Do your research
Your teachers probably told you that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. However, in journalism, there is such a thing as a blatantly misinformed question. Don’t bother your source with questions you could easily find out from a quick Google search.
If your subject is a popular voice actor, don’t ask them questions like, “What are you most known for?” or “Can you name some of your recent projects?” It’s insulting to the guest, and it makes this press liaison cringe.
Don’t let your fandom blind you
I know what it’s like to be both a fan and a journalist. However, I know there’s a time to geek out as well as a time to be professional, and very rarely do those occasions intersect. I get that you’re a big fan, or you wouldn’t have asked to do an interview with one of Anime USA’s guests. However, “I love your work so much,” is not an appropriate interview question. Frankly, it’s not even a question.
Luckily, our special guests are troopers. They’re clearly used to dealing with sometimes socially awkward fans. But they shouldn’t have to deal with that sort of thing in a press conference.
Do keep your press liaison in the loop
When I corresponded with press groups before the convention, I asked them each a few questions about their plans. When do you plan to get here? What do you plan to cover? If there was a lack of reply in either of these areas, problems arose.
For instance, one press group asked me for four extra press badges (I only give a maximum of four to any group). Later, security found this group bringing people without badges into the convention center. They explained they were doing a project where they invited “con virgins” to Anime USA to gauge their reaction. I think that’s fascinating! If they had told me about this plan, I could have secured special permission. As it stood though, they were in violation of the convention and security stopped them immediately.
In another instance, one press group almost didn’t receive their badges. I asked each group to give me a general time they planned to arrive at the convention. When groups arrived at a radically different time than they’d told me (a group that emailed to say they were arriving Thursday evening showed up at noon on Sunday, for example), I wasn’t as easy to reach.
In both cases, these press groups experienced inconveniences that could’ve been avoided with a little communication.
Do NOT lie to me
You may have heard that press attendees get into the convention for free. Posing as a press member could save you some money in the short run. But if I find out, I will make sure the price you pay is steep. First, I’ll send security to remove you from the convention. If that doesn’t work, I’ll simply tell all my friends.
Here’s something you might not know: the press liaisons at Anime USA, MAGfest, Katsucon and Otakon are all pretty good friends. When somebody poses as a press member at one convention, word gets around. Pretty soon, you’re not only blacklisted from Anime USA, but every other local geek convention, too.
Hope you enjoyed that free press badge! It’s the last one you’ll ever get.
Do respect the convention policies
I don’t play favorites with press acceptance. When I was choosing whom to accept to Anime USA 2011’s press team, I checked for professionalism, quality work, a regularly updated publication, and respect for our organization. Unfortunately, I made a huge misjudgment about one press person when it came to that last attribute.
This press person did some interviews with some of our staff members, but unfortunately left behind her computer charger. She sent an email to me to ask if I, or one of my staff members, could deliver the charger to her on Sunday at her home in DC. I was appalled at her nerve for asking — it showed clear disrespect of our duties as convention staffers — but politely replied to let her know to pick up her lost item on Sunday at the convention.
This press person showed up at the hotel five hours after our convention was over. Our entire staff was at our annual post-con celebration party at a nearby restaurant. She called our convention’s hotel liaison, demanding he send somebody from the party to retrieve her charger from our locked equipment room. (Hotel staff wasn’t letting her in as per our agreement.) When the hotel liaison refused, she clamored for our convention chair to break the hotel policy for her and let her in. This request was once again refused. The liaison told her to wait until our ceremony was over.
Anime USA is still reeling from what happened next.
Somehow, this press person convinced the hotel’s security staff to let her into our locked equipment room. In the hour that followed, $4,000 of our equipment went missing. Thanks to this press person’s impatience and disrespect for our policies, our convention has been devastated.
I am certain Anime USA will recover from this setback. But we’ll do it without press attendees like her.
Don’t get me wrong; 99 percent of the press groups I invited this year were exemplary. But a few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch.
I’m not perfect either. In my next post, How to be a model press liaison, I’ll take a look at the ways I could’ve improved in my role, too.