But don’t overlook another critical stakeholder - the trade media. Don’t forget about them, especially if you have some good news to announce while at the show. Most industry shows are covered by trade journalists who are hungry to write about the latest and greatest product offerings being introduced to the market.
During your pre-show planning, carve out some time to think about public relations and how you are going to engage the media. Provided you have something unique and interesting to announce, perhaps you will want to hold a press conference. If so, full steam ahead. If not, no big deal. You can still generate news as well as foster good media relations during the trade show without a presser.
I recently attended a trade show where we declined to do a news conference but were still able to generate plenty of media engagements and placements for our client.
Presser or not, your team needs to start thinking about how you are going to maximize PR opportunities and face time with the media during the show. Who will handle the media relations? What is your news or story angle? Are there select journalists you want to meet? Do you have relationships with these reporters? Who is your spokesperson?
Public Relations Essentials
Once you have formulated your strategy, you need to implement a smart PR plan well in advance of the conference with these PR essentials as your base:
Secure the show’s media list. Most show organizers will provide exhibitors with a list of attending press in advance. It’s usually free, but you need to request the list. Because media tend to sign up late, you may need to follow up on getting an updated list.
Work in advance in scheduling media engagements or interviews. Don’t delude yourself into thinking journalists are just going to stroll into the show, magically head for your booth and do an interview. Most reporters do not operate that way. Their schedules are carefully planned with limited time to do random meetings or interviews. Contact and “pitch” media well ahead of the show. A planned and proactive approach will definitely increase your chances of securing interviews for your company.
Visit the media room. Most shows allow companies to leave behind press kits and other media materials at no charge. For big shows, only media are allowed to enter the media room, so utilize this drop-off-time to say hello to reporters and editors. However, respect the sanctity of the media room. This room is their place for reporting and writing stories without being bothered by companies.
Know color codes and eyeball badges. Scrutinize badges as attendees walk by your booth. Most shows utilize color codes. For example, media might have blue badges while attendees red. If you see a press badge, reach out to them to see if they will engage with you. Most will.
Scribble it down. If you had a chance to talk to a reporter, write down what the reporter is interested in. They might be asking for information on your company or have a specific angle they want to pursue. Take notes immediately after the meeting so it is fresh in your mind.
When they fail to show up. It happens. Reporters forget your scheduled meetings or simply fail to show up for an appointment. Before the show, try to secure their cell phone numbers to double-check that they are still stopping by the booth. Perhaps you need to reschedule.
Manage expectations. While some reporters might immediately write a story, others are using the meeting as a feeling out process. Schedule meetings in half-hour increments. Keep the engagements short and make a good impression. Keep in mind reporters are meeting with many companies. They may decide not to craft a story, but you want to be thought of in a positive light. If they remember you, the chances of a future story will rise.
Follow up, follow up, follow up. Did I say follow up? Your objective is to nurture and foster long-term relationships for the benefit of your company. Immediately after the show, send a thank-you email to every reporter who conducted an interview or who you met during the conference. Use these touchpoints by asking them for a follow-up interview. You also need to add any new contacts to your media list for future news releases.
Despite all the ways we can communicate remotely, face-time is definitely not a waste of time for businesses and organizations looking for additional public relations.
With proper planning and execution, showtime can offer many prime-time media engagements and story placements.
Now go pack your bags.