Recently I was part of a team chairing press conferences for artists at the Bigchurchdayout events in Leicestershire and West Sussex. It’s the second year of the event and the second year we invited members of the media to press conferences for main stage artists. Having conducted a number of them now, it’s very telling the number of Christian ‘Journalists’ that, unfortunately struggle to know how to work in this environment. So based on experiences of some people I’ve worked with, here’s some advice on how to get the best out of a press conference.
1) Do your own work
A number of people at the press conferences speculated about getting copies of the press conference. In certain situations, mainly hard news, press conferences are pooled so that one person records the audio and shares it across a number of different media outlets. However, for something like a festival, if you apply for a press pass, it is expected that you have the resources to do your job.
2) Don’t go with your autograph book.
You will have been given a press pass on the strength that you working for a media company. It is unprofessional to hassle artists for personal photographs or autographs before or after the press conference – it also disrupts their schedule. If you want to tell Israel Houghton how much you love his music or ask Tim Hughes for advice on Worship Leading book a slot at the meet and greet.
3) Turn up on time.
Better still, turn up early! If you are late to a press conference and you can’t slip in on the back row discretely don’t go in at all, it can disrupt the flow of the press conference and interrupt recordings.
4) Make sure you’ve done your research
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make in press conferences at music festivals is that they don’t do their research. When you’re going to a press conference you have to think about the wider audience not just your own work, you’ll get much more interesting material. It gets a bit boring when every year a bible organization asks every artist the same question ‘Which version of the bible do you use to help you when you write?’ or when the Latin American press say ‘Our audience love you, are you going to record anything in Spanish?’ When Hillsong United made a rare appearance in the UK this year they were asked by the media ‘How did you get to become so big?’ and ‘How do you cope away from your family’ but they missed the big story that the band were about to star in film about social justice to be screened in cinemas nationwide.
5) Network and make yourself heard.
Make sure when you ask a question that you identify who you are and who you are working for (if you work for one single organization). It’s important because then the artist might tailor your question to your audience if they’re aware of your publication. If they don’t know you it might be a good opportunity for you to make a new contact. Also, make sure you get to know the other press and media at the event. When you network with people within the media, especially as a freelance journalist, the possibilities can be endless.
Hopefully this short ‘How to’ has given you some encouragement and confidence to go and get some great interviews with music artists during the festival season.
Image by Downing Street