About the Author

Who is Robyn
Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

Rotary Speaker
Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

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Contact him at robyn@unimarkcreative.com

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Big Day; What You Need to Know to Make Your Media Event the Best it can Be

A media scrum may be part of your event.

Written by Robyn T. Braley
We began our media series by suggesting ideas for story angles that would attract the media. In review, one media draw may be a high profile speaker. Another could be the presentation of a large cheque to a community not-for-profit agency. 

Media might be interested in a story about the  a team from your club that just returned from a developing nation where they personally delivered a small fleet of refurbished ambulances.

Presenting a Citizen of the Year Award to a community leader is a natural. Or, the Rotary clubs in your area may be the host club for your District Conference that has a myriad of interesting keynotes and breakout sessions.

A Play by Play Account

This post shares details of an event produced by the Calgary West Rotary Club. All photos were shot at a Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta leadership forum we hosted. At the time, the club had 80 active members.
The event drew a turn away crowd of 150 and a media gallery of 60+ reporters. The candidates, Ric MCiver, Jim Prentice and Thomas Lukaszuk were vying for the party leadership. 

A Stern Warning to the Premier

Politics are politics where ever you live. During a debate in another part of our province the night before the candidates had become heated and angry voices were involved.

As an aside, I will never forget the production meeting we had with the candidates, their Public Relations Advisors and Rotarians participating in the program. Our President, Tony Knight, with a stern voice advised the candidates to resist any semblance of the hostilities present the night before.

In other words, he lectured the incoming Premier and 2 Cabinet Ministers to have good behavior as Rotary promotes peace and good will throughout the world. They heeded his advice - and the PR people told me it was one of the best debates of the entire campaign.   

How We Got Here/ Review these Posts

  1. Key elements of a well crafted news release
  2. Components of an effective media kit
  3. Creating a quality media distribution list
  4. Treat media fairly and professionally

A week before the event we sent out a tickler to give the media a heads up. We also sent or dropped off media kits which provided background to the story and to further pique media their interest.

That morning we sent an updated the news release under the heading TODAY and distributed it by email around 8:30 AM. We also phoned targeted media to make sure they got it and to personally invite them to attend.

Thirty minutes before the start time a TV satellite truck arrived to broadcast live from the event. Other media arrived in their news cruisers and more satellite trucks. We were ready to go.
Global TV goes live just
before the event starts.

What You Need to Know

Reporters are on tight timelines. They want to get in, get their story, and then get out and on to the next story or back to their office or station to write or edit their piece to meet their deadline. They will love you to death if you are well organized and efficient in giving them what they need. 

Meet them at the Door

If you are expecting a large number, have an assistant stationed by the entry door ready to greet them and take them to you. Then, you provide a quick overview and ask them what they need by way of interviews or photos. 

Designated Spokespeople

It goes without saying that you will have identified key spokespeople and prepared them a couple of days before the event. Ask them to sit close by and be ready if a reporter wants to speak to them. You never want to have to waste time by having to send a runner to find them. Ever!

If a keynote speaker is the main story, let the media know they will be available for interviews after the event.  

Media Kits

Media kits and news releases periodically get lost amidst the Tsunami of daily information that is sent to the media every day. Have extra kits available.

Some reporters or photographers may have only received a brief text from their editor assigning the event. They may have little background.

Media Gallery

O.K., I’m exaggerating when referring to our political event. By media gallery, I mean the space at the back of the room where TV camera people can set up their tripods.

Glibness aside, if you have an event with an audience of 500 or more, you should rent a small stage 2-3 feet high. It will allow TV cameras to shoot over the heads of the audience. You may want to set it up in the middle of the crowd.

You will also need a long narrow table and chairs for print, blog or radio journalists. Fill only one side allowing them to face the action.

“B” Roll

TV videographers will want to shoot “B” roll. What is “B” roll?

Let me explain it this way. Let’s imagine you are watching your story on the 6:00 pm TV news.

