Posted by: conferencebay | June 26, 2008

Multiplying Your Conference’s Media Mileage

A media strategy is valuable for the success of a conference. An all-important question: why do you want the publicity, how much of it do you want, and when?

If the purpose is to create awarenesss for a conference, a media release or alternatively a flyer to go out several weeks before the event is a must. A news story is not the only option here – often a letter sent out to interested groups or a flyer may elicit an even better response in terms of registrations.

If you choose to highlight issues to be raised at the conference, then the media arrangement issues are different. You will then have the presence of invited media during the event.

TED’s media director June Cohen reports from the World Science Festival in New York via twitter

Early planning

Once you have decided that media coverage is important to your conference there are things you can do early on in your planning cycle to make everything run more smoothly later.

If you are booking an external venue ask for an extra private room or quiet foyer so that there is space for interviews to be conducted away from the hustle and bustle of the main session room.

This room should have a phone connected for telephone interviews. It has become a must for conferences these days to have available wireless internet connection.

When writing to conference presenters or requesting conference papers, you may add a box with the following questions:

Conference media checklist I am happy to be interviewed by the media about my research and my conference paper.
YES NO (please circle one)
I am willing to give interviews to journalists from…

(Tick any or all)During the conference I will be contactable on ………………………………………(Please provide contact telephone number)

In the lead up to the conference I can be contacted at ………………………………….

(please provide email, fax or other address)

Please enclose an abstract or summary of your conference paper so that a media release can be prepared if required.

No media statements will be issued without your prior approval.

The completed form will help greatly when approaching media for assistance with publicity for the conference.

What type of press con must you run?

Some conferences deal with an array of information that can be misinterpreted if expert one-to-one analysis is not provided. For example if the conference is likely to deal with critical issues say, bioethics, or if papers to be presented are likely to discuss issues that are already being reported sensationally in the media, then you may want to run a closed conference.

A closed conference requires more hands-on media management. It is likely you may still want some research to receive coverage. In this instance media releases can be prepared beforehand and issued during the conference and appointments can be arranged for interviews with key researchers. In this instance the pre-planning discussed above is essential.

Many conferences do provide great opportunities to get strong and widespread coverage for important research. For journalists, a well-managed conference can be a great opportunity to break new stories. In your planning you should discuss the closed or open options with the convenors. If you are planning an open conference be prepared to invite journalists to the conference and to pay for their lunch or a place at the conference dinner

Also be prepared to give them some guidance on the most interesting research that will be presented (this is where the checklist provided is really useful and where the News team can advise on what might be most newsworthy).

Assign Conference Spokesperson

How many conference organizers have created chaos by not enlisting someone to speak for and about the conference? It pays to decise early on who the spokesperson for the conference will be and make sure they have the time and space to do that job properly.

The conference secretariat may be unable to take on that role and still be expected to also organise brochures and other bits and pieces. It helps to divide the tasks and see the spokesperson’s role as an important function.

Make sure the spokesperson is contactable even after conference hours. There should be two key contact numbers for the conference (preferably mobile numbers). One should be the conference spokesperson and the other should be for the conference secretary.

When sessions are on, the conference secretary may take media enquiries and note down the number, name, and outlet a journalist represents and what they are interested in, or who they want to interview.

The conference spokesperson should be prepared to take calls and do interviews on general issues related to the conference. The News team can also take media enquiries but must have a reliable point of telephone contact at the conference so that they can pass on media requests in a timely fashion.

Checklist for Media Planning

  • Make provision for media interviews at the conference venue – book some quiet space
  • Make sure there is a reliable contact number for media enquiries
  • Be clear about who will be the spokesperson and give that person time to fulfil that role
  • Publicise only the research or papers that have been written by people who are willing to engage with the media
  • Be sure to ask presenters if they would like media coverage for their research
  • Decide if you want to invite journalists to sit in on the conference
  • Make sure you badge and brand the Conference well with quality signage, souvenirs or conference brochures

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