Trade shows, conventions, and conferences are very valuable opportunities to increase your brand awareness with the news outlets that cover your technologies and products. In our ever increasingly digital world, it is a rare and valuable experience to meet some of these editorial contacts face to face, shake their hands, and actually develop a personal relationship with them.
Many tech startups and ongoing manufacturers recognize the value of meeting with the trade press at an event but have no idea how to set up and conduct meetings that result in positive coverage. However, it is not a big secret.
Figure out what you want to talk to discuss
Do you have a new product or technology you are showing off or demonstrating at the event? Are you new to this space and want the news media to know you exist? You need to have a message. If an editor shows up at your booth, and you have nothing to discuss, you are dead meat. Many editors have assignments to come up with stories for these events. They don't want to waste their time spending a half-hour or hour talking with you and walking away with no news. You need to make it worth their time.
Create a press release that announces your product or technology, and have images or pictures to go along with it. Have someone at the booth for them to talk to — preferably someone who knows the product or technology and can be quoted. Editors know how to read. They need you to add more information than what is presented in the press release. The news needs to be sweetened with some unique extra information for the editor/reporter to add to the story.
To go along with the press release, I always prefer to have a printed PDF presentation (10 pages maximum) offering a little background about the company and information about the new product or technology. Make it clear what problem you are solving. Include the product's features and capabilities, and maybe some tech specs.
Maybe I am old fashioned — old school — but I always have printed copies to which my experts can refer. In my experience, it is easier to walk people through a paper printout than to get them to follow you on a laptop screen, especially in a crowded exhibit space or meeting room. Plus, some editors still like paper. They will take the paper presentation and make notes on it to use later when they are writing up an article. If not, you can always email them the digital presentation.
Invite the right reporters
Most big shows create and maintain a list of attending news media members. If you are paying to participate in the show, you are usually allowed access to this list. In addition, many shows will create a press room or meeting areas where you can conduct meetings in relative comfort. These areas are usually reserved for the official paid exhibitors. If you not an official exhibitor, you can still find a way to make this happen. If some of your partner companies or friendly customers are official exhibitors, you can beg or borrow the list, contact the editors, and invite them to meet with you off the show floor in a nearby public area.
However, whether you are there in an official capacity or not, you should not rely solely on the show's list to come up with potential press members to brief. Many top editors and reporters don't put themselves on the list, or if they do, they wait until the last moment or don't even include their contact information. It is good to maintain your own PR list of editors and reporters who cover your organization's technology and then pitch them early, asking if they are going to this event and would like to meet with you.
By getting an early start on invitations, you get a great opportunity to sit down and meet with the important press people, who always get totally booked up by the other vendors and manufacturers attending the show.
There you have it — how to prepare for the show and find the right press people to invite.
And, of course, make sure you and your team are on time and are not overbooked. Too often, high-level sales and marketing execs think it is more important to meet with a customer or prospect than it is to honor a press meeting. That lack of respect is the kiss of death. Not only should your executives show up on time, but they should also be prepared. They should know what messages they want to convey, and they should have background information about the editor and the publication.
These show meetings are a great opportunity to pitch bylined articles.
I always reserve five minutes at the end to discuss how the organization and the publication can work together better. In our tech industry, most publications are open to running free, quality content, and most organizations need free promotion of their products and technologies. These trade show meetings can help facilitate this and make it a win-win for everyone. The editor walks away with a story and several potential bylined articles for upcoming issues. Your organization gets spotlighted in the trade press and has the opportunity to contribute a few company-written articles. Everyone benefits.