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Have you tried an Online Press Meet?

July 1, 2000Prasanna Kotian, an Account Manager from a reputed PR agency based in Mumbai, services a technology company in the business of data storage solutions headquartered in US. One Monday morning, Prasanna gets a call from the company’s corp. communications head that their global CTO is visiting Mumbai and hence the agency should arrange a media briefing session with key technology journalists. Naturally for Prasanna it was an opportunity to get some media visibility for the client and was eager to know if there was any specific announcement the CTO was supposed to make  .  But there was no specific news or update, it was just that since the CTO was visiting India for business purpose then might as well he meets some journalists and get his mug-shots printed in some leading newspapers enabling the India team earn some brownie points.

Prasanna was sensing trouble as given the recent downsizing in the media there were few journalists covering certain beats and were very selective in agreeing for any interactions and above all, why would they be interested in meeting without any news updates or any specific announcements? The client was insisting that come-what may, atleast 5-6 key journalists should attend. It’s the agency’s problem how they arrange the meeting as the global CTO doesn’t visit India frequently.

The pressure was now on to call in favours, use relationships, requests or even pleading. Failing confirmation from the agency, stinkers were pouring in from the client. On the day of the meet, as expected and despite all the efforts, very few journalists turn up and the resultant coverage the next day was also negligible. Client expressed his disappointment by shooting emails to agency heads threating to stop the relationship. Prasanna could clearly see his appraisal rating going for a toss!!!

Sounds familiar? Probably because it’s a problem, that’s been around for a long time. But it’s getting bigger. Shrinking editorial teams means journalists don’t have the time to attend content-free press conferences. The patented response that PR pros receive is “send me an email; will see what can be done…”

Many PR consultants will recognise this kind of a challenge (probably some corporate communications professionals as well). But what could be the solution? How do we deal with this? Should we tell the client the fact that journalists will not come without any specific new announcement or think of an alternate going slightly beyond our regular PR tools?

How about organizing an online interactive briefing using an efficient webinar solutions provider? And how about inviting bloggers along with the journalists to participate in the online briefing? This is not only easily possible but is also an opportunity to interact with journalists and bloggers breaking all travel hurdles. Most of the processes involved pre-event will be similar to that of organizing a press conference. You need to identify whom to invite, send out invitations with details of time and requirements to be able to log-into the online briefing. You can even hire an experienced facilitator to guide the spokespeople to smoothly conduct the briefing. Journalists and bloggers can log-in at specified time and interact with the spokespeople either through live chats or audio. Spokespeople can make live presentations or can have a simple Q&A with the participants. More information/collaterals documents like press note etc and also be shared and uploaded during and after the briefing.

Result: a very interactive and fruitful session for both sides delivering tangible results and indeed  time saving. There are many webinar service providers, who facilitate this and can be efficiently managed without much hassle. In the past I have worked on a similar press briefing using the services of a company called 24Frames Digital.

You can even explore Google Hangout to do a similar briefing with a social twist. You can add in more social media engagement tools to the briefing such as live tweeting, taking questions over twitter and the entire video of the press briefing can later be uploaded on your Youtube Channel for someone who couldn’t attend for whatever reasons.

I am sure, not all corporate communications guys will immediately agree to such approach but if you are confident about unhindered execution then convince and persuade them to experiment. Once done, it will open up new doors for broader thinking and appetite for trying out new technologies.

If any of you have already experimented with an online press meet then please share your experience and learning. It will be very helpful to all other forum members. Please feel to write to me with your comments at pr.vikram@gmail.com or simply drop a line on Twitter @vikramkharvi.

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