Public Relations

Seven Ways to Maximize PR at Trade Shows

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Love them or hate them, trade shows, industry events and conferences are an integral part of marketing and communications strategies. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the overall investment associated with event attendance, sponsorships, travel, and of course, corporate swag, perhaps more important is considering how to get the best return on this investment. 

One way is to think of trade shows as an opportunity not just to sell, but to get the media’s attention, too.

Having attended our fair share of events and trade shows over the past 15 years, we know this can sound like an enormous undertaking considering the sheer volume of companies (and competitors) that stake out their spots at these events—especially when it comes to the Tech, Fintech, Retail and Climate Tech industries.

But with proper planning and an experienced partner to execute on their trade show ambitions, companies can break through the noise before even stepping foot on the show floor. 

Here are seven proven ways to use PR to maximize brand exposure before, during and after trade shows, conferences and events. 

Pre-event PR Planning: Build Anticipation

Many companies are surprised to learn that media begin planning their trade show schedules weeks before the events actually take place. By the time the show rolls around, it will likely be too late to score a scheduled meeting with journalists, analysts or influencers, which is why it’s critical to begin executing on a trade show PR strategy well in advance of the event. Here’s how: 

1. Promote your attendance in advance. 

According to our friend Paul Lewis over at RETHINK Retail, “Companies often spend over six figures to attend a single trade show but either forget or are simply unaware of the need to spend marketing dollars to promote their attendance.” 

Trade show PR strategies can include a variety of communications tactics for letting key audiences know about companies’ trade show attendance—and giving them enough time to act on that knowledge. These tactics can include press releases, media pitches, emails to prospects, or social media collateral depending on the company and its needs.

2. Connect with media before the show.

Working with a PR partner on a trade show strategy gives companies a direct line of communication to the journalists and other key attendees that will be at the event. And not only do companies get insight into who the journalists are and what their meeting availability looks like, but PR experts can also provide important background information on the journalists and what they might hope to cover in a discussion.

And if journalists’ time slots are already filled, trade show PR strategies can also include a plan to offer follow up conversations after the event.

On-site Engagement Tactics: Capture Attention

Companies don’t need to have an executive headlining the keynote session at a trade show to capture public attention (although, it doesn’t hurt to keep tabs on the trade shows you want to be a part of and submit to speak whenever possible). 

To make a splash regardless of their event participation level, trade show PR strategies should include a variety of on-site engagement tactics that go beyond reserving a booth and passing out freebies.

3. Launch something new.

It’s one thing to tell the world that you’re attending an event. But it’s far more valuable to show the world why they should care. 

Is there a new product you’ve been waiting to announce? Have a new partnership that will bring new capabilities to customers? Entering a new market? Trade shows can provide the timely hook that companies need to make their news relevant to larger happenings in their industry.

Identify what’s newsworthy in your business at the time of the trade show—even if it’s not completely new—and communicate it through PR to shape both media and business conversations at the show. 

4. Transform your sales pitch into a story. 

Most companies likely already have a trade show ‘elevator pitch’ for their sales team to share with anyone and everyone that they meet during an event. This pitch is beneficial for PR, too, with a few adjustments…

Instead of positioning your company through the lens of features and functions that other companies might be focusing on, too (we’re looking at you, AI) spur people’s imaginations by painting a tangible picture of the potential of those features and functions.

Some questions to ask to build out this story:

What value does your product create for users? How will it make lives easier or better? How does it tie into conversations your audience is engaged with right now?

By communicating this way, companies will be both more relevant and more memorable to the audiences they need to get in front of to have the biggest ROI on their trade show investments.

5. Host an event.

When companies think of trade show events, they often think only of the events that take place on the show floor or through the event organizers. But once the day has wrapped, attendees are often looking for an afterparty. 

Nothing brings people together like free food and drinks. Host a cocktail hour or dinner after the show to offer media, customers and prospects another way to connect with your brand off the tradeshow floor. It’s this more casual atmosphere (and the flowing drinks) that will help to build relationships beyond just business.

Post-event Follow-up: Sustain Momentum

Once you’ve made your presence known, use the weeks following a trade show or event to remind your target audiences why you matter. Just like your sales team will be using this time to follow up with prospects and other hot leads from the event, media and other connections made through PR should be treated the same way.

And while trade show follow ups can be handled by a PR partner, it’s also a great time to provide executives with an opportunity to reach out directly to any individuals that they established a meaningful relationship with at the event. 

6. Offer follow up conversations to key attendees that you didn’t get to meet with. 

Especially for journalists whose schedules were too busy to coordinate an on-site meeting during a trade show, the days immediately following the event are a good time to offer a follow up conversation. 

Provide them with a glimpse into the insights that your company’s spokespeople can share on important news or trends that were revealed at the show, or offer them an opportunity for an exclusive look at any product launches from your company that they may have missed. 

With the show behind you, post-event follow ups are also a good time to hint at upcoming news for forward-looking perspectives from your company.

7. Take the show on the road.

Compared to the entire media landscape, only a small percentage of journalists actually attend trade shows and conferences. This means that there is an opportunity for companies to get in front of additional media who may be interested in the news or stories you prepared for an event, but weren’t actually able to attend. 

To get additional eyes on the materials that likely took months to prepare, companies can consider taking their trade show presence on a post-event ‘roadshow’ via their own communications channels. 

Package any news, announcements, insights or other event materials into content that can be shared across email, social media and other platforms in the week or two immediately following a trade show to show external audiences what they may have missed—but can still take advantage of. 

While they can certainly be a lot of work, trade shows create opportunities for meaningful, in-person connections that other PR channels do not. 

Still not sure where to start? Get in touch and we’ll not only point your company in the right direction of the trade shows, conferences and events that will provide the biggest value to your business, but help you maximize your presence while you’re there. 

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