If you are in the outdoor industry, your thoughts and efforts are focused on the upcoming show season. Whether it’s the ATA, SHOT or any number of other trade shows, these events set the tone for the selling season which could make or break an entire year’s sales. For many exhibitors, this is the one and only chance they have to connect with an influential media person that could drastically help the growth of their company. While most of these shows are primarily “selling” shows, one of the primary benefits of exhibiting in them is the opportunity to meet with the press.
To a novice this may sound daunting, but it is a chance to put your best foot forward as an exhibitor. The press, just like any other audience or customer, has a unique set of needs. If you know what the needs of the writers are and their environment, you can really leverage their audiences and add to your reach through earned media.
After surveying the top firearms, ammunition and outdoor writers, bloggers and TV reporters that cover these shows, the feedback really falls into a few significant buckets. Those areas are materials, response, contact information, and relationships.
Let’s start with materials. The overwhelming complaint from media professionals is that the materials provided by manufacturers and exhibitors sometimes miss the mark. What works for your sales channel, often leaves the media frustrated and left missing key details.
10 Important Things to Know about Press Materials
Number 10 – A sales sheet doesn’t tell your customer story and has little value to the media. A reporter needs to know the full story and exhibitors need to share it if they want the press to pay attention. Everything from the key points of the benefits to the language are critical. Ignoring this shows reporters you really don’t understand their needs, and it can potentially cost you coverage.
Number 9 – For media, the press release is king. It tells the whole story; the who, what, where, when and why of your company or your new product introduction. But if you want the press to read it, the release must be well written and abide by the AP Stylebook. If you don’t have a copy, get one. It’s an inexpensive resource that every marketing and public relations pro should own.
Number 8 – It’s the electronic age, so be sure your materials are easily accessible electronically. Place your press releases online where they are easy to find and easy to download. All professional press members use computers and will be more willing to write about companies that make it easier for them to write. Many shows, such as the SHOT Show, have designated areas in the press room for jump drives, CDs and other electronic methods of gathering information.
Number 7 – A picture is worth 1,000 words – 1,000 words of copy written about your product that is. Writers need high-quality photos to tell your story – make them easy to find and easy to download. Writers know that editors want more than copy. They need photos or illustrations to make their stories come to life and enhance the publication.
Number 6 – When it comes to photos, one size doesn’t fit all. While a low-res .gif may be all that’s needed for the online blogger, it is useless for print. Make sure your high-quality photos are available in multiple formats such as JPEG, TIFF or EPS so they’ll work seamlessly for all media platforms. If the media has access to good photography they will be more likely to cover your product. And if you have a video- the chances of taking center stage for a blogger expands by five times.
Number 5 – Use the show’s pressroom. If you want to find the media go to the place they hang out. At most shows, that’s the press room. For the SHOT Show, it’s located in the Murano Ballroom on the 3rd floor of the Venetian Hotel. Each exhibitor can place materials in the press room by ordering a media bin. Sounds like a great place for a press release and some high-quality photography, doesn’t it? You must reserve a bin in advance so go to Shotshow.org and find the exhibitor marketing toolbox section to reserve your bin today.
Number 4 – Offer usable information. The media is looking for hard facts, not “marketing-ease.” Writers need something to write about, so share features and benefits not buzz-words. Your materials should explain what makes your product special and what makes your company different. Simply stating that it is “revolutionary” isn’t enough. Tell why.
Number 3 – Know your unique angle(s), and sell it(them). Most media are at the show looking for a story they can sell. You have a better chance of gaining more exposure or any exposure at all if you have a unique angle or as reporters term it, a “hook.” Perhaps your product solves a common long-range shooting challenge? Explain the problem and then how your product helps the customer solve that problem.
Number 2 – Look at your materials with an artist’s eye. Offer unique and visually appealing material to get noticed. Stories that have interesting photos, or what editors would refer to as “art”, will get more exposure and better placement than ones that don’t. The writers understand their editor’s goal is to make their publication look the best it can and that their stories will earn more when they deliver great copy coupled with great art.
Number 1 – Contact information should be front and center. Writers talk to hundreds of people during these shows just like you do. If they want to do a story and need to ask follow up questions or get comments, they have to know who to call or where to go for more information.
Now let’s talk about Response and Contact Information. Surprisingly, the majority of writers tell me that they are amazed that they receive little follow through or response on requests for information.
Here’s Some Tips for Managing Media at Trade Shows:
- Purchase the media list from the shows if they offer that. You can then send out new product releases prior to the show. It gives you a chance to pre-empt competitors and have them visit your booth during the show. They will know who to ask for and begin the relationship.
- Designate a media spokesperson. Ideally, this is a professional media relations person from the company that fully understands the products. A writer will not stand around the booth and wait for the exhibitor to find out who should be talking with the press.
- Ensure that only qualified booth personnel talks to the press. The press are trained to get maximum information and to seek out company personnel and quotes for their stories. Neither side wants to get incorrect information published.
- Avoid overbooking appointments. The press are deadline driven. They also won’t forget being stood up for an appointment and it will affect the chances of gaining exposure now and in the future.
- Maintain a supply of press materials in the booth. The person talking to the press in the booth should also have media-designated materials in case the writer missed it in the press room.
By meeting with the press at shows, you can make lasting relationships that will help you gain exposure and increase earned media throughout the year. Your goal is to become a writer’s trusted source for information about your company.
Final Thoughts for Building Relationships with the Media at Trade Shows and Events
- Treat media with respect. The press is not the enemy. In fact, their exposure gives you credibility. Treat them just like you would any valued customer. Be honest, respectful, courteous and professional.
- Follow up after the show. Too often, a writer’s request for information gets ignored. The result is lost exposure for your company and a writer will have little incentive to look for additional ways to cover your product.
- Build relationships with members of the media.Here’s a tip I use. I will remember something personal about a conversation and then write the details on the back of the writer’s card such as a wife’s name, a note about the kids, or a detail from a story they told. When I get back to the office I put that information into my computer along with their contact information. Many times those notes have helped me remember who I am talking with on a personal level even if it’s been years since we last talked. If you mention that unique subject to the writer down the road, even if its something very small and simple, it will go a long way with them. They will know you were paying attention, that they mean something to you, and it will serve you well for years to come.
- Don’t ignore the press. Public relations pros often joke that you know it is going to be a bad day when 60 Minutes calls you first thing in the morning. The truth is that ignoring the press won’t make things better for you or your products. When dealing with the media, be sure to share your side of the story and you may be able to change a bad review to a good one once they get the full picture.
- Get to know writers. Sit down, talk with him and make the time. Send the writer home feeling like he can call you anytime. It will pay off with articles for months to come.
- Respect deadlines. More than any other professional, the media works on deadlines. If you bail them out of a jam or give quick responses when they need it, they will not forget it. Even if the rush was a lack of planning on their part, your quick response will help you in the long run.
I hope this information will help you maximize your efforts with the press during the winter shows. By making media relations a priority, and by understanding and providing the press with the things they need, you’ll gain more exposure for your products and services, and ultimately more sales for your company.