August 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 2003 Current Issue
August 2003 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Jeffrey E. Barnhart


How to draw the media’s attention, adding value for exhibitors

Public relations can be a powerful promotional tool, but too often, trade show planners fail to take full advantage of this opportunity. Conferences and exhibits not only attract current and potential clients; they typically draw a large pool of media representatives from industry trade publications and the local press.

Conducting public relations activities during a major industry trade show is a cost-effective way for exhibitors to speak with members of the press face-to-face, build strong relationships and gain substantial media coverage for the company and its products especially when the firm has some real news to announce.

Trade show organizers should take the initiative to encourage maximum media coverage. The challenge is to catch the attention of busy writers and editors who walk miles of aisles in search of hot new companies and the latest product introductions. Consider the following methods for boosting media exposure.

If the organization does not have a PR coordinator, assign someone to head up this task, or consider hiring a PR firm to handle all publicity and press activities for the show.

With a minimum lead time of one month prior to the event, the PR contact should invite all relevant media to the show, offering complimentary press registration. Other tasks of the PR person include the following.

  • Several weeks prior to the event, compile a list of registered press members. Share this list with exhibitors, and let them know the procedure for scheduling press conferences or interviews.
  • Establish and communicate press-room policies, such as where to send press materials or press releases and how many should be provided.
  • Discuss with organization leaders the most pressing content to be released during a press conference at the event. Prepare a media alert announcing the date and place of the press event, and let the media know key people in the organization will be on hand for interviews. Issue this alert via e-mail approximately two weeks prior to the show and again a few days before the event. Be sure to include the relevant booth number or room.
  • Follow up via e-mail or telephone to schedule individual on-site interviews or to find out what stories reporters are working on.
    During the show, the PR representative should be responsible for the following.

  • Upon arrival, check the press room to ensure PR kits have been received and displayed. Visit the room periodically to see if the kits need to be restocked.
  • If possible, set aside a small area on the exhibit floor specifically for brief meetings with journalists who might stop by during the show. Let exhibitors know this space exists, and encourage them to have a top executive, along with a member of their PR staff, available to speak with press on an impromptu basis.
  • To ease the burden of traveling with stacks of promotional materials, offer to mail press kits to journalists’ offices after the show. Be sure to get their business cards and update press files for future communications.
    Call all the members of the media who attended to see if there is any additional information you can provide, such as photos from the event, final registration numbers or post-show quotes from top management.

    Also, call or e-mail those members of the media who were invited but did not attend. Perhaps they were interested but had a schedule conflict. They just might report your news anyway.

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