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How to stage a successful news conference

How to stage a successful news conference

I was glued to the television last week, watching a political news conference.

Now I know that sounds strange, when each debate on Brexit currently seems to end in stalemate.

Seven MPs are leaving the Labour Party.

And they were explaining just why they are doing it.

In doing so, they demonstrated six key principles in engaging the media when we have an announcement to make.

  1.  Take the moral authority

Take the moral authority

The group claimed that the Labour Party had become anti-Semitic.

And for Jewish MP Luciana Berger, that was intolerable.

They also claimed Labour was putting party interests ahead of national interests on Brexit.

The following day, three Conservative MPs laid a similar charge at the door of Theresa May.

We all would like to tell people we’re doing things for the right reasons.

But to win an argument, we need to hold the moral authority.

In other words, what we’re doing is better than what others are offering.

It’s got to stand up to questioning.

It needs to be robust in the face of criticism.

So, they all have the moral authority.

  1. Stand up for what you believe – regardless of the immediate consequences

Stand up for what you believe in regardless immediate consequences

The immediate consequences are obvious.

They’ve cut off a possible route to power with Labour.

And they could lose their once-safe seats at the next election.

It takes courage to walk away and contradict the principles you’ve been selling for years.

But that’s what now eight former Labour and three former Tory MPs have now done.

  1. Tell your own personal story

Tell your own personal story

Ms. Berger’s Jewish upbringing was key to her story.

And her membership of a party that fought racism.

Mike Gapes had the longest heritage with Labour.

So, the pain of his decision was etched on his face.

Chuka Umunna explained his heritage:

Half-Nigerian, one quarter English and one quarter Irish.

With an entrepreneurial father who died when the MP was a teenager.

Yet the UK had given him the opportunity to succeed, he said.

Their stories – and different circumstances – helped explain the values they’d formed.

Each different, yet each coming to the same conclusion.

That it was time to leave Labour.

  1. Expose your vulnerabilities

Expose your vulnerabilities

They all made one thing clear: they’re uncertain how they’ll proceed.

Or if they’ll even form a political party.

And that’s a big admission when each is likely to ask constituents to vote for them in the future.

But it’s honest.

And a lack of honesty from the leaders of both main parties is what the now 11-strong breakaway group complains of (one who quit stayed outside the Independent Group).

A lack of fixed ideas may serve them well, if they are to attract wide support from people who hold a wide range of views.

  1. Offer hope and optimism over fear and pessimism

Offer hope and optimism over fear and pessimism

There was clearly a lack of detail.

There was a lack of policies.

But their words were positive.

They believed the country could be served better by politicians.

They believed that people in Britain deserved better representation.

And an opinion poll in the Guardian newspaper backed that up.

It demonstrated that 7 out of 10 people in the UK now feel unrepresented by major political parties.

The Independent Group of MPs claimed it was time to change all that.

  1. Handle questions with good grace and humility

Expose your vulnerabilities

When you present from the podium, you get to say what you want.

When you answer questions from the media, you face their agenda.

So the questions rained in.

Were they being disloyal?

Should they face a by-election as independents?

Should they have stayed to fix the problems rather than walk out?

Some people get tetchy at direct questions.

With this group, each showed good humour, grace and dignity.

Many answers began “I don’t know”.

Or “it’s too early to say”.

Which we advise clients to say when they don’t know, or it’s too early to say.

Learning the lessons

Learning the lessons

These six principles will help you make major announcements to the media.

Whether your organisation needs to make people redundant, explain a financial loss, or justify a controversial decision.

Over 30 years, we’ve helped organisations in the UK, across Europe and the Middle East in North America and Australia, face tough announcements in front of the media.

By following the same six principles:

  1. Take the moral authority.
  2. Stand up for what you believe in – regardless of the immediate consequences.
  3. Tell your own personal story.
  4. Expose your vulnerabilities.
  5. Offer hope and optimism over fear and pessimism.
  6. Handle questions with good grace and humility.

If you need help to do that, contact us today.


Bill McFarlan is co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can read his full profile here.


Photos by:  Getty Stock Images & Adobe Stock, CNN & The Guardian

26th February 2019 Featured in: Blog, Media training blogs By:

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