Public Relations

Make the Most of Trade Events for Media Relations

By Caitlin New

Rows upon rows of exhibition booths, new carpet smell, and a constant buzz of conversations among industry peers is a scene we marketers know all too well. Done the right way, trade events can help you grow your business network, forge relationships, and — the holy earned grail — get in front of media. 

To make the most of your time at trade events for media relations and rise above the chatter of the show floor, you need to go in with a prepared strategy, targeted journalists to chat with, and an openness to adjust your plans as conversations evolve. Here’s what you can do to put your best, preferably comfortable-shoed, foot forward.

Focus on Your Relationship With Journalists

It’s a sad fact that the media industry has undergone significant difficulties in recent years. With tighter budgets, smaller staffs, and increased competition from old and new media, reporters are having to get savvy about which trade events they attend and who they talk to.  

First, they must convince their editors it’s worth sending them to a trade show because the reporting value will be there. In doing so, the reporter already knows what their coverage focus will be and which attendees they hope to interview. And they feel pressure to deliver on the value they promise.  

You can use this to your advantage by meeting the journalists where they are. Expect that reporters will have seen the subject line “Meet at Show ABC?” and the opening line “I noticed you were attending Show ABC and I wanted to see if you’d like to meet with YET ANOTHER VENDOR” at least a few hundred times if you’re reaching out early. 

Instead, ask journalists what they are looking to get out of the event. Find out their reporting goals and offer your spokespeople as a source to help them out. It’s a strategy that flips the script of pitching but becomes the most mutually beneficial when a show rolls around. Journalists need to deliver for their editors, and you need to earn coverage: it’s a win-win. 

Reconsider Making Major Announcements At Trade Shows

Everyone makes announcements at tradeshows. Everyone. While sharing your news with an interested audience already at your disposal makes sense, it’s important to remember that your competitors are most likely thinking similarly. The last thing you want is for your big announcement to get lost in the shuffle of a trade show. 

There’s always the option to open your pocketbooks and pay for sponsored speaking opportunities, luncheons, or main stage events that basically guarantee you’ll have a spotlight on your announcement. You’ll likely earn the coverage you want, but if you would rather save your cash, consider different avenues for your announcements. You can announce directly before the event, give journalists at the show early access to your news, or even announce after the event buzz has died down.

Research and Prepare Storylines

When it comes to the messages and storylines you tell at trade events, they can’t be all about you. Instead, show you fit somewhere relevant in the broader conversation. Creating a focused, but flexible, strategy will help you rise above the noise. 

Here are a few ways to anticipate broader conversations at events: 

  • Look at event agendas — Every event has a theme and keynote speakers that set the stage for the rest of the show. By taking a look at the pre-released event agenda, you can make assumptions about top conversations that are likely to happen based on the speakers and topics.  
  • Analyze coverage trends — Use media coverage analysis tools to explore how and how much people are talking about the event. Look at all the coverage related to last year’s event and identify keywords and topics to get an idea of how reporters will cover an upcoming event.  
  • Listen to social conversations — There are always online conversations happening simultaneously with in-person conversations at events. In your preparation, don’t neglect social media analysis. By searching news and journalist accounts and hashtags around the event (from last year or the upcoming one), you can keep a pulse on actual conversations and sort out any key trends. Save all those journalists’ profiles on X Lists and set up alerts for your target publications. 
  • Revisit your past coverage — If you attended the same event previously, analyze your past coverage. Did you earn coverage that provided value for your business? How did you reach journalists? How did your news stack up to the conversation at the actual event? Learn from the efforts that fell short and aim to build on your success this year. 

For example, artificial intelligence, data strategies, and embedded insurance may emerge as prolific topics on a major insurtech show’s agenda and in your media analysis. It’s highly likely many conversations at the event will surround those themes. Talk to your bench of SMEs to pin down angles related to the subjects. Media are looking to cover high-level trends with unique perspectives, and if you can provide your relevant angles on the spot, you’ll increase your chances of earning coverage.

Get Results in the Heat of the Trade Show

Your preparation will set you up for success when you finally step onto the show floor, but you’ll need to do the legwork to earn the media results you want. Consider the following tactics for day-of media relations: 

  • Monitor what your target journalists are saying on social media in real time. Those X Lists and news alerts you previously set up will help you keep a pulse on the conversations and jump on opportunities to fill reporters’ gaps in coverage with a new perspective. Also, ensure you’re engaging with the journalists on social media so you’re top-of-mind. 
  • Target journalists in any paid social media campaigns you’re running. Use a cool video of your demo, highlight your news, and don’t forget to share where they can find you at the show. With the right keywords, you might just reach a few reporters who are interested in what you have to share. 
  • Don’t be afraid to engage with journalists face-to-face. Try to find where the media are and place yourself there. What evening events are they going to? What cafés are they hanging out at? If you find a journalist, respectfully approach them and introduce yourself. Don’t ask for the sun and moon right off the bat. Most connections you make at events aren’t going to turn into instant coverage, so keep the long game in mind and focus on being a human, not a robot programmed with Mission: Earned Media.  

The most important thing to remember during this entire process is that, in addition to considering your company’s goals, think about what the media is searching for so you can shape and shift your strategy around that. If you meet the media in the middle, you might experience a more accepting and enthusiastic audience in them. 

Attending an upcoming trade event and need a hand? We’re here to help.