Whether a company is exhibiting or attending a trade show, it needs to kick its PR machine into high gear to make the most out of its trade show investment. The companies that have buyers signing on the dotted line and gain media exposure during trade shows are companies that take proactive, intentional steps to stand out and get their message heard. Here’s what a brand should be doing from a PR perspective at every trade show.
Invite All Trade Contacts
Buyers have many companies and contacts to keep up with. A brand should be constantly growing its list of buyer contacts (ideally, email and mailing addresses) and touching base with them regularly to stay top of mind. A brand can’t assume their contacts will find them or even remember the company. Don’t leave connecting with buyers to chance; intentionally invite them. Call, tweet, email, link in or even snail mail an invitation to the booth. Brands can offer a sneak peak of what they will be exhibiting, especially if they can provide a heads-up about a new product or how an existing product addresses a current trend. Tease them with a compelling reason why they should come meet with brand representatives. If possible, try to get confirmed meeting times with A-list buyers to ensure they get to the booth.
Connect With Relevant Trade Media Contacts
Like buyer contacts, invite all media contacts that are likely to be covering the trade show. Look back through media coverage files, emails and stacks of business cards to identify media contacts that have previously covered or expressed interest in the company. Also, have a look at media coverage about competitors and the trade show, in general, the year before. Invite all those media to meet at the show. Offer them expertise (or the expertise of a third-party expert, like a nutritionist, dietician or consumer insights expert) and insight into a new trend, current consumer behavior or predictions for the future. Ideally, schedule set times for A-list media to interview a company spokesperson. Ensure the spokesperson is well-versed in the top three to five key messages and aware of the audience each media outlet serves, as well as the format for the interview.
Engage the Social Mediasphere (Especially Instagram and Twitter)
Everyone is on social media promoting their presence at trade shows. Think quality over quantity. Don’t waste time tweeting at and liking every post that happens to use the trade show hashtag. Instead, network smarter. Brands should identify the top 10 to 20 people, media, organizations or companies they want to engage with, whose attention they would like to attract. It’s smart to make a list of all the media on Twitter that are attending, or at least covering the show. Monitor their posts and respond back. Tag them in some posts that would interest them.
Direct People to Relevant Content
Some of a brand’s social media posts should have a strong call to action, such as driving people to a show-related blog post on the company’s website that encourages them to set up an appointment at the show. In addition to any new content the brand creates for the show, it will also want to direct people to older content on the site that is still relevant. For example, if a product serves the needs of Millennial moms, and a company representative was interviewed about marketing to mothers in a podcast a few months ago, that’s still relevant and worth directing people to.
Publish Social Updates Live From the Show
Take advantage of pre-show research by posting relevant content before, during and after the show. People are typically more active with show hashtags the week before and during the show. At the show, online buzz will be in full effect. The good news is lots of people are looking for show-related content; the bad news is it will be harder to stand out. Make all content, especially posts made live from the trade show floor, visual and share-worthy. Brands can work with a consultant to have a third-party manage their show-related social media from the show floor, essentially covering the show from their unique perspective, similar to how a newspaper journalist might cover an event.
Obtain Earned and Paid Media
Brands can preview some of what they will be exhibiting a few months ahead to trade media to garner pre-show editorial coverage. Just like Natural Products INSIDER offers a show issue to help attendees prepare for SupplySide West, other media outlets often have special editions for some of the most important industry events. A company wants its brand, products and experts featured in the editorial sections of those show issues. The company may also want to consider paid advertisements in trade media that attract a specific niche of buyers. Pay attention to the media outlets that have their publications available at the show; those may be the ones to focus on, as they are widely read by attendees.
Document the Show Experience
The media’s cameras can’t show up at every booth, so brand holders should take steps to create their own media materials as well. Companies can hire someone to professionally video and photograph the booth, showcasing products and sharing the top three to five key messages. The company can use those photos and short videos on its blog, driving traffic from social media. Engaged industry players (especially those not able to attend the show) are on the lookout for coverage of the event. Even if the brand did not initially receive coverage from media outlets, it can increase the likelihood of having its own content shared by influencers and media after the show.
Participate in Show Opportunities
Enter product into the show’s industry awards. These are usually done several months ahead of time, so make a point to record the entry dates for each show. Companies should already have—or prioritize making—a list of all the 2018 tradeshows where they intend to exhibit, attend or try to secure a speaking engagement, and make every effort to stay ahead of all the applicable deadlines.
Create a Share-Worthy Experience at the Booth
A company may think it has a great-looking booth, but lots of other exhibitors have one, too. A well-designed booth is expected; that alone is not necessarily going to make a booth stand out. Consider creating something extra for the booth that brings products to life, showing how they can fit into people’s lives. Don’t think goody bag (who wants more junk to tote around?) or an annoying mascot. Does the target buyer really want to hug a giant granola bar? It’s doubtful. Think creatively. How can the company demonstrate to buyers visiting the booth that it is their go-to resource to fulfill an unmet need among consumers, and perhaps also even help them grow an entire category?
Lisa Mabe is CEO of Washington-based Green Purse PR (greenpursepr.com), a consultancy serving the natural products industry and focused on helping companies understand and connect with female shoppers. Follow her on Twitter at @LisaMabe and subscribe to her blog, #GetInHerCart (greenpursepr.com/getinhercart), for more insight on marketing to women.