From a PR perspective, trade shows can be either a great investment or a waste of time.
They are an excellent opportunity to network and highlight your organization—but it’s also very easy to expend a great deal of effort on activities that have little impact.
However, with the right strategy, the right team and the right level of preparation, you can convert an appearance at a trade show into actual trade.
Here are five ways to make the most of it:
1. Understand the journalists who will be attending the event.
Research the journalists who will be attending the event and develop realistic expectations about what you can achieve by attending.
There’s obviously a difference between a small stand at a local business conference in your city and a keynote slot at Mobile World Congress. It’s essential to get an idea of what the atmosphere is going to be like and calibrate your approach accordingly.
A starting point should be researching the people you want or expect to meet at the event. What sectors do they work in? What job titles do they hold? What interests do they have? How can you make life easier for them?
Most events will offer some combination of large keynote sessions, panel sessions and smaller workshops/discussions. If you haven’t been before, it’s worth talking to people who know what you can expect—especially if you have a speaking opportunity.
Previous speakers can shed light on what the audience might want in terms of take-home value.
2. Put together a press kit.
It’s important that the attending media and journalists know about your products before the event. Unless your company is already well-known or in the news, journalists are not going to proactively search for information about you.
To get them talking about, and interested in, your business, you need to seed them with valuable content. By the time the event rolls around, they’ll come looking for you to find out more.
A press kit does the job nicely. This used to be a physical file or folder full of important information: media releases, company reports and samples. Nowadays a digital folder on a USB stick or stored on the cloud is much easier to share. Cloud-based content is great because you can add and delete as you need to, providing you with much more control over who gets to access what.
3. Manage relationships and expectations.
Trade shows aren’t always the best use of a PR budget, particularly if you don’t take advantage of the media presence. Often many relevant journalists will be there, ones you know and one’s you don’t, and there are usually clear opportunities to develop useful relationships.
However, in the weeks leading up to the event, they’ll be inundated with irrelevant PR inquiries about meeting some CEO they don’t care about from some company they don’t know. If they don’t have a reason to cover you or your client, they’ll most likely just be annoyed by your email, consigning you to the spam pile when you do have something they might want to cover later.
So before contacting a journalist about an interview or feature, consider why they might want to meet your executive instead of a hundred others. Don’t promise a lot of interviews or briefings if you can’t deliver them. It’s always better to exceed expectations than fall short of them. If you have big news to share, pre-brief journalists to allow them to prepare their stories ahead of time.
The more you help them, the more they help you.
4. Conceive and create compelling content.
Events are an excellent way to disseminate relevant, interesting content to relevant, interested audiences.
If your speakers are giving great, engaging talks, try to extend their utility beyond the initial session. Ask for copies of each presentation, and turn them into blogs, white papers, position papers or eBooks. It’s worth capturing presentations on video, too. A professional recording can help with securing other speaker opportunities down the line.
Even an arcane technical paper can be transformed into something simple, digestible and full of PR value.
It’s also crucial to create compelling content on the day. Have someone on-site to populate social channels with news from the show, announcements, short videos of demos taking place on your stand and more.
5. Make a lasting impression.
Most exhibition organizers offer promotional or advertising opportunities as part of their event packages that run before, during and after the event. The bigger your exhibition partnership or package, the more promotional opportunities are at your disposal. These include, but are not limited to, editorial space in the tradeshow’s publication, logos on the official website and booth banners at the event.
Finally, the PR value of your trade show can be extended by providing a good, well-rounded booth experience with promotional items, food, attention-grabbing design, contests and giveaways. Visitors might not buy something from your company immediately, but if they remember you months later and not your competitors, you’re on to a winner.
Tom Farthing is the head of media relations at TopLine Comms.
2 Responses to “The PR benefits of trade shows”
Good question, Tom. I think most shows/events have pre-registered press lists you can ask for. Otherwise, I suppose you can home in on specific niche reporters and ask them if they’ll be attending.