Over the past decade, media rooms have become a familiar focus of high profile, industry-specific conferences. The growing number of niche media outlets and the opportunity to promote potential news to mainstream publications has given rise to this very important PR function.
Media rooms also create a “visual” return on investment for your client or organization. A good media room will be a hub for information, a place where reporters and bloggers can file stories. It also presents an opportunity for great relationship building with these media members you’ve never met before.
However, not all media rooms are created equal. For example, I recently attended a large industry conference with a very lackluster media room; when I asked for the list of attending media, I was met with a blank stare. Not good.
“Organization is key,” said Eileen Melnick McCarthy
, senior communications specialist at the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement in Ottawa. “Remember the reporter is your client, so do what it takes to ensure they get what they need.”
Here are six ways to ensure your media room works for everyone:
Work closely with the conference coordinator on the location of the media room, tech support (lots of electrical outlets), seating, room set-up, and food. Do not underestimate the need for food—for feeding your troops as well as the media. A continental breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack will keep everyone well fed and happy. Also, arrange for a separate media interview room; reporters will appreciate it.
2. Notify the media:
Make sure the media knows there is a central operation available prior to the launch of the conference. Outline impending press releases, press conferences, and interview availability of noteworthy speakers in a media alert, so you can start setting up interview opportunities. Being proactive enables media to get the most out of your conference and hopefully provide great coverage.
3. Be prepared:
If your conference has early morning sessions that may be of interest to industry journalists, your media room should be open, usually around 7 a.m. It’s also the perfect time to get yourself organized for the day; ensure the day’s news releases are front and center, media clippings are displayed, and there’s an accessible archive of press releases from the day before. Keep schedules and archived releases in a centralized, easy-to-find binder. Plus, know how to find your spokespeople: you need their cell phone numbers, the hotel where they are staying, and where they are presenting in case you need to book them for interviews. Don’t make the reporter run around looking for your spokesperson.
4. Do your homework:
When a reporter/blogger shows up, know some general information about him or her: the person’s outlet, beat, and deadlines. This will help you guide the reporter/blogger to cover stories they may not have considered—a win-win for both sides.
5. Know your place:
“Ensure everyone on your team understands their role,” said Eileen Melnick McCarthy. “If you anticipate a busy day ahead, make sure you have staffed your room accordingly, so there’s always someone manning the phones,
ready to coordinate your interview, or find your spokesperson.”
6. Don’t forget the branding:
Interviews at a conference are often done in a hallway. To ensure the branding of your conference remains front and center, invest in producing a few portable, roll-up banners. Reporters are usually more than happy for you to provide them with a background your spokesperson can stand in front of when being filmed for an interview.