How to Avoid Having a Lousy Press Event

Jim Hamilton
Jun 9, 2010

Two recent trade shows, ON DEMAND and IPEX, are now behind us and as a printing industry market analyst I have been exposed to a lot of pre-show briefings and press conferences over the past couple of months (not to mention literally hundreds of such events over many years). Some have been good, but a surprising number have been terrible. Here are some of the major issues I’ve seen along with some suggestions for how they could be improved:

  • Too short/too little information — I’ve been in on two recent press events where the presenters rushed through a 10 minute presentation, glossing over key details of some very big announcements, and then opened up for questions & answers. Remedy: If you are going to all of the effort of inviting press and analysts to this type of event, whether in person or on a conference call, you’ve got a captive audience. Take advantage of it! Journalists and analysts expect to sit for half an hour at least. Use the time well.
  • Don’t count on questions to carry the event — One of the most unpredictable parts of a press/analyst briefing is the question & answer period. You may be faced with silence when you open up for questions. Worse (and probably more frequent), you may get a detailed question but largely irrelevant question from someone with an interest in some arcane aspect of your news. Remedy: The combination of a short presentation and a long Q&A is a recipe for disaster that you should avoid. If you don’t have enough content to provide a meaty presentation then you should reconsider whether it is worth having the event.
  • Overly offensive or defensive attitudes — Polarizing positions on either side of the offset versus digital divide can be equally offputting. These tend to alternate between the delusion that a new digital product will replace offset entirely to the contention (by at least one large offset press manufacturer) that digital products are just too expensive for anything but the shortest of runs (and nobody is doing variable data anyway). Remedy: There’s room for lot of different types of technologies, and indeed there’s also the opportunity for digital and analog to work together in hybrid workflows. There’s no need to throw stones at other technologies. You risk appearing naïve or foolish. Simply highlight your own strengths and figure how to leverage your strengths in conjunction with other technologies.
  • Demos with early software that might bomb — Companies get very excited about running software demos with beta software. Too frequently this ends badly. Press and analysts are a fairly forgiving crowd, but treating them to software that might lock up during a demo is not a good idea. Remedy: I’ve seen this many times and I feel that the best way to avoid it is to have a knowledgeable presenter use screen shots instead of a live software demo.
  • Logistical issues — Pre-briefing phone conferences can be unbelievably painful if the audio or video is bad. Remedy: If you haven’t tested the system to your satisfaction you should not be taking the risk of a disastrous call with echoes, static, and embarrassing background noise (fire engine sirens, babies crying, dogs barking, etc.).

Here are some additional recommendations:

  • Share your slides — If there is something that you are not comfortable sharing publicly, then don’t present it in your slides. Whatever you choose to present you should be willing to provide the file to attendees in electronic form.
  • Clarity on confidential material — When a non-disclosure agreement has been signed, make it painfully clear what items are under embargo and when the embargo ends.
  • Have end users speak — Your executives are undoubtedly very nice and knowledgeable, but given a choice, the press and analyst community would much rather hear from one of your successful end users.
  • Print samples — If you are announcing a new print technology, provide print samples.
  • Give us a company update — A press conference is a rare opportunity to educate the market on your company’s activities. Don’t assume that everyone coming to the event or call is as familiar with what your company has done over the past year or so. Provide a recent history of company news: acquisitions, organizational news, and alliances. This helps attendees to understand where your company fits.

Today I head off for another analyst event and I have high hopes that it will be well done, in part because I know that the organizers have a good record of running these types of events. If you have run a press or analyst event recently you may be wondering if my complaints are directed at you. If the issue sounds familiar, it probably is. If you’d like to discuss this, please feel free to contact me. You know where to find me.

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