually report better results with virtual conferences with more attendees and coverage.
Heed these recommendations from PR and marketing experts to produce stellar results.
Assure Newsworthy Announcements
The biggest complaint journalists have about news conferences is that they don’t have newsworthy content. Rule #1: Make sure your planned news conference contains important news that beat reporters must cover.
Schedule and Invitations
Except for news breaking events such as Nobel Awards, most news conferences can be planned in advance. Develop the invitee list long before the planned event, using a media database or your own custom media list. Notices/invitations should be sent a week or more in advance of the event so that reporters can put it on their schedule. Send invitations to all beat reporters via multiple emails. Include social media influencers on the invite list. Follow up with phone calls to key reporters and influencers. Ask for responses so that their email addresses can be included on the attend list.
Choose the Right Service
The virtual event software you chose determines the capacity and length of the event, says Sarah Hill at event planning firm Seven Events Ltd. Some video conferencing software limits the number of participants that can attend at any one time. Others limit the length of sessions. Paid platforms typically offer better customer service – which could be very valuable if you encounter technical problems.
For conferences that are closed to the public, select a platform with closed chat and that allows you to invite reporters and other guests individually, advises Manit Sethi at Vero. For conferences that are open to the public, social media networks, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, can draw interested attendees and influencers in addition to journalists. In that case, opt for the one where you have the most followers.
Most services offer a free trial allowing you to perform dry runs, familiarize yourself with basic functionality, and test their services, such as the timeliness and helpfulness of live technical support.
Test your Technology
Before holding the virtual press conference, hold a dry run to spot faulty equipment and other issues – and to prep speakers. Test equipment in the room where the conference will be held. Testing audio is critical since attendees will leave if they can’t hear presenters.
Clearly, a good internet connection – for both presenters and attendees – is crucial. For that reason, opt for a direct wired connection rather than Wi-Fi and urge guests to avoid public Wi-Fi, Sethi advises. For high-quality productions, get a DSLR or mirrorless camera on a tripod with a separate microphone linked to your laptop. For professional presentations, consider hiring technical specialists.
Keep the Attention of Attendees
Hone in on the purpose and key messages you want your audience to take away, says Jada Crespo at Axia Public Relations. Keeping presentations simple, yet informative, helps stay on message and avoid getting sidetracked. At the beginning of the conference, introduce your speakers and key points that will be delivered. Summarize your key messages at the end of the virtual conference to drive home your points. Keep text to a minimum. Instead, try crafting a creative presentation on Prezi or Canva, Crespo suggests.
Because maintaining attention is more difficult during online events, some experts recommend that online events run shorter than in-person press conferences. Also, consider taking other steps that can reduce Zoom fatigue.
Gather Supporting Documents
Make supporting documents, such as a press release, available online to reporters. Prepare a press kit that includes fact sheets, executive bios and other background information to distribute to journalists. In addition, make sure presentation resources, including a digital recording and summary of the press conference, are available for reference within hours or minutes of the conference conclusion.
Find a Good Moderator
A skilled moderator, also known as a master of ceremonies, MC or emcee, is more important for online events, such as virtual press conferences. “Having a consistent face and voice that ‘stitches together’ virtual sessions for participants adds much-needed familiarity and helps alleviate the isolated feeling that online events can sometimes produce for attendees,” says virtual event expert Jay Baer.
“The best way to implement is to have the event moderator open up the conference online – just like a regular event – and then moderate questions for speakers and pop back online between sessions to chat with attendees,” Baer advises.
Conclude with Questions
Virtual press conferences typically conclude with questions from reporters. Many programs allow attendees to enter questions in chat boxes to decrease confusion and interruptions.
Having the moderator read aloud the chat box questions helps viewers keep track of discussions and remember the questions. Any questions that can’t be answered within the conference should be recorded and reviewed to provide answers afterward.
PR experts also recommend padding the schedule with extra time in case questions cause the conference to run later than expected.
Arrange individual follow-up phone interviews with key journalists so that they have unique content to report.
Gauge the effectiveness of the virtual news conference with a media monitoring and measurement service. Monitor and measure all media coverage, including print, broadcast, online news and social media, that the press conference prompts.
Also, meet with presenters immediately after the press conference to discuss how the conference went – and what more must be done to correct any errors or advance the story.
Bottom Line: PR agencies and their clients are pivoting from in-person to virtual press conferences. The online events offer advantages but also pose pitfalls. These recommendations can help PR stage exceptional virtual press conferences that can be more effective than in-person events.
Schedule a Free Online Demo of the Glean.info Media Monitoring & Measurement Dashboard.
This article was first published on the Glean.info blog.
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