Richard Medley, Managing Director of Nexus Communications discusses whether the Press Conference is Dead

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Getting the content model right for today’s media can regularly deliver a live audience of more than 40 credible journalists at a brand event.

As with everything in the modern communications mix, tradition alone counts for little and it is content that drives the day. Recent arguments from PR agencies may well focus on how the media are too busy to leave their desks and come and hear about a product or brand news face to face. Often they are right…but only if they are doing it wrong.

Self centred brand events or product driven agendas in most sectors will fail because they offer nothing that cannot be gleaned instead over the phone, or even online. Little of added value will inspire little desire to leave the office.

But if you think like an editor and offer a session of conversation, opinion and thoughts, then you change the game and the rules that go with it.

Nexus has run a media event strategy for several years on this premise, for businesses ranging from health insurance providers, to yoghurt makers, and from beauty-with-benefits products to over the counter medicine companies. From this experience, four consistent insights shine through to support the ‘think like an editor’ mantra.

1 Media hunger exists for the right story

Over the past three years, more and more journalists have gone ‘freelance’, which aside from making them ‘desk-free’ can mean a fight to get ‘their’ article in. The Daily Mail, for example, has over 50 freelance health journalists pitching health articles in at any one time, even competing against the resident Daily Mail staff. As a result, journalists are hungrier than ever for a good story and will invest time to get it, especially if you allow them to find their own angle (from a well controlled start point).

2 Context and individuality are critical factors

Post Leveson, journalists more than ever need to be sure that their facts and quotes are right. And whilst official spokespeople are often quoted in media releases, journalists prefer to have a tailor-made quote for their articles, delivered as part of a live discussion rather than from a pre-agreed sanitised story. This way they get their own take, with any doubts/queries answered directly, as part of a world that is broader than just the ‘brand’ and more relevant for their specific readers. Think audience need, not about product detail, as the latter flows best from the former

3 Breadth of ingredients delivers breadth of appeal

One size does not fit all. Simple research, data, supposition, opinion, and colourful case studies are all options that can flow from one well managed event and in a timeslot that is packed with value rather than packed with filling for filling’s sake. Our event to launch a new yogurt with added vitamin D and calcium into the UK market delivered a discussion where four key topics were heroed: the challenges of the modern diet, the need for supporting bone health from a younger age, lack of awareness for the importance and need of vitamin D in the UK, and just how much of a challenge bone fractures and osteoporosis are to our society. Good content potential builds anticipation and curiosity and drives the quality attendance level up, and in this case we hosted 40 different press.

4 Theatre matters

And it matters both in terms of the storyteller and the storytelling. At the Simplyhealth event we ran recently – which was about the connection between oral health to heart health – we had one of our GP speakers go round before the presentation offering the journalists free blood pressure checks, which grounded the story in reality from the off. And the ‘GP bit’ is incredibly relevant. Media events benefit from a range of speakers from the real-life context that is relevant to the task, through to adding insight and value to the agenda. This is the draw. The feature opportunity. The way in for media to see there is a story canvas rather than a fixed product to get involved with. A panel discussion brings things to life in a way a brand presentation can never do. For the Simplyhealth event we invited quality speakers representing periodontal disease, a heart health specialist who is also a GP, and a women’s health expert.

If we look at our last five press conference 2.0 events we have a guest list comprising media from key influential and mixed media platforms, such as the Daily Mail, The Sun, and the Sunday Times, to Glamour magazine, Reader’s Digest, Best, Woman and NOW magazines, to top influential bloggers, with media attendee numbers ranging from 40 up to 65. As a result, our coverage has not only gone way beyond expectations, but we can see a direct correlation between this media coverage and product sales.

More valuable and less static than product press conferences of the past, more results orientated than a brand led ‘sales pitch’, and more trusted over time by media as a good way to spend their time, this evolution from traditional brand tool to modern story service is a very good thing for those that know how to capitalise on the shift.

And of course who know how to sweat the detail and the small stuff … those are still essential ingredients for success.


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