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Getting the best media engagement from a trade show

What you need to know

Industry events are often great for business for several reasons, including: networking, face-to-face conversations with potential customers, being able to show and demonstrate your goods and services, and potential sale leads. 

However, exhibitors can also make great use of trade shows to build their relationships with key media, as these events usually attract attendance from many journalists and industry publications.

With 95% of people preferring face-to-face events over virtual, particularly after the pandemic - it’s a fantastic opportunity to entice media to your stand, introduce your company and ensure you make a good impression to kick-start an ongoing relationship.

The more memorable you are, the more likely the media are going to pick up and cover your stories - not just from what you are doing at the show - but also going into the future. It’s a win-win. 

Naturally at larger shows you’re competing with many other show exhibitors for journalist’s attention and time. So, in this piece we’ll explore what to do before, during, and after events to make sure you make yourselves a ‘must visit’ stand, company and contact for press. 

Here are seven top tips to get key media interested in your business and for it to stay that way! 

  1. Decide on your messaging - an extremely crucial point to start with. Decide on your key messaging for the event, not just around what you are doing on the stand for customers and prospects, but also around how you want to be perceived by the media. Positioning your company as an expert, and your spokespeople as thought leader perhaps - and on what aspects exactly? What topics and subject areas do you want the media to think of you for? Think about what innovations or services you are launching. Remember to consider how you will verify and substantiate your positioning and claims too, as media can of course be challenging and you don’t want to be caught short.   
  2. Set some objectives on what you expect to achieve with the media. Identify the key media attending who you wish to connect with and make sure you are targeting the correct media, most relevant to your message. Often show organisers have lists of press attendees. Be sure you understand the kind of topics and content approach per title too, so you can plan how to position news about what you have coming up at the show most applicably for each media title. Consider whether these media contacts already know you or not. Do you need to approach different titles in different ways? Think about what’s realistic to expect in terms of successful numbers of media engagements? Maybe two or three will give you a good start - or if you are showing something very topical 10 to 20 perhaps? This of course also depends on the industry and the number of key media players with an interest in your field. 
  3. Start planning as early as possible. We’ve all heard of fail to plan, plan to fail. When it comes to live events, planning is vital and the earlier the better. Find out what the show organisers can offer to help you get in front of the media. For example you may be able to sponsor the press centre and fill it full of branded gifts. Ask about what rooms or facilities are available and consider what your business can do to impress the media. Also consider how else you can improve your exposure - press launch events, media only demos, on stand briefings, one-to-one interviews with spokespeople.

    Once you have this planned, you should start discussions with the media well in advance of the show. Draft a preview release about what you have on show and invite them to see your stand. You can then follow this up, letting them know why it’s of interest to their publication and readers. Tell them about any special opportunities you can set up for them - interviews, demos, early access, etc. The early birds catch the worm, get times in their diaries for the days of the event, the sooner the better before they are already booked up!

    Pre-event telephone interviews or meetings can also be offered telephone briefings or meetings to give them advance information - which can even be placed under embargo until the show. It’s then quicker and easier for them to get something written and out during the event, meaning they can be one of the first to break a story - which they’ll like, so it’ll make you more memorable too.
  4. Spokespeople: Consider which people from the business will be the right spokesperson for each title or topic area - e.g. some may cover detailed technology - so you’ll need one of your leading specialists to talk to the journalist about this. Other press will want the more general understanding of the company story so you may front your CEO, or both. Plan for a few different spokespeople to handle the media interviews. This is useful in case something crops up meaning the original spokesperson is unable to take the interview. Another important thing to consider when choosing spokespeople is if they are media trained. This is vital for spokespeople to know how to communicate key messages and be sure they know what not to say in front of journalists! Once you’ve decided on your spokespeople get their details event portal ASAP - as this is a go-to resource for journalists to plan their time at the event.
  5. Prepare media packs - these are a great way to give key information easily in once place to the journalists. These usually include press releases, images and videos or more a detailed thought leadership feature. It’s a brilliant way to let journalists know about your business by including the company history, key biographies, any timeline of events happening in the business or specific product releases. Press packs are usually also given in the form of a (branded) USB device and this is often where extra merchandise gifts come in handy too. Press packs can be sent to journalists unable to attend the event too, allowing your press coverage to go further than just the media present at trade event. 
  6. Work it at the show! It goes without saying. This is where all your advance planning comes to fruition, but only with continued effort every day of the event! Make best use of the media centre. All large events have a special area designated for the media to use and work from as a base. Exhibitors can usually access this area to leave their press packs for the media. Get creative here to maximise your impact. How about leaving that previously mentioned branded merchandise for the press here to gain awareness and interest. Could you have interesting photo opportunities set up here perhaps?  Be sure to check into the media centre regularly to catch journalists and encourage them to visit your stand!  

    Throughout the show, look out for anyone who could be a journalist near the stand and direct them to the right person for interview. You need to ensure the business is always presenting itself in a positive light - remember anything can be made into a story, so let’s make sure it’s a good one.  
    Any prearranged media interviews will need to be chased. Keep in touch with journalists in the run up to the show and ensure to remind them on the day in case they need to delay or rearrange. Keep track of all your interviews, so nothing starts to overlap if people are late, or so that it doesn’t interrupt any other communications or demonstrations on your stand. 

    Another useful tip for photos and video opportunities which may be useful for your social media is to use any event handles or hashtags to help gain more people at the stand and get yourselves seen by attending press and guests. Plus, you can add this extra footage and imagery to your press packs.  
  7. After the show - The show may be over, but the hard work isn’t. Hopefully you’ve had a successful event, with many press contacts being impressed, having released a story about your business and built a relationship with you. Now come the next steps: firstly, keep in contact with the press contacts you made, to secure any other coverage discussed and follow up to discuss future editorial opportunities with them. Similarly, reach out to press contacts you weren’t able to meet at the show, share your press pack content with them, and begin a relationship with them too, as you never know how important they will be as contacts in the future.

    Finally, monitor for any coverage that you got from the show. Events can be busy so keeping track of your success in one place is very helpful. This leads to our final after show tip; create a PR and press event report, to compile all the previously mentioned coverage into a document you can keep updating to see your overall success and share with the rest of the business. This should also include what did and didn’t work well at the event ensuring you can build an ever-better strategic plan for next time.

So those were our seven tips to get the best media engagement from a tradeshow. We know industry events can be hugely beneficial for business, especially in a post-pandemic era when people have a new zest for socialising, networking, and showing off their business.

From building customer relationships, business leads, brand awareness to making new media contacts, events serve multiple purposes. This is why it’s crucial to plan early, prepare objectives and think ahead - and don’t forget the press relationship opportunity prior, during, and after the trade show! Just remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail…  

Would you like a media relations plan for your upcoming tradeshow? Get in touch by contacting to see how we can help you

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