A Google Hangout has replaced the press conference

It may be that you are visiting this blog thanks to my guest post on Neville Hobson’s blog. If you haven’t read it all ready, then please do. It tells the story of how a PR agency reconciles arranging a press conference for VIPs without a hard news story but also how a young practitioner (I) has attempted to jump into the industry.

I honestly cannot remember who came up with the idea of arranging a Google Hangout instead of a press conference. It only could have been David Phillips, I or Simon Quarendon – for political reasons I suspect the later! Either way, the journey of replacing a press conference with a Google Hangout tells the story of how digital public relations are now throwing into question default responses.

Think of it this way: If you unexpectedly touch a hot pan with you hand, most will instantaneously jolt their hand a way, a reflex which does not require any thought. This is how I consider press conferences. What more could an agency have done?

For a start an agency could have thought more about their audience, sometimes journalists are not the correct audience. When we were planning for Australia Tourism Northern Territory, this was certainly the case. We wanted to share travelling tips and destination highlights; content highly useful for bloggers.

Now, we could have always arranged a press conference but instead invited bloggers. Perfect? Not so, because at a press conference someone always sits at the head of the table. The limelight in a Google Hangout is circular, everyone gets to share, it is quite casual.

The first thing everyone needs to know about bloggers is that they are proud people and most of them deservedly so; they produce some fantastically unique content. Something PR agencies would pay thousands for. Our aim was to develop conversation between our VIPs and the bloggers, not just to share digital “high-fives” with fellow agencies but because we know bloggers want opportunities to push their personal profiles further.

Hopefully, our event allowed this to happen when it went live on the 11th March.

On the 11th March, our Google Hangout On Air was broadcast across YouTube and Google+. Bloggers watched a live video stream and posed questions directly to the Minister and the CEO across Twitter, Google Chat, Google+ and YouTube. During the event, we received questions every 30 seconds and enjoyed a level of engagement with travel bloggers that would have been lacking had we arranged a press conference.

At the end of the day I distinctly remember the loud applause at the end of the broadcast, beaming smiles and a huge sense of relief. Keene Communications has successfully staged their first Google Hangout, an almost landmark in its 25+ year history.

All digital events work. A Google Hangout had replaced the press conference successfully. Relief!

Michael White and Alastair McKenzie
Michael White and Alastair McKenzie (Travel journalist and Webmaster & Vice Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers)