Over the years, we’ve set up many media centers at live events – either we were doing the event PR, or our clients were attending the event as exhibitors or speakers. A media or press center is simply a dedidated space for journalists who will be covering your event. They may or may not use it, but it needs to be available anyway, just in case.
For large events, your media center would be in a separate room. However, for smaller events it could be a corner of the event venue, or even just a table.
It’s where journalists go to register, get information about the event, and – depending on the nature of your event – get accredited to actually cover your programme.
The following tips will help you set up a useful and effective press center:
1. Location, location, location!
Where you put your media center is important. It should be in a prominent place, not too far away from where the action is. Put up signs so journalists know where to go. While it’s nice to have a receptionist or staff member to steer people to the right places and provide the direction to the appropriate resources, at the same time, it should be easy enough to run the center without cramping the rest of your event activities.
Let the press know that the press center is available. Mention it in your press releases, and verbally when you make follow-up calls.
2. Be equipped
Of course, journalists nowadays carry laptops and cellphones, but you never know when one of them might need something to file a story. You will also use the press center to prepare and distribute press releases without going to your office. Make sure you have all the equipment journalists possibly need. These include:
- at least one computer with Internet connection (in case their laptop batteries run out)
- WIFI – WIFI – WIFI – WIFI (we are still amazed at how some events don’t offer this)
- fax machine (although HARDLY used now)
- telephone (in case a reporter’s cellphone dies from overuse)
- electric outlets and extension cords
- pen and paper
- USB sticks (branded with your logo if possible, makes a nice giveaway too)
- message board
- Working tables or cubes
- Meeting tables or cubes
3. Prepare press materials in advance
Make available all the information journalists could possibly need while at your event, for example:
- Have extra copies of press kits available
- Post the event schedule/programme on the wall or hand out to press (9 out of 10 will ask for this)
- Have a list of possible interviewees and their availability
- Always have one person managing the press center who can answer questions and schedule interviews
4. Nice extras
Flowing coffee and food, even cookies are nice to have. So is a backdrop for photo and video ops, with your event title and logos on them (similar to backdrops they use at Hollywood events).
Organizing a press center – whether in a room or a simple table – is an easy way to make journalists feel welcome and make their work of covering your event easier and more pleasant. If you give them a positive experience, they’ll be more likely to remember your company and possibly get you more media coverage.
If it’s a multi company event, do limit access of PR reps to the room, just have them drop off their respective materials. If they have a meeting, make sure it’s on the calendar – or else, they do not have business there.
What are your experiences in setting up and running a press center at a live event? I’d love to hear about them.
Liz Estrella-Basilio is PR professional and the managing partner of Elena Verlee at Cross Border Communications. Together with Elena, they work with start-up to multi-million dollar technology companies who want to get their story heard in traditional, digital and social media.
She recently revived her Twitter account and will be out on the prowl to find those who are truly #FollowFriday-worthy on Twitter. Follow her at @lizestrellab.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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