How to Stage Great Media Events
Press Releases and the Media Advisory
The process starts with press releases and a media advisory. Think of a press release as the brochure and a media advisory as the invitation
that you send.
Press releases give journalists the reasons why they should come to your event. They announce content items: who is speaking; what they will speak about; and why the event is important to the media's audience. This pitch will vary depending on the nature of your event and the media you are targeting.
The media advisory, a separate single-page document, gives journalists the logistical details about your event: when, where, and how they can cover it. The focus of the media advisory should be on making it as easy as possible for reporters to find and cover your story.
Experienced event planners know to provide parking for the media. Reserved media parking should be close to the venue. Whenever possible, offer to validate parking. (If you intend to validate, be sure to say so in your media advisory!) If you expect live television coverage of your event, bear in mind that parking can be tricky for microwave or satellite trucks, whose crews need to 1) run cables from their trucks to the camera platform; and 2) send a signal back to their station. Consult the venue manager to find out where television stations have parked their trucks in the past. In order to encourage and prepare for television coverage, include on your media advisory the phrase, "Please advise if you are planning live coverage."
Have a separate, well-marked table for media check-in. People handling the check-in table should be familiar enough with the event to answer logistical questions, but they should not be expected to answer questions on the record. They should help journalists sign in as they check their credentials, thereby allowing the communications staff or PR firm to know exactly who attended. Offer journalists a press kit and a copy of any other event materials you want them to have, then have them escorted to the designated media areas.
The Media Area
Always try to provide a reserved area for journalists. A small area for writers, set up classroom style, will allow them to work comfortably during the event. Reporters with laptop computers will be grateful to you for making electrical power available to them via extension cords and power strips. Providing food and drink in this area is optional, but if your event is going to keep reporters on site through meal times, snacks and sodas will be greatly appreciated.
If you expect television coverage, provide a sturdy platform for cameras. It should be at the same level as the stage, and provide an unobstructed view. In order to avoid the "microphone nest" that characterizes untidy press conferences, be sure to provide a clean audio feed through an audio mult feed, or "mult box," with enough outputs to accommodate your expected media turnout. (The audiovisual contractor should be able to provide this.) Have the venue provide electrical power to the camera platform for the use of camera crews.
Following these simple guidelines will not only increase the chances of media coverage for your event, but should enable the media to focus on the message of your event rather than have them distracted by the difficulties of covering it.
This article was written by Andrew Garlikov, president of ProAdvance, an event production firm that specializes in PR-oriented events, such as press conferences and product launches. It originally appeared in the All About Public Relations Web site.
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