whether analogue, hybrid or virtual – strong content, professional partners and a coherent script are essential.
Every new challenge also has its good side: The Corona pandemic, for example, as a catalyst for digitalization not only made the home office acceptable in no time at all, but also catapulted almost all established and beloved PR events and formats into virtual space within a few months. In many places, companies and institutions are still brooding over the question of how their journalistic formats can also unfold as much charm, authenticity and efficiency as possible online and not degenerate into a compulsory digital event.
In 2020, we too have thought about this at least 2021 times and have tried out a lot – time to take stock.
Ten Lessons from the virtualization of analogue press formats:
The organization of a virtual format is in many ways more similar to a video shoot than a classic analogue PR event. The focus of the preparations is - besides the content! – on tools and direction plans, team constellations and role overviews as well as the implementation of communicative goals and concepts based on a stringent script.
In addition to content and contributions, press spokesmen also prepare the entire choreography: Spontaneity and improvisation can quickly become a running of the gauntlet for the director and co-moderators and negatively influence the "look & feel" of the event. If they are within the framework of a resilient script, they can be the extra portion of authenticity and thus, that’s what gives it that extra something.
Either hybrid or virtual
The decision for a hybrid or completely virtual implementation should be made at an early stage: as long as this has not been done, all those involved must design and prepare two formats in parallel. This quickly causes double work and costs time, money and nerves.
Choose your tools wisely; and talk to professionals. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Edudip, Webex and so forth have different, specific functionalities and above all individual strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, your own wishes and requirements need to be clarified at an early stage in order to be able to choose the appropriate tool (-setup) for the character of the format. For a press conference for example, you need a different tool (-setup) than for an individual product presentation, an interactive workshop with several individual groups or an open citizens’ consultation with local politicians and experts.
In addition to the main moderation, we recommend from experience a technical moderation (the team size is very individual), which controls the used tool. Here, experts are needed who can also handle technical questions from speakers and participants. Many problems can be identified and solutions prepared in advance.
You absolutely need reliable technical partners for camera, lighting, sound, direction etc. You should be aware of as little of these things as possible so that you can concentrate on your event. Staff the trades professionally and ensure good team play. In addition, a prior test run is essential.
A Q&A part at the end of a virtual event is seldom as useful as in an analogous environment - too many topics and questions from the participants are lost by then. It is easier and above all more charming to allow questions to be asked directly: Via chat, listeners can be integrated in a controlled manner; questions can be curated and prioritized in the background. The technical moderator can switch on individual listeners with sound and images and thus pass on the "virtual walking microphone".
Chat functions, polls and other interaction possibilities should be moderated accordingly – both in the direction of the speakers and the participants. You set the "rules of the game"!
For a smooth process, every active participant should clarify all technical conditions and requirements in advance. A dress rehearsal or a technical check takes 15-30 minutes with 10 speakers, can take place the day before, calms the nerves of all participants and is therefore an important guarantee for success.
Digital press kit
A digital press kit is nothing new anymore, but in a virtual environment, it is more important than ever: It has never been easier to get your information to the addressees – and to forward it directly to further content with interactive elements. Take advantage of this opportunity: Do not just place your press releases and graphics in a download pool, but link them in any useful place, such as a post in the event chat. In this way, you can target relevant information on specific topics to your target group.
In the virtual environment of a press conference, the setup also changes – and without the limitations of reality, the possibilities for individualization explode. This starts with digital wallpapers in the corporate design, continues with breakout rooms and parallel sessions for background discussions in small groups, virtual whiteboards, VR product presentations on the Digital Twin, and extends to providers such as Play.workadventu.re, who virtually recreate entire trade fair scenarios with a gamification approach: The stage is yours!
In virtual space, the organisational effort in the run-up to a PR event is comparatively higher – of course, depending on the wealth of concepts and ideas of the people involved, technology is patient and scalable. However, the technical possibilities in the virtual environment are also more multifaceted. Whether analogue, hybrid or purely virtual – in the end, the results must fit!