You watch as the news anchor introduces the story. The video cuts to images of people coming into your venue, others seated and waiting for the event to start or perhaps the building sign or other relevant shots that provide context.

“B” roll is often used when a speaker on stage is filmed speaking. In the final edit, while he or she is speaking, the editor may cut to wide shots of the audience and close-ups of individuals listening intently. That is “B” roll or background shots.

Free Range

As stated in an earlier post, my company usually gives photographers and videographers free range depending on the story. We allow them to go on stage to shoot cool shots of the speaker with the audience in the background or to go into the audience or to explore other creative ideas for shots.

The bottom line? The more interesting the content, the better the story will be. It is always a good day when a feature is picked up in other cities due to the strength of the story supported by interesting images.


Most interviews will happen after your event. At that time, journalists may do an interview with people milling about in the background or go into a quiet hall or outside to use the building sign as background.

If you expect a large media turnout, book a nearby empty room. Some journalists may ask for 1 on 1 time after the scrum.

Media Scrum

What is a scrum? The term is taken from rugby where the team members of two teams go shoulder to shoulder to push each other out of the way in order to get the ball.

In media terms, a scrum is when 2 to 60+ media gather round the spokesperson and start firing questions. They follow professional protocol and tend not to shout over each other while the wait for their turn to ask a question. You don’t need to manage it except to signal the end is near.

As reporters arrive, tell media you will scrum after the event and they will know exactly what you mean. 

Photo Backgrounds

Your purpose in staging the event is to profile your organization and its connection to the main story in the best possible way. Suggest background ideas like an interesting wall, two arm chairs face-to-face in a corner or your organization's trade show booth.

For our event, we rented a full-length backdrop made of heavy black drapes. 

From bitter experience, I can say that fern leaves behind a person’s head will look like they are growing out of their ears or like the ancient headdress of some mystic cult.

Direct Box

If you are staging an event where media want to record audio, you will need to provide a direct box. A direct box feeds the audio mix from the event sound system into a multi-outlet box.

Why is this necessary? First, to provide the best possible sound. Second, media may want to broadcast live or live stream the event. Quality matters.

WiFi Connections

Make sure the WiFi connections at your venue can accommodate extra traffic. At a minimum, print reporters may want to write and file stories as the event proceeds.

Hire Pros

Service organizations traditionally fill event roles with volunteer labor. But, staging a media is all about creating good impressions. If there is any danger of pops, crackles, squeals, blackouts, freezes or other technology disasters, contract in a professional media production company.

They will provide sound systems, quality microphones (as many as needed), cables, direct boxes, high capacity audio mixers, video/powerpoint equipment and other support. Most of all, they will provide an operator who produces events for a living.

Why is this important? Media events happen quickly and the technology must work flawlessly.

In my media training seminars, I tell what happened at the forum.  

We were about to start the meeting when 3 last minute reporters arrived needing connections. Their media outlets planned to live stream the event to 100s of thousands of viewers and listeners.

Our direct box was full. A miracle happened and our technician magically made it happen. We started the meeting and the media coverage was huge.

The Outcome

Our story dominated the 24 hour news cycle thanks to the talents of a problem solving technician. Each candidate's Comunication Director told us afterwards that our event was the best of the campaign. That felt good!

The side benefit is that every time I see the politicians who participated, they remember our team, the event and they also remember Rotary!

Leading Questions; What do You Think?

What experiences have you had with your not-for-profit organization organization? I’d like to hear your opinions and ideas. Please comment below. I'll respond!

Robyn Braley is a marketing specialist, keynote speaker and writer. He is also a Rotarian who is passionate about Building the Rotary Brand. He has led two teams that received the Rotary International PR Award. He has also served as the PR Chair for District 5360. Robyn has placed hundreds of traditional and new media stories about Rotary and other organizations. 

Contact Robyn

Email: robyn@robyntbraley.com   Connect on LinkedIn Follow on Twitter: @rtbraley_rotary 

Relevant Posts in this Series 

Media is All About Stories and Rotary Has Them

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