It's How You Play the Game:
Hitting a Home-Run With Your Trade Show Media Relations Strategy

Kathy Burnham, Senior Vice President and leader of the
PSB Manufacturing practice

Does your company play its trade show media relations like pros, or are you still playing in the minor leagues? Trade shows offer a tremendous opportunity to develop relationships with the trade media that speak directly to your target audiences and to get your people, products and offerings in front of the people who matter most to your success. But it’s not just as simple as just showing up. No matter what your size or budget, with a few simple suggestions, you can be playing in the big league in no time.

Keep On Your Eye On The Ball — Every trade show tactic should build toward your overall goal: to increase your company’s visibility. Trade shows offer a great opportunity to make an announcement or preview products. But they provide an even greater opportunity: to create and build relationships with the journalists that cover your company and industry. A product announcement might result in a one-time story. A relationship with a reporter can produce ongoing coverage. That’s why trade shows only provide long-term effectiveness when they are part of a larger media relationship building campaign.

Use trade show face time with the editors to listen and learn what they (and their readers) are interested in learning about, discuss story ideas and editorial openings and provide background information. Keep in mind that the real ROI will only begin when you get back to your desk and begin to capitalize on the relationships you’ve cultivated at the show.

It’s Only One Game, Not the Whole Season— Each trade show is one play in your overarching media relations strategy. Proceed with that in mind, and you’ll keep your priorities straight and your goals at the forefront.

At each trade show, select a few media representatives that you would like to build your relationships with and tailor your campaign to them. Cross reference your target media list with that of the show organizer; contact the show to find out what media have attended the show in the past or have already pre-registered. Then, find ways to help those media representatives achieve their goals. The media attend trade shows to discover new, exciting story ideas, so help them out. Look for opportunities for unique editor experiences such connecting a journalist with a customer, inviting them to your customer hospitality event, holding a one-on-one breakfast briefing with your engineering team or giving them a “behind the scenes preview” of technology in development. You’ll find that reporters and editors appreciate and remember your helpfulness.

Prepare Your Lineup — Tailoring your media campaign means having the right spokespeople available for each media representative. Many companies make the mistake of having one general spokesperson who is good for most publications, but great for very few. A financial magazine might be best served by the CFO, while a technical publication might want to speak with your lead engineer. It is also important that personnel working the booth are aware of the media relations strategy as well as the key messages for the show. Prepare salespeople to guide journalists to the appropriate spokesperson when they visit your booth.

Secure Home Field Advantage — Take time to learn about what resources the show organizers are making available to media and exhibitors.  Take full advantage of the resources available:

  • Pressroom — Introduce yourself to the pressroom staff; let them know what is noteworthy going on in your booth so they can alert journalists to it.

  • Sponsorships — Look for opportunities to create “show floor buzz” about your company through signage and sponsorships

  • Show daily — Contact the publisher early with news about your company, offer a preview of new products or a Q&A with your CEO

Above all, don’t just let the reporters find you — find them; during downtime walk the show floor and look for media representatives (often identified by a press ribbon) and be prepared to tell them what’s new at the show for your company.

Take an Early Lead —Make contact with your selected media representatives four to six weeks prior to the show, and continue to follow up with them until you have a response. If you wait until the week prior to the show, chances are your top picks already will be booked.

Play as a Team — Media representatives are one audience in a larger trade show campaign that also reaches out to customers and prospects. Involve your media relations team early in the planning process. Determine which tasks are appropriate to be handled internally, and what can best be handled by your PR agency. Working together will cultivate a cohesive campaign and avoid costly overlap.

Keep it Conversational — Relationships are built on two-way conversations. Still, many companies make the mistake of using the trade show media appointment to update media professionals with PowerPoint lectures and other presentations that fade into the sea of noise after the event. Make the most of a rare face-to-face opportunity by encouraging an interactive dialogue with the editors. Ask them questions about upcoming projects and interests. Let them know how your company news might align with their goals.

Have a Good Closer — Many trade show opportunities are wasted because of a failure to follow up. Have a follow up plan–and use it. Make sure your booth staff is equipped with a follow-up contact – internally or at your PR agency – who can be contacted with requests and information. A simple act of passing along a fact sheet can do wonders for building a relationship; conversely, failure to follow up can take the steam out of a new relationship.

And finally, whatever your resources, a winning trade show media relations campaign starts with two simple rules: wear comfortable shoes and bring more business cards than you think you’ll need!

About the author: As an account manager in the PSB manufacturing practice, Eva oversees business-to-business marketing communications programs that help companies build their brands and reputations. Eva is instrumental in the planning, execution and evaluation of trade media relations campaigns for her clients. Eva can be contacted at (612) 455-1774 and [email protected].

More Articles

Crafting Customer-Centric Copy

Marketing With White Papers: Basics for Success

The Elevator Story: In Four Floors ...
Extending Your Advertising Through Public Relations
Using Bylined Articles to Demonstrate Expertise