The changing nature of press conferences

Are press conferences still relevant for manufacturers of industrial technology? That is something, we as a PR company have had to ponder over the last few years when advising clients. One of the challenges we face in our media relations work at HHC Lewis is ensuring that our clients’ news stories reach the right audience. This requires us to have in-depth knowledge of a wide range of trade and technical publications, to liaise regularly with their editors, and to provide them with as much exclusive, focused content as possible.

Not so long ago, there were two main ways in which news would be disseminated to the press. ‘Standard’ news stories would involve a press release and accompanying photos being posted out to a broad range of relevant media. ‘Major’ announcements, meanwhile, would require a press conference to be staged. Relevant members of the press would be invited to these events, at which they would listen to a presentation, be allowed to ask some questions, and receive a press pack containing a press release and perhaps other useful material.

You’ve probably noticed, though, that times have changed. Of course, our clients still want to get their important news items to the right media, so that they are published and read by as many potential customers as possible. There is also still a desire from editors to fill their magazines with important, relevant and interesting news. But what is different now is the speed with which news can be sent to editors, the time they have at their disposal, and the way in which they use the information they receive.

The modern era of electronic communication enables news to be sent out almost instantaneously, at the click of a mouse. Such efficiency is doubtless welcomed by editors at a time when the ‘streamlining’ of workforces has made their job much more hands-on, office-based and time-consuming than it once would have been. The mass distribution of material can still result in good coverage, but in a competitive marketplace, editors are increasingly looking for exclusive content to differentiate their magazine from rival publications.

With time being so precious to editors, finding room in their schedules to attend single vendor press events is more challenging than ever. At the very least this requires the promise of exclusive stories and/or interviews. Our clients understand this and are beginning to tailor the way they present news to the press.

A recent example of this came when our client Emerson held its biennial Global Users Exchange conference at the World Forum in The Hague. At previous Emerson Exchanges, we had worked with the client to arrange a single press conference during the event. This enabled European, Middle East and African editors from appropriate trade and technical media to be informed of the launch of Emerson’s latest new solution or service. However, at the 2018 Exchange, the format was revised, with specific schedules devised for each editor to attend a series of meetings, presentations and interviews with Emerson executives and industry leaders.

By ‘matching’ journalists to Emerson executives with an area of responsibility most relevant to their publication, this enabled the client to promote a much wider spectrum of new developments to the most appropriate audience. For editors, this provided a richer and more comprehensive experience, enabling them to acquire a greater breadth of a news and information with direct relevance to their readers.

Another change was the way of explaining new developments. The use of PowerPoint presentations has its place, but interactive demonstrations, live equipment, and the ability to chat with technical experts on a subject in detail all helps to present a new development in a more user-friendly and personal way. At the Emerson Exchange, the company’s incredibly impressive ‘Solutions Expo’ provided editors with the ability to really get to grips with products and services and see the kind of benefits they offer end users. Another exciting evolution could be seen in the ‘Digital Worker Experience’, which used the backdrop of a make-believe plant and professional actors to showcase technology that will support the digital transformation of process plants. Editors were taken through a tour of the plant and provided with real-life scenarios that demonstrated quantifiable benefits of adopting new digital technologies.

These combined elements have helped to provide editors with exclusive, customised, ready-made stories, as well as a plethora of ideas and information to draw upon within future articles. Over the coming weeks we should see the fruits of our labour, which should include greater coverage and a broader range of stories.


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