I'm sure most of you MarCom Pros would agree that generating publicity coverage around trade shows is one of the most powerful, but often overlooked, marketing tools for many companies.
At H+A International, we manage the PR function for several trade show organizers, as well as represent a variety of clients who exhibit at dozens of trade shows around the world. It is in our role as managing the PR function for trade show organizers that we deal with a variety of PR agencies and corporations that have varying degrees of expertise and success in generating PR editorial coverage before, during and after the events.
It never ceases to amaze us that only a very small percentage of the companies exhibiting at a trade show even attempt to generate editorial coverage. And many of these companies don't do a very effective job. When you consider that all the key media from around the world attend these industry events, most of the exhibitors are wasting a tremendous opportunity.
So after counseling many companies and agencies on the best way to maximize trade show PR opportunities, we thought it might be helpful to list some of the key recommendations here:
Read the Marketing & PR section of the Exhibitor's Manual VERY CAREFULLY! There is a wealth of valuable services and tips for maximizing your PR efforts - and most of the services are complimentary. For example, you can get a list of Pre-registered media, you can schedule a Press Conference in the Press Room, some shows have pre-show newsletters you can be included in and you can call the Show's PR agency and get some great tips on what media to speak with.
It is mind-boggling that most MarCom pros are not aware of this valuable resource. For some of the larger Shows we manage, we get more than 100 calls asking if there is a Press List they can have.
Have an integrated strategic plan that includes ROI Measurement - Create a "Show PR Plan" at least six months ahead of the event that includes pre-show outreach, onsite media meetings and post-show follow up. The PR plan should be closely integrated with the overall Show MarCom plan and include a robust social media component. Set goals of how many articles you plan to generate, how many interviews you will conduct onsite, how many retweets and social media posts you expect to generate, and other meaningful measurements.
Pre-Show PR - Reach out to the key editors a couple months in advance and if you can tease them with what you will be introducing at the Show, excellent. If not, just touch base and tell them you will have some news to share later on and ask them to please pencil you into their schedule onsite.
If you have truly big news to share, schedule a Press Conference with the Show Management's PR firm. Depending on the news you will be announcing and the convention facilities, you may want to have the Press Conference at your booth or another location instead of in the Press Conference Room. It is sometimes effective to have a special media breakfast, lunch, or dinner, although may editors are hesitant to devote that much time during a busy Show.
If it is not earth-shaking news you have to share, you may be better served arranging for one-on-one interviews with the editors in your booth or in the Press Room. This allows you to zero in on the most important media and spend quality time with them reviewing your products or services in your booth. You need to reach out to the media at least three to four weeks prior to the Show, depending on what you are planning.
In some instances, you may want to have your executives do pre-show interviews and/or podcasts with some of the key media. We have also placed case histories on installations where the Show is being held and then provide tours to the facility during the event.
You also need to be sure to reach out to all the key magazines that are running pre-show issues two months in advance to be sure your products are included in their "Products To See At The Show" sections. And, be sure to approach the Show Daily editor at least a month in advance to make sure your product is included.
You will also need to create a Press Kit that includes news releases on products announced at the Show, photos, fact sheets, and videos. Most companies put their Press Kits on Memory Sticks or DVDs and include a QR code back to the website.
Onsite PR - If you have done a good job on your strategic plan and pre-show activities, onsite activities should consist of coordinating the many media interviews you have already arranged. We usually arrange anywhere from two dozen to a handful of media interviews for each of our clients, depending on the client and the newsworthiness of our announcements.
You will also want to have an active social media plan in place so you can be tweeting and posting about your booth and products throughout the Show. If you have a special Show Offer that people have to come to the booth to redeem, you can track the effectiveness of your efforts back to the source. Part of this effort should also be shooting video that you can use for social media and a variety of other MarCom purposes.
If your product or service is of interest to consumers, you need to begin your media outreach to local newspapers and broadcast outlets just a few days before the event. Be sure to coordinate your efforts with the Show's PR firm as they too are trying to arrange local media coverage for the Show and may include your product in their overall pitch.
Of course, you will also need to check in the Press Room occasionally to be sure there is an adequate supply of your Press Kits.
Post-show Follow Up - This is perhaps the easiest, but also critical, part of the trade show program. It consists of diligently following up with all the editors you met with to ensure they have everything they need and to determine when the coverage will occur.
These may seem like simple and basic guidelines for generating very powerful editorial coverage for your trade show participation. However, less than 10% of the exhibitors at most trade shows actually do this. What a great opportunity for you to smoke the competition.