5 tips for media spokespersons during a press conference

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-young-cheerful-businesswoman-giving-speech-conference-image302380431) You are the media spokesperson, let’s say. To keep control,  you should ask for raised hands for questions and only call on reporters who raise their hands. This ideally prevents shouting and interruptions. Remember, you are participating in an organized press conference, which is not the same thing as a “media scrum” aka chaos. 2) As the media spokesperson, always be truthful. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Don’t try to fudge it — this shines through on camera. Take every question and if you can’t answer it, ask a staff person, or your media person (someone like me), to write the reporter’s name and coordinates down and promise to get back to them with the answer. Then, make sure it gets done. 3) Keep your cool under fire. If reporters start reshaping the same question over and over again, answer them politely. Do not sound like a robotic automaton. (We’ve all seen the over-trained exec do this on camera – don’t be one of them.) At a certain point you can say, “are there any other questions?” Or, “are there any areas we haven’t covered yet?” This should help to move it along. 4) Make sure your press kits are given out after the press conference.  I’ve been criticized by heavy users of social media  who claim that kits are irrelevant: the media will be tweeting and texting madly throughout the conference and paper just doesn’t cut it any more. I beg to differ. Yes, they will tweet throughout if they are Kady O’Malley types, but I’ve yet to see one turn down a press kit that contains helpful background info they may find useful when it comes time to pen a more fulsome article or blog, or to help them shape their questions when they land a private interview with your media spokesperson. The point is this: everything works. Paper, tweets, Q and As, links. So use them. Note: The reason for hanging on to the kit until the end is to prevent reporters from grabbing one and walking out before your conference is under way. Happens all the time, especially if they are double booked. Too bad. Say no. You want them at your press conference. Promise them an email or phone interview afterward if they really must leave before the press conference begins. 5) Take questions from local reporters first – at the end of the day when everyone else has packed up and gone home, they are still there and you will be doing business with them again. Ideally the cordiality between you, as media spokesperson, and the local media will also rub off on the other reporters and set a positive tone for the conference.

About Jane Carthew Davidson

As a former senior public relations specialist with a large publicly traded multi-national chemical company, Jane Carthew Davidson produced the company’s award winning annual report for several years. Later, she was media relations specialist for Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), where she wrote speeches for the executive team, trained spokespersons across the province, and developed talking points and strategies designed to clarify the role played by property assessment within the municipal taxation system. Jane is a former business reporter for the Globe and Mail Report on Business, and the Toronto Star’s Business Today. Her articles have appeared in the Toronto Star, the Medical Post, the Anglican Journal, the Financial Post and most recently, the Globe and Mail’s special supplements on subjects as wide ranging as organic farming and new investment regulations. On several occasions, Jane’s media savvy and quick research skills enabled her to win broad media attention and investment queries from Canada, the Unites States and Europe, for a unique medical device start-up venture. Following Peterborough’s Flood of the Century in 2004, Jane handled media relations for the City of Peterborough, developing and implementing the communications plan for the city’s media outreach to afflicted citizens, concerned insurance companies, city staff and other government stakeholders.
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