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Making Trade Show PR a Success

Frank Krolicki

CES 2010
CES 2010

With major trade shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) show either underway or just passed, many PR professionals have been working to arrange media opportunities for clients going to these events. While setting up press meetings and news coverage surrounding trade shows calls for many of the same methods you might use in day-to-day pitching, it’s definitely a unique process that calls for special planning and execution. Here are a few important things to remember when setting out to promote clients who are attending or exhibiting at trade shows:

Get the event media list – Most trade shows have communications coordinators that can supply exhibitors with a contact list of all media coming to the event. It’s crucial to track down this list because without it you probably won’t know where to start with your outreach. If you or your firm aren't registered for the event, make sure the client who is attending requests it and passes it along to you. It’s a good idea to get this list as early as possible so you can contact members of the media while their schedules are still relatively open, but you should also request an up-to-date version of the list the week of the event, as contacts are oftentimes added last-minute.

Keep an organized schedule – Trade shows can be complete chaos, so anything you can do to be prepared and organized beforehand will definitely help. This includes creating a calendar schedule that includes all the media appointments set up for every day of the show. This document should include names, media outlets, meeting times, contact information and planned topics of discussion. Make sure both you and anyone in your client's organization who might speak to the media keeps a copy on hand. When arranging media appointments for a client at CES in the past, I found this to help tremendously.

Ask for on-site contact numbers – Any PR pro who has worked to arrange media interviews for trade shows can tell you that even if people schedule interviews for a specific time, that doesn’t mean they’ll show up. Trade shows tend to be hectic and it’s easy for people to forget about appointments or get tied up somewhere else. That’s why it’s so important to trade on-site contact numbers with any members of the media you’ve scheduled to speak to your client. If you’re attending the event with your client, trade your number with the reporter so you can stay on top of things. If your client’s going on their own, make sure they have a list of their appointments that includes the contacts’ cell phone numbers, and also that the contacts have your clients’ numbers.

Follow-up after the show – The media typically talk to so many people during trade shows that it can be hard for them to remember everything when it’s over. For this reason, it’s very important to follow-up with them within a few days after the event to ask if they need any additional information. This also provides a good opportunity to convey any information you or your client wanted to get across during the show, but didn’t.

Be flexible and expect the unexpected – When it comes to trade show PR, nothing is certain. You can arrange plenty of media interviews before the event and be as organized as possible, but when it comes down to it you probably won’t be able to control the way things go to the extent that you’d like. It’s critical that both you and your client are aware of this so that your expectations are realistic before, during and after the event. It’s likely that some of the interviews you scheduled beforehand won’t happen, but also that members of the media will stop by unplanned, having read or heard your pitch without committing to a specific meeting time. The most important thing is that you are as prepared as possible throughout all stages of the event, including planning, execution and follow-up.