When Victoria’s Secret Web-cast its lingerie-clad supermodels earlier this year, it gained mixed results. The 1.5 million viewers that logged on were presented with fuzzy images, random delays and sudden jumps. And an estimated 75,000 others weren’t even able to log on. But hey, this was girls in bras and panties.
When Victoria’s Secret Web-cast its lingerie-clad supermodels
earlier this year, it gained mixed results. The 1.5 million viewers that
logged on were presented with fuzzy images, random delays and sudden
jumps. And an estimated 75,000 others weren’t even able to log on. But
hey, this was girls in bras and panties.
It’s doubtful that consumers or the press would be so forgiving if they
logged onto a CEO business discussion and experienced the same
So what is an e-conference? An e-conference is an electronic press
conference (or press conference on the Web). Several days before it
occurs, a media advisory goes out, alerting the press as to the time the
conference will be held, what the URL is and what technology they’ll
need to view it.
Journalists can log on and watch the conference from their computers (if
there’s a video component) or listen, if there’s an audio-only
There’s not much difference between an e-conference and a real-world
press conference, except that you don’t have to be on location to
The key to developing a successful e-conference is planning. The first
step is determining whether or not there is a strong news hook worthy of
’News is very fragile, and the more we use high-end technology to tell
stories that aren’t news, the less interested the media will be,’ says
Scott MacIver, VP, interactive communications for Weber PR in Cambridge,
Once you decide to go ahead with the e-conference, allow for adequate
planning. ’The more planning you do up-front, the more likely the chat
will happen without challenges down the line,’ says Patrick Pharris,
president and CEO of Electronic Media Communications (EMC) in Irvine,
While e-conferences have been developed overnight in urgent situations,
most vendors and agencies say they prefer a planning period of at least
two weeks - ideally a month.
For a journalist to log onto the e-conference, they need a modem (in
other words, access to the Web), a soundcard and a multimedia
The techies that develop e-conferences usually allow participants to
select either 28.8K or 56K modem speed.
Multimedia players such as RealPlayer can be downloaded for free off the
Web. Video clips don’t necessarily jeopardize a conference, since most
computers these days come with decent modems and soundcards, and
multimedia players are easy to download.
Time, as well as how many components are involved, can also impact the
cost of developing the e-conference. Audio-only e-conferences can start
at dollars 4,000, while audio and video can start at dollars 7,000 and
go up to dollars 120,000.
Third-party vendors such as Medialink in New York or EMC should handle
the technical aspects of the e-conference. Jason Teitler, VP and
director of interactive marketing for Porter Novelli in New York,
recommends that agencies see samples of vendor work and bring in their
own IT personnel to investigate vendor technology.
As the third-party vendor works out the technical aspects of the event,
agencies need to send out a media alert.
When possible, make the location of the e-conference part of the
For example, Pharris suggests that if a company is unveiling a new
global phone service, they could hold the e-conference from a desert
where the service is now available.
One advantage of e-conferences is that they can provide an all-inclusive
package for journalists, enabling them to post a story immediately
following the conference. In order to keep their attention, the
e-conference should provide as interactive an experience as
As well as audio or audio and video, online press conferences can
include images to download, an area for participants to request
transcripts, advertising and links to other web sites. Companies may
also include footage of relevant speeches given by other professionals
not speaking at the conference.
’Make sure both your live video, B-roll or any pre-produced video is
produced with an eye to the Web,’ says Greg Jones, VP of marketing
communications for Medialink. ’There shouldn’t be too many quick cuts or
long shots that could come out scrambled in a thumbnail video.’
As with a real-world conference, e-conferences can also allow
participants to ask potentially awkward questions. Teitler recommends
using a one-way bulletin board to prevent this scenario.
If you’re presenting sensitive information, secure the site before you
go online and provide the audience with passwords. Make sure you have
enough bandwidth - companies can pay to have additional bandwidth on
standby if they’re expecting a large number of participants. And test
the pages before going live.
E-conferences also allow companies to obtain information about who
logged on to the broadcast and can even include a quick questionnaire
for participants to fill out.
And an e-conference can also be archived so that those unable to view
the broadcast can access the information at their convenience. While
archiving an entire speech is ideal, it may not be in the company’s best
interest to do so. However, Teitler recommends including video files
that are no more than 60 seconds long so reporters will click on the
most interesting highlights.
E-CONFERENCE DOS AND DON’TS
1. Make sure the news is worthy of an e-conference.
2. Allow for adequate planning time. It is more likely that things will
go wrong without proper planning.
3. Make sure the web site is secure if you’re discussing sensitive
4. Archive the conference so media that were unable to participate at
the scheduled time can view it.
5. Monitor its effectiveness by determining how many people
participated, what photos were downloaded, and what stories appeared
1. Develop an e-conference without a third-party vendor. Even the most
tech-savvy agencies may have trouble keeping up with the changing
2. Let the vendor run away with creative licensing.
3. Forget to include a number for technical support for people having
difficulties logging on or downloading audio players.
4. Include video images with sudden cuts or shadows.
5. Forget to hone the media list first, and alert journalists in