Why do I call them boring news conferences?
Because during my 22 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I can’t remember attending one news conference that wasn’t a waste of time. Once, when I worked as an editor, I remember getting a call from a PR guy who screamed at me over the phone because no one from my newspaper or any other media outlet attended his news conference. And his boss was livid.
I can keep a lot of you from making the same mistake he did. Forget the news conference. Instead, offer reporters something far more interesting.
During last week’s teleseminar titled “Supercharge Your Press Releases by Injecting Them with Magic and Wonder,” sponsored by Bulldog Reporter’s PR University, three other guest panelists joined me in critiquing pitch letters and news releases submitted by people who paid to be on the line. One news release was about a farm program that gives high school students hands-on experience in agriculture and environmental projects.
The original pitch was a news release alerting the media to a farms program field day in which high school students and teachers learn about the interrelationships between science, agriculture and natural resource conservation through hands-on experiences. The day kicked off with a news conference in the morning, followed by a lesson on how to build owl boxes. Students would then break up into teams and build the boxes using saws, drills and hammers.
My advice was to scrap the ho-hum news release and the news conference and, instead, issue this invitation to each reporter:
“While the rest of us are awakening, our friend the owl is preparing to leave its perch in a tree and retreat to its wooden box for a good day’s sleep.
“We want to make sure there are enough owl boxes to go around. So this Thursday, students and teachers at Central High School will build wooden owl boxes as part of a day-long project that teaches conservation. Because you’re the nature reporter at the Gazette, we thought you might want to join us. We’ll even be able to give you written instructions that you can share with your readers. Because we’ll be doing this project in an old barn, we suggest you wear jeans and a sweatshirt. We hope you can join us.”
What would make the pitch even more enticing would be to place each reporter on a different team, then judge which team built the best owl box.
If I had received that kind of pitch when I worked as a reporter, I’d be headed for the barn even before I could RSVP! Pass up a chance to crawl out of my pantyhose and into jeans and a sweatshirt for several hours? No way. It would be a heck of a lot more fun than covering a news conference and standing around watching everybody else have a good time.
The next time you’re tempted to cop out with a news conference, instead, create an interesting event–preferably one in which you can get reporters involved. A teleseminar I hosted called “Creative Alternatives to Boring Press Conferences” gives you dozens of ideas for events and publicity stunts you can stage that will attract the media like a magnet.