The right time to use audio press conferences, how to prevent leaks during a crisis, and more

The right time to use audio press conferences, how to prevent leaks during a crisis, and more


Are audio press conferences still a common practice? If so, what types of clients can benefit most from them?
An audio press conference (APC) is not a common practice because it requires a breaking news element that does not happen every day, says Lynn Harris Medcalf of News Generation. "APCs impart important news that cuts across many listener demographics, not just information that one sector of society will find compelling," she adds.

APCs should only be used when information needs to get out as quickly as possible, often impacting health and safety. These conferences typically involve high-level executives of a company speaking directly to the media to relay important information and sometimes help bolster a company's flagging reputation.

Medcalf says one recent example of a time to use the audio press conference would be the West Virginia mine tragedy. "Executives of the mine could have used a teleconference to speak with the media across the country about the latest rescue efforts and developments," she adds.

APCs can be used in conjunction with a traditional on-site press conference or in lieu of one.

"For most PR functions, however, a radio media tour is often a better use of a spokesperson's time," Medcalf says. "It's a way to ensure that there are interviewers on the line to speak to your executive."

Crisis comms

During a crisis, what steps can a company take to prevent false information being leaked to the public and/or media?
Leaks are generally carried along with an alliance of confidentiality between the recipient and leaker, says Jim Lukaszewski of The Lukaszewski Group. "Still, there are some patterns to help preempt leaks and identify leakers."

Prohibit lawyers from speaking to the media without the client's permission. "This includes non-verbal cuing, hand signals, or non-responding as a method of indicating agreement or disagreement," he says.

Senior executives are the second greatest source of leaks and should follow similar rules and be required to disclose media contact, even if the reporter asks for secrecy. "People in the know are those who have something to leak," says Lukaszewski. "Look up rather than down for perpetrators and culpability."

Leaks are sometimes coerced out of people by aggressive reporters who threaten exposure or humiliation if there is non-cooperation. "The hardest leak to detect is when the report just makes it up, which happens in about 25% of all anonymous-source situations," he adds.


What are some things to keep in mind when choosing a spokesperson for a campaign?
Make sure the person is appropriate for the target demographic, especially if you do a lot of TV interviews, says Ted Birkhahn of Peppercom. "A spokesperson should be able to naturally approach the target audience and speak their language," he adds.

In addition, the spokesperson must be proficient in the topic he or she is talking about. This is important when reporters start asking about campaign background and specifics.

Most importantly, the spokesperson should be able to talk in depth about the situation in the marketplace so they validate the solution they're trying to push.

"Every campaign should have a reason, provide a solution, or bridge a gap in the marketplace," he says. "Your spokesperson should be able to convey this pain, which is often the sole purpose of the campaign itself."

Is it important to get senior management to buy into a measurement program?

"Absolutely," says Delahaye's Beth Roed. "Before you begin to contact suppliers, make sure you have a good understanding of how senior management defines the success of the communications and PR function."

One company's senior management team may value PR's contribution to reputation-building; another team may put more emphasis on driving traffic to the corporate website to increase positive coverage.

"By engaging management early on, you reduce any risk factors inherent in your final selection and ultimately deliver what's needed and expected," she says.

PR Toolbox is edited by Erica Iacono, New York-based reporter for PRWeek. Submit questions to her at Also, please contact her if you are interested in contributing to PR Toolbox or to suggest ideas for future columns.


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