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Trade Shows: Don’t Forget the PR

June 24, 2019 Amy Stevens

Trade shows represent a big investment in time and money, especially ones that require cross-country travel and elaborate booths with large amounts of product shipments for display. And if the booth has digital technology, making sure it will work on-site is another task on an already very long checklist. Ever tried accessing wifi at a big exhibit hall?

With all of the effort involved, it’s easy to leave media relations out of the mix. But while trade shows only last a few days, news content can live online indefinitely. Here are three tips to make sure that you get the most media attention from your trade show participation:


1. Why stop by?

What’s the point of having a booth at a trade show if no one has a reason to seek you out? Some trade shows are massive affairs that take over some of the biggest venues in the world. Ever been to the International Builders’ Show (IBS) at the Las Vegas Convention Center? That show was huge even before it joined the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). In fact, earlier this year it attracted more than 100,000 attendees! Talk about sensory overload.

Figure out what will make your booth a destination. New products are always the number one reason, but even if you don’t have a flashy new gizmo to show off, you can draw interest through games and giveaways. Or, how about scheduling thought leadership sessions by one of your technical experts? Or, if your budget is higher, how about a celebrity appearance? For example, one year a client created a climbing wall out of their newest drywall product. They even had a celebrity contractor make his way up the wall to prove it’s strength. You can imagine that that attracted quite a crowd of journalists and attendees alike.

Large trade show organizers also have a media list of journalists who have signed up to attend and cover the show. Request this contact list as early as possible. It’s usually available to exhibitors about six to eight weeks prior to the event. Reach out to reporters on the list  and secure an appointment for them to visit your booth and speak with an expert at your company who is relevant to their regular industry beat. Ideally, you will recognize most of the media outlets and contacts and be able to leverage your relationship and ask for the appointment even before the media list is posted. The earlier the better, as calendars can get filled up fast!


2. Prepare and package

Make your reason (or multiple reasons) for the media to stop by your booth the basis for a press release announcing your company’s attendance at the trade show. This should be distributed a few days to a week before the show to all journalists on the show media list, as well as your regular list of trade industry contacts. Even if a journalist is not attending the show, they will most likely be interested in knowing any newsworthy information, regardless of whether they intend on writing anything about the event itself.  

Be sure to include that press release in your show press kit. These are invaluable to journalists, as it saves them the trouble of taking lots of notes and assures that they have all the files at their fingertips when they get back to the office. In the olden days, these used to be elaborate binders with printouts of press releases, product fact sheet and photos. In today’s world, having all of this information on a flash or jump drive emblazoned with your company name works best. Some trade shows also have virtual press rooms on the event website, where you can upload your press release and a few more relevant files. However, they are usually limited in file size and number of files, so it’s always best to bring to the show several press kit flash drives to hand out at the booth and leave at the trade show press room, as well. Ideally the kit will include fact sheets about all the products on display, recent press releases, as well as any other information of importance. High resolution photos are also key, in case the journalist decides to use your news item in a printed edition of their story.


3. Guide the conversation

During the show, if possible, designate one or two people to be the main contact for journalists who visit your booth. Ideally, media visits will be by appointment, but many will choose to stop by at their convenience when they are in your area of the exhibit hall. Have designated subject matter experts at the ready to answer any technical questions. A journalist might also want to conduct an interview, shoot a short video or take photos for social media or other upcoming content. The media contact person should also be well versed in the journalist’s media outlet, so she can give them a tour of the booth and highlight products or other information that matters to their readership. Provide the press kit flash drive before they leave the booth, and give them your business card for any follow-up questions.

If there are times with slow foot traffic, beef up your social media efforts. Most shows now have a designated hashtag, so be sure to use it! Post photos of interesting aspects of the booth, new products or people chatting to salespeople. Be creative! Use the video and/or boomerang function if you have something at the booth that warrants it like a throwing game for prizes or spinning wheel. You can imagine that aforementioned climbing wall went viral on Twitter! And don’t forget to remind attendees why they should visit your booth (and always include your booth number!)

After the show, don’t forget to follow up with the reporters that stopped by the booth to see if there is anything else they may need. You can also now ask when they expect to use the information provided about your company.

Whether the show is large or small, it’s always best to use any and all the tools to get the most exposure for your company. Looking for more tips on exhibitor success? Learn more here. And if you’d like to outsource the duties mentioned above, we’d be happy to help!  Contact us.

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