Ceci n’est pas une conférence de presse
Organising press conferences was discussed in detail in the workshop. Especially with the disclaimer that press conferences are no longer real ‘press’ conferences.
You used to organise press conferences for journalists. These journalists then translated your presentation into news articles, television reports, or radio quotes for the general public. Those days are over… A press conference today is increasingly becoming a live event, especially when it’s about big and important news. Your press conference will be streamed à la minute by news sites such as hln.be or vrtnws.be.
So, a press conference is no longer a presentation that only journalists come to watch and listen to. It’s increasingly something that the general public can watch live. This means that all information reaches viewers, listeners, and readers in Belgium unfiltered.
Obviously, this approach has advantages. You can broadcast your information directly to the general public without any barriers. If you approach this properly, it can be very convincing. But it also makes it more complex to give press conferences. Where you used to only spoke to an audience of ‘journalists’, you now have to adapt to a much wider public. An audience that wants things quickly is merciless when it comes to illegible or complex slides and immediately shares its opinion on social media. (Remember the press conference of former Prime Minister Wilmès.)
There are plenty of reasons not to organise a press conference in a traditional way. Rather, you can really turn it into a live event. This makes it now even more important to consciously work on questions, such as who will follow your press conference, who speaks, what is your core message, and how you can make things more visual.
Katleen, the communications officer I mentioned, heard this in the workshop and asked me if I thought her press conference about the COVID certificate would be livestreamed by the media. Yes, I supposed it would. All of Belgium would like to know if travel is possible this summer… so, yes, there is a good chance that this press conference would be shared directly on the news sites. Katleen nodded and asked if she could leave the workshop early. She had more work to do because her press conference had suddenly become much ‘bigger’ than she had supposed… Or, when reality catches up with the theory of a workshop.