Hosting a Press Conference Amidst a Global Pandemic
COVID-19 has impacted how we conduct business similarly to how a hurricane brewing in the Eastern Pacific affects our beloved coastal towns. We heard the news reports. We knew a storm was brewing. We knew there was a chance it would come this way, but what course would it take? It was confirmed. The storm was coming straight for us, and our only option was to prepare.
Before the pandemic made landfall in the United States, many companies were already using platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to bridge the physical gaps between multiple offices and locations. But once the proverbial outer-bands of the storm hit, our reliance on virtual platforms boomed.
One example of this reliance falls to our PR Pros.
When we were all kicked out of offices and turned our coffee tables into desks, online shopping purchases from e-commerce companies who utilize the Shopify platform increased 45% in just one month. This tells us that releasing new products in the midst of a global pandemic might actually work.
Typically, many companies rely on trade shows to debut new gear. It opens the door to scheduling in-person meetings with journalists, providing them the opportunity to see, touch, and feel just what makes your product different from everything else on the market.
But during lock-down, that option was completely off the table. In fact, we’re all still a little skeptical as to when we will again pack ourselves into a convention center with air so dry you leave with chapped lips for over a week. (If you know, you know.)
So how do we as PR Professionals do our part to support the overall marketing plan and ensure our target media outlets not only know about the product launch but care?
Enter the virtual press conference.
Seven months into social distancing and counting screen-time as face-time, everyone has become a little more comfortable with the virtual approach to doing business. And a press conference shouldn’t be an exception. These events allow your client’s leaders direct access to key media outlets, all in a remote setting.
Know Your Platform
Scheduling a virtual press conference can be as easy or complicated as you need it to be. When TBA Outdoors worked with Duckett Fishing to launch its new line of fishing lures in partnership with Molix, we wanted this to be as easy as possible for both our client and our targeted media.
Finding the right tool to deliver your message, with the security needed to support your meeting is of the utmost importance. There are several virtual meeting platforms available, from Zoom and Skype to Webex and 100 other options. Do your research and select the one that works best for you.
For the Duckett Fishing launch, a simple Zoom meeting did the trick. It enabled easy, one-click access to the event, while still providing the planning team with the control and security needed.
Getting Media To Attend
It is no secret that media outlets are understaffed, and journalists receive more email pitches a day than they have time to read. Do yourself and your client a favor and take the time to do your research.
Do not spam invite. I repeat, do NOT mass-send a downloaded media list without properly vetting your target audience. It is in poor taste to send a fresh-water product to a salt-water publication. Once you have identified who might be interested in your new product, personalize and send individual pitches.
For our virtual press conference, we took a three-step approach.
Step one was outreach to gauge interest in the event. Would outdoor media have time or interest to attend a virtual press conference? The answer was a resounding, “YES!”
Following the response, we fine-tuned our media list based on the initial response. We removed all outlets who were not interested. Those that immediately confirmed were siphoned into a new list, and the remaining outlets created our third list.
Step two was setting a date and informing media outlets how they should RSVP. To ensure some security and exclusivity, we didn’t want to send our Zoom meeting link blindly to the entire media list without confirmation.
The folks who responded from our initial outreach with an immediate “Yes,” received an email with all call details, the link to the meeting and were added to a calendar invite.
The remaining publications were sent a personalized follow-up email from our initial outreach with the meeting date and time. Those interested in attending had two options to RSVP, simply email us back or register through a Calendly meeting scheduler.
Finally, through yet another pared-down media list – removing all unnecessary media contacts – we sent a “last call” invite 24-hours before the event.
Three steps, intentional communication, and voila: we have an attendee list of targeted, interested media outlets speaking directly to potential customers.
Be Game Day Ready
You wouldn’t send your client up to the podium without preparing talking points, outlining key messages, or creating an agenda for an in-person event. So, be sure not to cut corners when it comes to your virtual event. Prepare and prep your client before game-day.
Before holding the virtual press conference, execute a dry run. This is your opportunity to test the equipment, camera placement, and audio. During our dry run with Duckett Fishing, we were able to see just how camera-friendly each lure was, and it helped us select the products that would hold the attention and interest of our attendees.
Time is one of the most valuable currencies we have. Be respectful of everyone involved. Do not wait until the last minute to open the meeting. Be sure the moderator is in the event well before the scheduled start. This allows you to fix any potential connection issues while also greeting each attendee as they sign-on.
Start the conference with some house-keeping. Cover items such as how and when attendees can submit questions, go over the agenda, and make the proper introductions for key members in the meeting. This will circumvent any confusion and ensure things stay on course.
Before ending the meeting, be sure to communicate next steps.
Like any other event, just because everyone has gone home does not mean the job is done. With our Duckett Fishing virtual press conference, we took extra steps to maximize our exposure.
Recording the event provided the team with the ability to share the link with reporters – both those who joined and those who did not – allowing them to go back to review the speaker’s quotes, confirm product details, and more accurately understand specifics for each product reviewed.
It also provided those who could not attend the opportunity to see what was discussed and provide a chance to cover the story still.
Simply hosting a press conference does not guarantee success, and measuring success is of the utmost importance. Hearing about how the Duckett/Molix new line of lures helps catch more fish is excellent, but experiencing that claim yourself is better. The team shipped each attendee a Duckett Fishing rod and a set of lures specific to their fishing style.
The Bottom Line
PR Pros are pivoting from in-person to virtual press conferences, not just in response to the pandemic but something that will continue to be a trend into the future. Removing the commute to an in-person location opens the opportunity to connect with publications that otherwise may not have had the time or budget to attend.
Plus, a virtual-press conference is a cost-effective way for brands to connect with journalists and expose them to new opportunities.
Is your brand looking to connect with the right media outlets that speak directly to your potential customers? Whether a virtual press conference or an integrated marketing plan, TBA Outdoors has a long history, proven experience, and industry relationships to connect your brand with potential customers. Contact us today to learn more about how TBA Outdoors can help elevate your brand.