Four Pressroom Must Haves For Event Media Coverage (By Richard Finn)

In the first of our three-part series on media relations best practices, we focused on the importance of a well executed media strategy and laid out recommended building blocks for creating the strategy, part of which included inviting media to the event.

Now that the media is coming to your party, you must provide hospitality to your guests, and the servicing of the media goes much deeper and is very important to the success of your event.

During my 14+ years as director of media relations at New York Road Runners and the New York City Marathon, I worked with veteran event executive Dale Shumanski, who at the time served as director of hospitality and special events, to significantly upgrade the press operations of our major professional events.

The most marked change came at the New York City Marathon, an event with a global audience and regularly more than 100 accredited journalists present. When started, the working pressroom was an overflowing and antiquated space near the Central Park finish line. When I left, the working pressroom was a state-of-the-art space in a hotel featuring an interview room, a room for food and beverage service with TV screens showing multiple broadcast feeds of the race.

These changes were not done on a superficial level just to pretty up the media room but rather to address specific needs of today’s media and to raise the professionalism of our events to reflect our brand as a world-class organization.

According to Shumanski, there are four key objectives of any press operations office regardless of the size of the event: 

1. VENUE

In looking at the venue for your working media, you should think of that space as a classroom or an office space. Would you want to go to school in a dingy, badly lighted, cramped classroom with desks and chairs squeezed together or one that is spacious, clean, well lighted and contains ample space for desks and chairs? Think of the first impression that you can make on the people who will be writing and reporting on your event with a professional looking media space. Remember the old adage about how important first impressions are.

2. COMMUNICATIONS

Many of the specific and designated tasks given to our staff filled the need of the third objective, which is the efficient and timely communication of critical information—in our case, race results, split time and interview transcripts. Another job was the escorting of athletes from the finish line to the media room for post-race interviews. Remember, journalists need access to accurate information and people to do their job. And they need it quickly. There is another old saying in our business that somebody is always on deadline and that is never more true than today.

3. STAFF

Successful press operations require an experienced management staff to run smoothly and efficiently. The size of your staff and a checklist of tasks for the staff will be driven by the size of your event. Likely responsibilities for any press operations staff would include helping put up any step and repeat banners or signage in the room; coordinating any food and beverage service; and preparing a seating chart if appropriate.

4. TECHNOLOGY

Technology can include the obvious, like making sure that you have a strong wireless router and WIFI system in place. Make sure you test out your system many times in advance of your event and have tech troubleshooters available immediately in the room if there are questions.
In New York, we also utilized the instant transcription service for post-race interviews that can be found pretty much at every major sports event. These full transcripts of the interviews are then distributed either by hard copy or on the web- site to the journalists for use in their reports and stories.  
 
Richard Finn is a veteran sports media executive, publicist and journalist with more than three decades in the industry. He was director of media relations and sports strategy for New York Road Runners and the New York City Marathon from 1999-2013. Presently, he is working as national media consultant for USA Table Tennis.