Sep 28

Your Checklist for Planning a Press Conference During a Global Pandemic

The SPR team recently spent quite the chunk of time thinking about and planning for a very special pile of dirt. Yes, really. Turns out that pile of dirt may be my ticket for a direct flight to Italy at some point, so I’ll take it.

Working with our friends at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Mary Ann, Brian, Hunter and I planned and executed a media conference to announce the groundbreaking of the first phase of a new federal inspection station. This FIS will make direct international travel to and from Ford Airport possible — incredibly exciting, very newsworthy.

In a normal year, when planning a traditional media conference, PR professionals think through their normal checklist: media lists, advisories, releases and media follow-up calls, the run of show, seating, lighting, audio, videography, talking points and more. Much planning and preparing for the unexpected is involved. (In fact, in my purse two Wednesdays ago, you could find sharpies and duct tape. We used both. It always pays to be prepared.)

This time around, however, we had another very important element to consider while planning. How could we successfully hold an event during the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring everyone remains and feels safe?

As we worked through our normal process, we found the following to include on our COVID-19 press conference checklist:

  1. Understand Michigan’s COVID requirements and be sure your invite list doesn’t exceed the maximum number of guests for your space – your team and media invitees included.
  2. Take the extra time to make sure everyone is wearing a mask and practicing appropriate physical distancing. This may seem like a given; however, photos and video from your event will tell the true story. (It’s okay to take a quick photo-op without masks for when we can get back to our mask-free lives, but this should be quick and compliant.) Even if you’re outside, these measures are crucial to preventing spreading the virus. The safety and health of your team and guests should always be a top priority.
  3. Stagger seating so that there are windows between chairs. This provides a better view for participants and makes the space seem fuller without sacrificing the important six-foot rule.
  4. Ensure food and beverages are individually wrapped and self-contained. On this occasion, the Airport provided delicious and on-brand cookies as well as pre-poured Starbucks coffee rather than open platters and a carafe.
  5. Designate a specific area or two for media so reporters can get great visuals without needing to move around too much, which could make guests feel uncomfortable.
  6. Prepare and send out a media kit with all the resources and information about the event. Although we do this normally, with limited staffing due to the pandemic and the continually changing industry, this is even more essential now.
  7. Record the event ourselves so it could be packaged and sent to media. This is a useful tactic at any time in case media aren’t able to come to an event – but especially relevant during COVID.
  8. Use social media to update your audience in real-time. Live-tweeting and adding to your Instagram and Facebook stories are great ways to make your community feel part of the event.

Event planning can be stressful enough without a global pandemic. But it’s possible to create safe gatherings so you can still celebrate the great things that continue to happen despite the coronavirus.

As you can see, when done right, dirt piles with extraordinary potential get great media coverage, even during a wildly abnormal year.


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