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How to organise a press briefing

How to organise a press briefing

“What we need is a press briefing.” 

It sounds a simple enough request.  But perhaps the thought of letting a crowd of journalists loose on your senior management team just brings on a deep sense of doom. 

Where do you start?  How do you make certain the event doesn’t end in misquotes, misunderstandings and generally missed opportunities?

The secret is to be sure about your ultimate goals and design your event to fit.  And of course to be prepared for anything.  Here are my top ten tips.
1. Stop and think  

Take a step back and decide whether a press briefing is really the right tactic.  Define your aims for the event and how they fit into broader strategic goals. 

A press briefing can be a cost-effective way to launch a new product, introduce a new personality or explain a shift in policy. 

It can help build relationships with new press sectors and renew a sense of excitement surrounding your brand.  But perhaps these benefits aren’t necessary or relevant this time round. 

Could a press release or one-off interview do the job just as well?  Think carefully about whether a large press conference is appropriate.  Would you be better to organise a day of one-to-one briefings where each journalist gets their own “exclusive” story?
2. Who are you targeting? 

Forget the press for a moment and think about who you really want to hear your message – prospective customers. 

Are they board level executives or those in charge of procurement?  Decision makers or end users?  Be precise – and check back that this definition fits into your wider marketing strategy.
3. Go vertical     

With these people in mind, compile a “wish list” of journalists you want to attend. 

Consider what those prospective customers read as their industry newspaper – or what they read in their spare time.  Scour the press for relevant articles and include journalists writing on related topics.
4. Select your spokes people

Are the right people available?  Do they have enough knowledge to talk with authority on your subject?  It’s vital that speakers are well briefed on the aims and purpose of the event and are trained in how to deal with the media. 

Do they know how to cope with any controversial questions that may arise and understand the importance of staying on message and on record?  And are they compelling enough to make a world-weary journalist keep listening? 
5. Get your timing right

Choose your date with care.  Check it doesn’t clash with the press day of key publications or with any other major industry event. 

As a rule avoid peak holiday times and be aware of your chosen publications’ lead times – many work months in advance. Plan accordingly, especially if your news is time sensitive.
6. Choosing your location    

Invest time in choosing the right venue for your event.  Combine ambience with convenience. Select somewhere that has the right pull factor to persuade busy journalists to leave their desks. 

But it also needs to be central and with good transport links to ensure they can reach it easily and quickly.
7. Content creation  

You need to lure the press with a strong news hook and plenty of supporting information.  These days, journalists only attend events if they think it will help them to fill column inches with a good solid copy. 

Can you provide any third party research to back your claims?  Can a customer give them a real-life case study?  Make sure those attending get a real return on the time they have invested – otherwise you won’t get the coverage and journalists will be reluctant to turn out for you again.
8. Preparation, preparation, preparation  

Attention to detail is all. Go over the housekeeping such as provision of food and drinks.  Plan ahead so that all presentations are finished and practiced in advance.

Make sure the venue has the right signs so visitors can find their way. Brief all spokespeople on journalists attending.  The list is endless but if in doubt, check and check again.
9. On the day   

Expect the unexpected and ensure you have enough staff available to run, fetch, phone or do whatever is needed.  Be prepared for tube strikes, illness or anything you can think of and beyond. 

Nobody predicted the arrival of a global mega-star at the same hotel as a recent event we held.  Chaos ensued and we had to think laterally. Have the perfect plan but be prepared to change it.
10. It’s over   

Almost.  Tie up loose ends by following up with journalists and checking that they have all the information promised.  And, importantly, return to your original criteria for success and report back on what you have achieved. 
Credits - James Kelliher is managing director of Whiteoaks

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