How to hold a successful press conference

07.13.2016 | Jennifer Gehrt

When done right, a press conference can be a very effective way to convey company news. Organizations can deliver more information than a press release allows for and spokespeople can explain the wider implications of the news in more detail.

In addition, a press conference is an efficient way to brief numerous journalists and news outlets at once. Briefing 10 journalists individually in 30-minute interviews would take five hours of a spokesperson’s time, whereas with a one-hour press conference, you can share information with 10 journalists simultaneously.

Recently Communiqué PR had the opportunity to support Bank of America’s press conference with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The press conference, held on June 23, 2016, announced Bank of America’s participation in the SPD’s Safe Place initiative, an effort to make Seattle safer for its diverse communities by providing places of refuge for victims of LGBTQ-related crimes or harassment. Bank of America is the largest financial institution to join this initiative.

Bank of America’s team organized the event and relied on Communiqué PR to manage media outreach. It was a successful joint effort, so we thought it would be helpful to reflect on why it was a success and share best practices for organizing press conferences. To hold a successful press conference you need to:

1. Have relevant and newsworthy information to share – This is essential: If there isn’t a timely news hook, journalists will not attend. They are simply too busy to attend an event that they cannot produce a story from. Timing is crucial for reporters to map out their schedules and plan timely, relevant stories to air or publish. For example, Bank of America and the SPD’s press conference happened days before the Seattle Pride weekend celebration, so equality and support for the LGBTQ community were hot news topics. It was also the one-year anniversary of the launch of the SPD Safe Place program.

2. Leverage credible spokespeople – Your spokespeople are critical to the success of your press conference because they deliver the message. You should have two to four knowledgeable and credible individuals speak, and each spokesperson should be present for a short period – three to five minutes is usually long enough to deliver key messages. At the SPD Safe Place press conference, speakers included:

          • Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole
          • Seattle Police Officer Jim Ritter
          • Louise Chernin, president of the Greater Seattle Business Association
          • Hyeok Kim, deputy mayor for the City of Seattle
          • Anthony DiBlasi, Seattle Market and Washington State president for Bank of America Seattle
          • Michael Bailey, financial center manager at Bank of America

While this particular press conference had six speakers, which is higher than the norm, each person had specific expertise and information to share with regard to the relevance and importance of the program. Furthermore, Michael Bailey’s remarks were especially powerful as he shared details of his assault. He explained how a business aided him by reaching out to law enforcement and medical personnel.

3. Create photo opportunities – In order to get broadcast media to attend, you need to plan compelling photo and video opportunities. Consider these questions: Do you need a banner behind the podium? Is the signage easy to read? Will there be any activities that are visually compelling? At the SPD Safe Places press conference a poster of the initiative logo, which features the rainbow flag, was displayed prominently in front of the podium and SPD Officer Jim Ritter applied a SPD Safe Place decal to the Bank of America window during the event.

4. Hold it at a convenient place and time – Mid-morning is an ideal time for a press conference because it accommodates news cycles and usually aligns with reporters’ schedules. Remember, the media are on tight schedules, so you will want to hold the event at a place they can get to quickly and easily. The Capitol Hill neighborhood is a centrally located, diverse community with LGBTQ-friendly businesses and rainbow-painted crosswalks, so this made it a particularly conducive place for the SPD Safe Places press conference, both for location and visual impact.

5. Develop a compelling media advisory/invitation – If possible, you will want to send your media advisory out to print media about three days in advance of your press conference. For broadcast media, they should get the invite one day in advance. You will also want to make sure your event is on the daybooks of wire services. (A daybook is a localized news distribution service that delivers your news and event information to a specific city).

Following below are several other important things to keep in mind when organizing a press conference:

    • Create an agenda and make sure all the spokespeople are clear on their roles and responsibilities during the press conference.
    • Make sure spokespeople feel comfortable making their remarks and have anticipated the questions they might receive. It is also important to ensure there is no message overlap among the speakers. Each speaker should have a unique message to deliver or he might not belong at the podium.
    • Designate someone to greet the TV reporters and make sure they know what access they have for filming.
    • Provide journalists with any necessary background material or follow up via email after the press conference to provide any fact sheets or backgrounders they might need.
    • Ask spokespeople to make themselves available after the press conference in case journalists need to capture additional sound bites or quotes.
    • Share articles and other content from the event on social media. You also may want to share your photos of the event on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Finally, you should consider asking other community leaders and stakeholders to share the information along with any resulting press coverage.

Following below is a summary of the coverage that resulted from Bank of America and the SPD’s Safe Place press conference:

It is an exciting time for Bank of America as the company continues to deepen its long-standing commitment to valuing diversity and inclusion among employees and across the communities it serves. We were honored to help them deliver their message and hope these tips are helpful as you plan your next press conference.


Tags: , ,

Filed under: COMMUNIQUÉ PR, EXPERTISE, INDUSTRY, Media, Our Results, Planning, Technology


  1. […] Effective press conferences necessitate articulate, credible spokespeople. Jennifer Gehrt at Communiqué PR recommends typically scheduling two to four individuals who speak for three to five minutes each. Each speaker […]

  2. […] Gehrt is a founding partner of Communiqué PR. A version of this article originally appeared on the agency’s blog. This article was previously published on PR Daily in August […]

Leave a Reply

Communication Strategies that Move Product. Sell Services. Grow Brands.

We are experts at harnessing PR to achieve business results. We are quick-study strategists who know how to get the job done. Learn more »


We are big believers in the power of strategic public relations to meet business goals. You could even say we wrote the book on it. Check it out »