Public Relations

Successful trade show public relations before, during, and after the event

By February 27, 2019 May 20th, 2019 No Comments

Trade showstrade show are a major source of media attention in the healthcare and technology industries, and often one of the biggest line items in a company’s budget. A targeted public relations strategy will help you make the most of your trade show investment.

From HIMSS and RSNA to regional and niche shows, we have helped clients use PR to generate media interest and attract booth traffic at critical industry events. Read our best tips for utilizing public relations before, during, and after trade shows, including our top 10 takeaways.

Join the conversation ahead of time

Research your target audience in the months leading up to the show. If you see opportunities to join conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn, or influencer blogs, go for it!

You’ll build relationships and generate great momentum before you get to the show. You’ll also have talking points when meeting editors and influencers face-to-face for the first time.

Build a great list

Trade show organizations should give all exhibitors access to a list of registered press contacts. Be sure to ask for it early and build a list of all press members you want to meet at the show. Start your outreach by telling editors what they can expect to see and learn from your company on the show floor and, of course, where they can find you. You should know your booth number by heart!

If you’re not an exhibitor, you can still schedule press meetings. You may not have access to the press list, but you can reach out to your main media targets and ask who will be attending the show.

When scheduling meetings, be sure to designate a specific meeting location and always exchange cell phone numbers in case you have trouble finding each other. Never ask a press member to leave the show floor to find you during show hours. Inviting an editor to meet outside the show floor for breakfast or dinner is a good way to extend the conversation and build a relationship.

Make it personal

Your outreach emails should at least have some semblance of a personal touch. That’s not to say you need to write a unique email to every editor. But you should, at a minimum, include information that is directly relevant to the recipient.

For key media targets, review editorial calendars so you can pitch a specific topic or story to fit their needs. You want to frame your story and personalize the pitch. Also, check the stories editors have written recently to familiarize yourself with their writing style and the topics they cover most frequently.

If you plan to include customers, users, or other partners in your meetings during the show, be sure to list the names, companies, affiliations, and titles in your email pitch. Most editors want your customers’ perspectives and appreciate the opportunity to ask questions on larger topics and get their reactions to recent industry or regulatory news.

Frame your story

When reaching out to members of the media, always frame your pitch in terms of a captivating new story. If the editor can identify your news as something relevant and intriguing to his or her audience, they are more likely to pick up your story or agree to an interview. Tie your company news or new product development to a trending industry topic to make your pitch relevant.

Prepare your materials

In the months leading up to the trade show, you should be thinking about how your press materials are going to fit together to tell your story. Identify your recent press releases, one-pagers, executive briefs, white papers, and other supporting materials that will be most effective in crafting your story for the media.

Always have printed materials with you on the show floor and a media relations section on your website where you can direct media members for more information. Major news distribution companies, like Business Wire, host online press rooms during events. Consider posting your news items, presentation schedule, and special events here. Using a designated press room or online feed puts your information in front of attending editors as well as those following the news released at the show.

Back up your claims

The media love numbers. Statistics and metrics make for great attention-grabbing headlines. You can apply as much marketing language and PR spin to your story as you want, but without hard facts, your claims are left to interpretation.

Simply having the metrics isn’t enough either. Inquisitive editors will want to know how your metrics were calculated, what population they cover, over what time period you collected the data, and more. Do your background research and always be prepared. If you miss your chance to wow the press at the show, you may not get another opportunity.

Draw the media into your booth

If possible, the best place to meet the media is in your booth. Once there, they can view your demo, talk to your team, touch and feel the product, and get a better sense of the company.

A great booth draw for the media is a chance to meet with your customers. Some customers will be more than willing to come to your booth for an hour or two to share their experiences. This is the perfect time to invite editors to stop by and ask questions.

If you have a pilot customer, take advantage of the new relationship by requesting joint marketing and promotion at your key trade shows in exchange for services.

Keep it concise

Understand that at some shows, media members are booked back-to-back-to-back with appointments and interviews. Respect their schedules and expect to have only 15 or 20 minutes with an editor. Make the most of this time by being prepared and delivering your information quickly and effectively.

Decide who can speak with the media and who is better in the background

Let’s face it: some people are naturals when it comes to speaking with the media, and some…are not. Of course, you can seek media training to prepare speakers for press relations, but that takes time. Before the show, you should identify your top choices for media interviews. Ideally, you will have three or more possible spokespeople available in the event that some team members are tied up with customers or multiple editors visit your booth at the same time.

Prepare your team

Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to media interviews. Always hold a debriefing session with your team before the show so everyone knows the main talking points and can practice on their own.

Prepare your team for the main media targets they will meet at the show with background on their areas of interest, and offer advice for interacting with other members of the media they are likely to encounter.

Follow up!

If you haven’t done so already, follow your media targets on relevant social media channels. Send a follow-up email a few days after the show offering your availability and more information. Timing is key here. You don’t want to bombard editors just after the show while they are decompressing and traveling. But you also don’t want to wait too long as they may move on to other pressing items.

Watch for news coverage. When it appears, always thank the editor! Alert your spokesperson to thank them as well. As a courtesy, inform the editor that you will be including a link to the story from your website.

If the story is unflattering or incorrect, politely request a correction or provide additional information. Most editors want their work to be informative and accurate. If you disagree with an editor’s characterization or opinion, work to understand why or how they arrived at their opinion so you can make adjustments for future interactions.

Sometimes, through diligent follow-up, an editor will offer additional coverage. Remember, you’re constantly building ongoing relationships with editors.

Recap: Top 10 trade show PR takeaways

  1. Join the conversation online before the event.
  2. Know your audience.
  3. Schedule appointments ahead of time and exchange cell phone numbers.
  4. Make all of your press communications personal and helpful.
  5. Frame your story to fit the editor’s needs.
  6. Anticipate the press’ questions and have answers ready.
  7. Back up your claims with data, back up your data with calculations, back up your calculations with methods, and so on.
  8. Bring breath mints and use them.
  9. Prepare your team to speak with the media.
  10. Follow up promptly and watch for coverage.

Are you preparing for a trade show?

We understand how much preparation this requires. We can get your PR strategy on track.

Chris Slocumb

Author Chris Slocumb

Chris is the founder and president of Clarity Quest Marketing, where she leads a talented group of marketers and designers helping healthcare and technology companies achieve marketing and business goals. To learn more about Chris' experiences and qualifications, visit our leadership team page.

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