Independent Network Press Conference
Martin Bell, former BBC correspondent and former MP, and supporter of the Independent Network said, “You’ve had a really good turn out here.”
The Independent Network (IN) aimed to get widespread and high-profile political media coverage to introduce its 47 endorsed candidates to the electorate. A press conference was the best way to attract fast and optimum attention of newspaper, television, radio and online journalists. Publicity would demonstrate the national presence and broad interests of the IN and encourage support from the voting public.
Clear media messages were crafted, communicating that endorsed candidates had agreed to a set of conduct principles – an issue that would resonate in the aftermath of the parliamentary expenses scandal. A large but focused group of national and political journalists were targeted to attract to the event.
There was a significant presence of national media at the launch with the Press Association and BBC present with camera crews and the most respected national newspapers like the Times, Independent, Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail, and the Financial Times attending. BBC World Service interviewed independent candidates after the conference. Broad national coverage resulted.
Numerous launches, conferences and press events from other organisations in the run-up to the election limited the opportunity to grab the political media’s attention during the election period. Avoiding clashing with other events was crucial to ensure the most senior political journalists were available to attend. Daily media deadlines and editorial conferences were also accounted for in the press conference planning to ensure maximum media availability.
The venue – The Frontline Club – was specifically chosen for its reputation as a hotbed of independent journalism, and being well known to senior journalists. It would be just spacious enough to hold all candidates, speakers, press and guests, which conveyed a “full-room” image to photographers and TV crews.
To ensure relevant attention, a press notice was sent out to political journalists from relevant publications, television channels, websites and radio shows five days before the event issuing details about the conference. Follow-up telephone calls attracted and confirmed the attendance of national media.
Ex-MP and Independent Network supporter Martin Bell was a big attraction to political journalists so was assigned the role of guest speaker. A rehearsal of brief and clear statements made for a concise presentation.
The presence of a number of independent candidates allowed for an original and memorable style of press conference where journalists were allowed the chance to approach candidates for interviews after the main conference.
A moderator briefed and managed the candidates, controlled the proceedings, kept the focus of journalists and maintained the pace of the event. Smooth proceedings were vital when dealing with a such a group of independently minded politicians, a large number of busy journalists and four camera crews. The limited budget meant that the conference ran for just one and a half hours, meaning short and snappy proceedings were the key to successfully portraying a message to the press.
After the conference, press kits were given out to journalists with background materials for reporters to take away, including news releases, text of the statements and fact sheets.
The press conference was successful in securing a wide range of national media coverage including The Times, Daily Mail, the Guardian, the FT, Metro, BBC, Reuters and syndication by the Press Association, communicating that the Independent Network’s endorsed candidates had signed up to conduct guidelines. It also served to establish the Independent Network as the national voice of independent candidates, delivering incoming media enquiries from national, regional, political and current affairs magazines, including The Economist. Several candidates were individually mentioned in national publications including Sarah Flannery of Tatton and John Swallows of Peterborough who both received a substantial amount of mentions.