With so many launches occurring each calendar year, a clear pattern emerges at press conferences.
Do something long enough and you'll easily notice patterns emerging in the activities you do. As a motoring journalist, I attend enough launches for it to become almost second nature and the itinerary is always the same. Guests and the media arrive, there's an opening gambit, the product planners and bosses make a speech, a VIP sometimes gets face time and everybody then gathers for the all-important unveiling followed by cheesy pictures showing a thumbs-up sign.
Then again, such a programme is probably the easiest to follow without resorting to doing something expensive, or worse, crazy. Try to be too creative and you run the risk of some journalists lambasting you on their Facebook account or nationally read blog so perhaps doing literally nothing new is the safest bet. Unfortunately, such cookie-cutter practices also prevail in the inner-sanctum of the press conference, or as I like to call it, the bit where journalists justify their pay. So, just to show you it's not all fun and games during the PC, here are five questions you'll definitely hear being asked.
Congratulations on your launch followed by something inane.
This is usually the question/statement used to kick off the press conference. Someone will want to be first to show how earnest they are and because of that, they'll lead off with "I'm sure I speak for the rest of media in offering you my sincere congratulations for the launch of your product". This is then followed by something along the lines of "what was the inspiration behind the design" or "what customer segment are you targeting" but the main point here is for the person asking the question to get their voice heard so as they are seen to be doing some work by the company PR department.
How many sales are you aiming for with this new product?
A favourite for general news and business desk reporters from the newspapers. Their editor asked them to obtain some hard numbers to make the article more interesting so the easiest thing to do is ask about sales. The answer given usually relates to some random yearly or monthly number but just once, I wish the company bosses would be honest and just say "we want to sell as many as we can" or better yet "let me look into my crystal ball to give you the correct numbers".
The answer is in your press kit but I didn't bother to read it.
Another favourite for rookies or general news reporters, they'll often pick up on a certain feature the brand wishes to highlight (i.e. their new direct-injection engine that will make the earth greener) and focus their resources on it. This is despite all the information being presented earlier in the speeches and there being paragraphs and pages devoted to that very subject in the press-kit and brochure. Such questions often get a smirk from the panel and if you could read their thoughts, it would probably be along the lines of "you didn't pay attention to my speech and you're here for the door gift and free food".
I know more than you do so I want to make you look foolish or inept.
This usually isn't a question but more a statement. A good example would be "What is the engine code for Malaysian cars as I know the same model in Europe uses the M-TO55ER unit but you can't use it in Malaysia due to Euro-5 emissions regs. There is also the option of the smaller W4-NK3R motor but why didn't you use that? Also you claim you have a 10-star rating for crash safety but I know for a fact the rating was given to a Hungarian market model with extra airbags made from sheep bladders so are you also claiming something your car doesn't actually have?" By the time they finish asking everybody has forgotten what the question was and the older members of the panel are cursing for having wasted part of their life listening to such drivel. The perfect answer of course would be "we'll get back to you on that".
The mad scrum secret question.
All good things have to come to an end but the words "If there are no more questions I would now like to bring the PC to a close" is actually code for free-for-all. News and TV reporters aim to get exclusive quotes to show how smart they are so they usually keep quiet during the PC and only attack the company executives after they're done. It's a common sight to see a crowd around a company boss with microphones and recorders jammed in his face for that all important soundbite. Sometimes it works but more often than not, the answers given are usually a rehash of what's already been said.