> No business cards. The first order of business when a journalist arrives at a press conference is to gather the business cards of the speaker and / or the company’s PR representative. This way, if any important questions come up as he writes his story, he can call or text or email the source to speedily gather answers. Astoundingly, when I asked one of the two main speakers for a business card, the reply was, “You can Google me.” And when I asked that exec’s PR representative for a card, the reply was, “I don’t have one, but I can send you an email.”
> No WiFi in the room. Sure, many journalists have “hotspots” on their phones today, but why count on the journalists’ competence in this area? This is 2017: WiFi should always be on the menu at a press conference.
> Uncomfortable seating. There were no tables on which to place laptops—or recorders or cameras. Rather, there were some very uncomfortable chairs all crowded together, as if some school children were expected instead of adults carrying a variety of electronics.
> No electrical outlets available. Journalists are constantly on their computers. It’s annoying to arrive somewhere where publicity is expected and find that a basic step like this was ignored. This is especially true when WiFi is not made available: Using a hotspot zaps a phone’s battery.
> No thumb drives. Companies that want their news out quickly place it on a thumb drive and give it to journalists when they arrive at a press conference, so the journalist can focus on asking questions in the interest of their readers. They should be able to cut and paste (and then edit, as needed) the basics of what is being announced.
> Announcement already published. This was the worst mistake of all at this press conference. When I asked if the announcement was available digitally (expecting that I’d be given a thumb drive), I was told it was already out on a public relations website. When a journalist who has carved out of his schedule time to attend a press conference hears that the news is already published on the Internet, he instantly recalculates how much time, if any, to commit to the event at hand. In my case, I left after 20 minutes. It was just long enough to gather a decent quote and take a decent photo to publish with what I then understood would be a very short piece—that readers had already heard about in their newsfeeds.
Had there been a competing press conference scheduled at the same time, I would have departed the second I heard the information was already out on a wire.
>> Apparently no rehearsal. Company A’s executive started by saying there were three reasons for the change that was being announced—and then rambled on without stating all three reasons. Company B’s executive jumped in to try to save the day. But Company B’s executive also did not deliver a clear, quotable message. Because these were the people the companies chose to relay their big news, they must be skilled orators. So it’s a safe bet that they simply did not practice presenting together ahead of the press conference. (This step would only take 30 minutes or less. It could even be done on the phone.)
>> Use of a useless video promoted. Yes, people like video. But it must have real substance in order for a journalist to agree to include it in a story he is writing: It must go beyond the basics and, in the best case, provide proof of the assertions made in the press conference. In this case, the PR representative who emailed me in lieu of handing me a business card pushed a stylish video with very little substance.