All seemed calm as I entered Mellon Square Park in Downtown Pittsburgh early Monday morning. Despite a persistent chill, the sun was shining and all clouds were absent from the sky. Beneath the apparent tranquility, my associates at Bravo Group were engrossed in ironing out last-minute details for the press conference. I jumped in and helped assemble press materials, watching members of other sectors complete their own preparations. One man tested the microphones. Another secured wires with electrical tape. We were worried about not having enough chairs. No small detail was overlooked. Everything had to be perfect and not a single person was standing still.
The experience was almost overwhelming. The audience was marked by distinguished representatives from banks, private agencies, and the government. I smiled and greeted the unfamiliar faces as they entered the event. It was difficult to keep track of the individuals I had met and what interest they had in attending the press conference. Without consciously realizing it, the audience had multiplied. Some attendees were standing on curbs in an attempt to have a clear view of the podium.At 10’o’clock the crowd grew silent. Governor Tom Corbett introduced the $4 million grant that will fund a revitalization project to the Henry W. Oliver Building and former Saks Building on Smithfield Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. Other speakers included Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Mayor Peduto’s Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin, and Pennsylvania Senator Jim Ferlo. Each speaker elaborated on the logistics of the project as well as their implications on the city of Pittsburgh.
My greatest takeaway from my first press conference was the significance of the setting. Mellon Square Park is located in the heart of Downtown. The green space acts almost as a placid courtyard amongst the corporate hustle of the rest of the city. The speakers were engaged in their environment. Their podium was strategically placed across the street from the buildings that are going to be restored and upgraded. This allowed the speakers to motion towards the structures and effectively communicate the details of the project.
This interactive setting was not what I had anticipated from my first press conference. I had expected a more formal environment with the speakers standing in front of a background marked with logos, much as you would see on television. Similarly, I was expecting the spokespersons to be focused on the cameras. Instead, they lectured to the people in front of them. I learned that press conferences are not as simple as they appear on television. The locations and audiences are strategically chosen and each little detail must be meticulously executed. The speakers are not always there to defend their actions or image, but sometimes simply to spread information or communicate directly with the public. The finished product of a press conference is a compilation of the magic performed by various actors with diverse interests. What is portrayed by the press is merely a snapshot into the bigger portrait of public and media relations.
To see more of the work Bravo Group did at this press conference, check out https://storify.com/bravogroup/smithfield-street-corridor-revitalization-project
Meghan Gary| Bravo Group | Pittsburgh