By Jim James
Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Show podcast
A virtual press briefing is one activity you may want to hold for your company. It is where you gather a number of media people together, and you introduce them to a client, a product, or a service, and this is appealing to the media because of the corporate social responsibility in various sectors. Holding a press briefing requires engaging with the media and showing them that this specific client or service is of interest to their readers. In order to do that, try to get the media to have a personal relationship with your client
In the past, to hold a press briefing for a client, you would need to fly to a different state or country which has logistical and financial implications. You would also need to rent a room and invite the media and client. A presentation and question-and-answer portion were usually held. Most importantly, there was a chance for people to meet each other personally and give business cards or brochures, all of which feel very tangible and personal. Now, it is very different. You can hold a briefing online, which is better. However, it poses some challenges.
The do’s and don’ts of holding a virtual press briefing
A virtual briefing is very cost-effective and very time-effective, but it requires good planning. First, you need to pitch to the media by creating a video invitation. An example of an application to create one is Descript. Take some of your client’s assets: videos, texts, Powerpoint presentations, and blend these together to have an invitation which will be sent as a video file to the media. This is advantageous compared to having a wordy text email. Record the video using Descript and you can add subtitles and quotes. Using Descript is fast and easy, and you can create a good short invitation in half an hour. You can use Jira, a third party software, for sending these videos.
Then, look at the format of your press briefing. In the past, you have your audience in front of you who are listening. There was immediate feedback since you could watch them if they were out of social obligation or not paying attention. But online, people can just instantly mute you or turn off their video camera. So, it is essential to make the press briefing more engaging. Have shorter and snappier presentations and have mixed media. A good example is having a 15-minute invitation in advance to the audience before the presentation proper, like when they arrive in the venue in advance of the spokesperson. Then, have a short introduction for the spokesperson and show a 1-minute video to engage the audience. After which, show your series of short presentations: 20-minutes for the main presentation and a 2-minute video to wrap things up.
Using a video based virtual media conference creates various challenges for all parties. Holding a virtual press briefing, which is essential in anybody’s media relations program, is highly encouraged in this time, but do not approach it in a way similar to holding a live briefing in a fixed venue with people. Carefully plan the theme, the assets, and the flow of the conversation. You will also want an event with good production values. Talk to your client on having a place that is well-lit with available microphones and headsets. The briefing should be recorded, and it is an opportunity to have digital assets from repurposing the content which can be used on social media by the client and the media after the event.
Personalise your press briefing
Having only 20 minutes to present is quite short. You need to quickly go through the slides, while stating the functional and factual information. However, compared to a live audience, people on Zoom have less focus and attention since there is no power or personality. There is no collective experience that creates an energy in the room and a level of understanding. You address this, you’ll want to create an emotional attachment between the journalist, the spokesperson, and the message that they are giving, because you can always share the facts and the figures later. In the SPEAK|pr program, under personalisation, get the presentation to personalise with your audience by sharing how it can have a huge impact and benefit to them.
One advantage of an online press briefing is having the chance to review your client’s presentation in advance. This did not happen before since they would just show you their presentation on the same day as the press briefing. Reviewing in advance can give you an idea if your client is just giving a sales presentation or the preferred media-facing presentation. In the former, they put details why someone should avail their product or service. In the latter, they educate the journalists, who are not the customers themselves, to tell other people about the goods or services.
Clients might also give a PDF file of the presentation to the media. However, this is useless for them. because they have no power to edit them. A better way is to export that to a Word document that can be used by the journalists by cutting and pasting the text and images directly into their articles. Journalists are also very short of time; they are asked to file two to four stories per day. Most are also covering stories with domains that are unfamiliar to them. Thus, it is important to give them all the building blocks so they can easily put together a story. Also, give them content that is easy and quick to understand—content that is not only simple and new, but also engaging and relevant. Bridge the expectations of the client with the needs of the journalist. In doing this, it is easy for them to share with other people.
The question and answer interview portion of the press briefing done virtually means that the media may or may not ask questions. This is an opportunity to use the back channel of the chat room to ask some of the shyer journalists if they have questions. If they have, then these questions will be directed to the moderator. In a live press briefing, that never happens since they cannot whisper a question to the moderator’s ear. A virtual press briefing is a really good chance for all to interact on cam or off cam. All in all, a virtual press briefing is cost- and time-efficient. So, if you’ve got something to share, think about hosting a virtual press briefing. And if you need help with that, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast The UnNoticed Show. You can listen here.
Cover Photo from IFPMA