The university I was working at was getting ready to host a huge media event with a nationally known speaker on our campus. My wife who is a professional journalist was coming to cover the speaker. The first question she asked the communications person on staff was, “Do you have a Mult box? The answer she received was, “What is a Mult box”? Having professional qualified staff and providing them with the equipment to do their job is vital to hosting and running organized well executed media events. Anything less will lead to failure.
The failure to have professionals on staff who understand and know how to work effectively with journalists will negatively impact your ability to get the message out you wish to deliver. In athletics, business, and politics you need the power of the press to help deliver the message you craft in a timely and efficient manner. The media provides free messaging by hosting a media event to boost the publicity surrounding an upcoming product or program, activity, concept, or event. Your communication staff needs to understand the best way to leverage that service for your organization. Failing to have someone who truly understands how the media works, your efforts will often be in vain and your messaging left undelivered.
Media events fail because of several reasons. The news event you are promoting is not newsworthy to those you want to carry your message. The media event is poorly planned and timed. The event fails to tug at the heartstrings and elicit an emotional response from the media representative. The information you are providing is dated and irrelevant, therefore not important. If your event is poorly planned, poorly executed and fails to satisfy professional expectations, you harm yourself not only for this event but for later events that could be of higher importance.
The most important function of a qualified media specialist is to get the media to come and cover your event. Most communications offices will do this by issuing a press release sent to selected media and public outlets. A communications person with journalism backgrounds understands the media gets hundreds of these releases weekly. You must know the best way to make yours stand out and be noticed by the media. What is your news hook? Why is your angle different? Explain clearly in your communication why this event is important and the relevance it has on your industry, community, or organization. Media will often decide if the news hook is real, the story is important.
It is important to understand which media is most likely to cover your event. Understand the differences between print media like newspapers, magazines and broadcast media like television and radio as well as internet digital media like bloggers and special interest groups. A national news organizational may not be as interested in something that has more of a local impact. An experienced news professional on your staff understands which media is likely to cover your event. Plan the event at a time and location which is convenient to the media you want to cover it and will allow you the best chance of getting immediate exposure for your event. If your goal is to get coverage in a newspaper that prints once a week, holding the event on or just after that date will not allow your information to be distributed in a timely manner. Often your own staff will have a preferred time and location, but what matters most is when and where media will show up. Experience shows weekends and late evenings are not ideal to get coverage from most media organizations.
It is critical that your communications staff know how to plan the actual event. Determine the correct strategy, and technology needed for the event. Nothing is more frustrating to media than to show up and be unable to get quality sound, video, pictures, or timely information. I have covered political events as a photographer and the inability to have designated areas in a direct line of sight of the speaker will impact your ability to get a clear message delivered. Prepare and send a media alert that is informative and clear as to the purpose of the event and who will be attending. Poor internet will impact social media and live feeds from your event.
Detail exactly where the parking arrangements are for media. Remember they are often lugging heavy equipment so get them as close as you can to the venue. Most importantly list who the contact people are for your organization and identify key messages and strategies for the event. And finally convey the preferred message in written form in a well-prepared statement that you are hoping to deliver. On the day of the event have a press kit prepared and ready for all those who attend. Have your media contact present and all contact information including phone numbers and emails available. Provide all the pertinent information media might want or need to report on the messaging.
Prior to the event you should follow up via phone and email with your high importance media. State your news hooks and provide any unique story ideas or angles you can. Tailor your pitch to each individual reporter and their respective beat. Communications professionals might need to issue a statement prior to an event if the media they desire to have involved cannot attend in person. Professional comms people know to ask for an embargo with that news organization and provide the date and time that information can be freely shared. Have available for one-on-one interviews all those who might provide insight to your event for you. Identify other potential media opportunities for your messaging.
Logistics planning is critical. Establishing microphone connections through a Mult Box will keep you from having a free for all with media trying to get their microphones in the right place to collect the best sound bites and get the best photo ops. Poor quality sound will lead to a poor message. Explain where they will set up for one-on-one interviews? Predetermine camera location for photos and video crews. Make sure they have a direct line of sight where they do not have to shoot over or around people. Provide proper cabling runs and make sure the areas you provide meet electrical and cabling needs. Place them in a location where video and photo opportunities will provide the best quality and give positive impressions of your event?
Finally, treat media with respect and take care of them. Provide work areas away from the crowd where they can compile and file a story. Greet new arrivals and have someone help direct them to their designated areas. Make sure they understand the plan for the event and ask them for any special needs they may have. Provide food and drink in a separate area for your media. Many are going from event to event and will appreciate your hospitality.