Ben Palmer, account manager in our energy team, discusses the value of press conferences in the modern media landscape.

In very few industries would a CEO or senior management figure be expected to hold court with the media at least twice a week.

But football isn’t most industries and so, week after week, managers and players face the media and a level of inquisition typically reserved for police holding rooms. The concept of press conferences is often derided, but their value within sport – and, indeed, other sectors – should not be so swiftly dismissed.

An interesting episode in the debate around their value was the recent spat between Jurgen Klopp and James Pearce, The Athletic correspondent. Having taken umbrage with a piece that Pearce had written, the Liverpool manager refused to answer a question from the reporter. In a subsequent column for The Guardian reacting to the incident, Jonathan Liew wrote that press conferences are “a kind of pantomime, a verbal arm-wrestle in which the protagonists have largely conflicting goals.” He added: “In which other profession are its ablest and brightest practitioners contractually obliged to take questions from the patently unqualified on an almost daily basis?”

Liew made a valid point. The sheer regularity with which sports press conferences take place means that the vast majority are utterly mundane affairs, particularly if a team is merely plodding along, not doing too well or not doing too badly. Where on earth is a newsline to be found if someone is just getting on with their job?

But press conferences should represent opportunity for both organisations and journalists. While shareholders of a FTSE 500 company may only have AGMs to pose their questions and concerns, and journalists only get access to senior management at results-time, football clubs offer a level of scrutiny to their senior personnel that is extraordinary.

On a very basic level, journalists being afforded the opportunity to query and probe public figures should not be sniffed at. Conversely, for those in the firing line, the press conference is a chance to take responsibility when something goes wrong, as much as it is to praise themselves to the rafters when things are going well.

Those in PR and communications should recognise these opportunities too. If prepared for properly, they can be arenas where organisations that are on the back foot can put forward their case to stakeholders and the wider public, take the criticism on the chin and show that they are willing to take responsibility. Access to c-suite executives, fresh news and content that will make people sit up and take notice will always be of interest to journalists and can help you to secure coverage in the media.

This is not a rallying cry for companies to begin putting their forward their Managing Directors on a weekly basis to their respective local titles. “How have sales been this week? Staff morale high? Any HR issues we should be aware of?”

Indeed, a challenge for PR people across most sectors is when to justify a press conference. A good starting point for consideration may be the AGM, the release of financial results and in the after-math of an incident or controversy.

Whatever the case, press conferences should be held in high regard. For responsible, well-run organisations, scrutiny and transparency are nothing to be afraid of.

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