Press Conferences and Briefings Require Planning and Preparation

Over the past few years, there has been an increased interest in press conferences by public safety agencies to release information; without proper planning and execution, the press conference can open a "can of worms" you that don't want to deal with.

Press briefings are usually more informal than a press conference and are used to give updates. Press briefings are set up just like a press conference, but are usually set up to a schedule, such as once an hour or every three or six hours. It is up to the people who are in charge of the incident and how important they think the release of information is. For a large wildland fire a press briefing may be held every few hours, but if you have a large event like a large street party or race which has thousands of people at it, a press briefing every hour may be necessary.

One rule of press briefings is if you set up a time schedule, stick to it. Even if you do not have any new information to release, still have your briefing and advise that nothing has changed.

I also use press briefings for special events such as advance information before a heat wave or cold spell. I invite the media to our conference room and give safety tips and maybe have some props on display for pictures and video. The event is like a press conference but not as intense or formal. There is almost always a question and answer period during a press briefing.

Tim Szymanski is the Fire - Public Information Officer for Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. As the Fire-PIO he is in charge of public information, public relations, fire safety education, Citizens Fire Academy and the Las Vegas Fire Corps program. He is also in charge of photo and video services and manages the "Fire Channel" which provides cable educational services to over 50 fire stations of five fire departments in Southern Nevada. He has been in the fire service for 35 years serving in every position from firefighter to fire chief. Nearly 20 of those years have been working with the media. He was the Fire-PIO for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He is a nationally known speaker on media relations and is now teaching public information and media relations at area colleges in Las Vegas and host a seminar each year in Las Vegas for Fire-PIOs. He is also a Fire-Photojournalist, much of his work has been seen on various TV programs and in trade magazines. Please visit Tim's website at www.Fire-Pio.Com. Or contact Tim at