Press conferences are becoming less common, reserved only for the most severe situations that typically involve public safety and wellbeing. Public relations practitioners have moved away from this tactic for a variety of reasons, but the one most relevant to this assignment is unpredictability; there are too many variables that threaten control, flaws in approach are too easily exposed, and one misstep can cause the entire communications strategy to collapse.
This press conference featuring John Fennebresque, the UNC Board of Governors, is a perfect example. As a public relations practitioner who has planned many similar activities, I did not gain a great deal of insight from the tactical errors that he made with messaging, presentation style, tone, etc., although they were certainly entertaining. Rather, my learning came from evaluating the experience using a different lens, Berger’s ideas about social construction of reality. It provided a much broader, multidimensional view of not only what happened, but why. Although Fennebresque’s personal characteristics and delivery certainly contributed, they did not cause the press conference to flop so spectacularly. The reason was the Board’s failure to account for the broader implications of its decision and how it would be interpreted. With more attention to, for example, an honest and forthright explanation as to reasoning for Ross’ departure and the traits the Board wanted in its next system president, there is no reason why another press conference in the same circumstances could not have achieved very different, more positive results.
This assignment required a crash course in video editing. Fortunately, iMovie is very intuitive, and even a dinosaur like me could learn to use it in a relatively short period. The greatest challenge, once again, was figuring out how to render myself on screen in a way that would keep the viewer engaged and not scrambling for the “stop” button. Fennebresque was the star of the show, and he didn’t disappoint. It was not hard to find clips from the press conference that represented his collective “uh oh” moment. Getting the hang of editing in iMovie took some time, but the process was actually fun (when I wasn’t making mistakes and cursing). I particularly enjoyed coming up with other visuals to augment the narration, such as photos and screen shots of news coverage. The overall learning will definitely come in handy in the future, in my studies as well as work and personal life.