PR101: Tradeshows = Publicity

by David Dean Menzies

If you are a business owner or a senior executive at an organization or company with something to sell, you more than likely have considered tradeshows as a tool for generating leads, increasing brand awareness, and engaging in meaningful relationship building. Respected industry voices agree there is value in these events to reach target audiences; for example, 78 percent of tradeshow attendees travel more than 400 miles to attend events, ensuring a national audience, and 81 percent of tradeshow attendees actually have authority to make purchases at shows. According to the Trade Show News Network, the top five tradeshows in the U.S. (based on a combination of factors) in 2015 varied widely with regard to industry focus. At number five they have something called the Specialty Equipment Market Association or SEMA, the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world held in Las Vegas; number four is the International Construction and Utility Equipment Association Demo Expo in Louisville; the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market January show in Atlanta grabs the bronze medal, while the organization's annual sister event in July grabs the silver; and at number one is the well-known Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Although the subject matter differs at each of these shows, there is one commonality: massive attendance. I mean, H-U-G-E huge: CES draws 109,507 attendees and 3,631 exhibitors, while even the number five event, SEMA, attracts 2,400 exhibitors and 159,700 attendees. If you’ve taken the important step of participating in one of these mega shows, or even a smaller regional or industry trade show to build your company profile, you have the opportunity to leverage your hard work and noteworthy participation by building a proactive PR plan to get yourself in front of prospects. The best part is, it’s not hard and it’s not expensive.

Find out who is covering the event
Email or call conference management to get a comprehensive media list of relevant online and print publications, radio and TV outlets, and industry experts who registered and showed-up for the show. Make sure the list includes reporters’ names and contact information.

Develop a basic press kit
This includes a one-sided, one-page company background with your mission statement, company history, and bios/photos of key leadership; a product sheet with details on your products/services, including awards, press coverage and sales figures; and a cover letter describing why you attended the conference and who media should contact to get more info. If you have a recent press release, include that as well. This should take no more than four hours tops to pull together.

Publish your press kit
Post an electronic version online, ideally in a downloadable .pdf (Adobe Acrobat) form with a summary above the hot link. Email several copies of your press kit to key media from the aforementioned media list, and keep hard copies on hand to mail or fax upon request.

Email and call all event media contacts
Offer yourself as a resource about your industry or the event itself, clearly explaining what your company does in a concise, informative manner. Provide details on other conferences you have attended in the past six months and which ones you will be attending in the future. If you have a new product/service you have unveiled at the event or soon after, be sure to mention it.

Email leaders from workshops and panel discussions
Using a list from conference management or official show brochure, contact panelists and presenters, identifying yourself and your company and explaining briefly what it is you do. Explain that you participated in the show, and want to be sure they were aware of your products or services and areas of expertise that you’re available to offer insight into.

Draft a post-event press release on your company’s participation
Describe some of the topics covered during workshops that were held at the event which were relevant to your company, and highlight what products and services your company was exhibiting. Distribute the release to any reporters from the event (the media list you secured from show management). Be sure to post a copy of your press release on your website. Repurpose the content into a “state-of-the-industry” report to showcase your thought leadership; distribute this content in a customer newsletter and record it as a podcast (which can generate a press release of its own).

Track post-event coverage
Based on your list of media outlets covering the event, monitor websites and print publications that may include articles on the trade show/conference. Search for mention of competitors to find possible differentiators to market to prospects and customers, and identify key themes in articles that relate to your specific field of expertise. Contact the bylined authors of these articles with a comment about the piece and a line about your company’s focus, along with a link to your website and offer to answer any questions he/she may have. If your company is included in this coverage, craft messaging and produce marketing materials related to the article and publication and get them to your target audience(s) as soon as possible, and be sure to place a link on your website to an online version of the article (get permission first from the media outlet).

David Menzies 919-274-6862 Editor