Clients sometimes ask me if they should try to do media outreach at industry conferences. They are often concerned about getting lost in the noise of many companies trying to make news. It is a legitimate concern, but I still strongly encourage clients to make the effort. Why? Because conferences are places where reporters usually show up in person and look for stories to write. You couldn’t ask for a better scenario for getting your name in the media, even if the field is crowded. The question, of course, is how to get the media to pay attention to you once you are there.
Ready for 13 secrets to getting media coverage at a big conference? The first three are fundamental to preparing for success:
- Understand who you are and why you are there. From a PR perspective, this may be quite different from the business reasons for exhibiting at a show. If you’re renting a booth and paying a sponsorship at a conference, you’re invariably there to meet new clients and generate revenue. That is not the reason you will get media attention, however. The reporters are there for interesting news and stories for their audiences. How are you and why are you there, from the vantage point of news and stories? What are you doing that will interest their audiences? That’s what will get you coverage.
- Know the conference “news theme.” Every conference has a news theme. It may be obvious, like if you’re at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference and they’re launching Windows 10. You don’t have to be a bigtime insider to figure out that Windows 10 is the news of the conference. Who are you in relation to that news? Reporters will be looking for stories connected to the big news theme of the day. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you run a business that produces software utilities for Windows PCs. You need to fit yourself into the news of the conference to get a good crack at media coverage. You’re a Microsoft Partner. You’re at the partner conference. The best approach is to announce news that makes your business seem relevant to the news of the conference.
- Choose the right news to announce. What should you announce? Let’s say you have a choice between announcing that you’ve hired a new CEO and the release of a new suite of Windows 10 compatible software utilities. (I’m trying to make this easy…) The CEO announcement will not align with the conference news and be seen as irrelevant. If you’re announcing a new product that makes using Windows 10 easier, you’re starting to look interesting.
There’s a big difference, of course, between looking interesting and getting coverage. You have to go and get the reporters to be interested in your news. In some cases, reporters walk the floor and look for companies to write about. That’s cool, and it does happen, but waiting for that to happen is not a strategy. Here are ten secrets to landing coverage at the conference once you’ve done your prep work, covered in the first three steps.
- Write your press release very early, perhaps a month in advance.
- Show it to the major newsmaking entities at the show and try to get an executive quote.
- Get the show’s media list – they will usually provide sponsors with a list of reporters and publications that will be there.
- Selectively invite reporters to be pre-briefed on your news before the show.
- Invite reporters to your booth.
- If possible, coordinate with the PR organization of the major entity. In this example, Microsoft will have a whole team that runs PR at the show. Virtually any big company doing a show will have something like the following people present at the event and preparing it in advance:
- The executives and product managers of the division that’s sponsor the show. (e.g. Microsoft Partner Organization.)
- The PR firm team assigned to that sponsor’s business unit.
You can reach out to your contacts at the sponsoring entity (e.g. your Microsoft partner account manager) and ask if you can get an executive quote in your press release. There is usually a submission and permission process to go through. What you need to know is that often they will want to help you because it helps get them more coverage if your news is covered.)
- At the Show
- Make sure your press release is in the media room. (There will usually be a room where reporters can work, drink coffee, make phone calls, etc.)
- Walk the floor and look for reporters to invite to your booth. (They’re easy to spot because they usually wear a distinctly colored badge.) Don’t be obnoxious, but it’s definitely considered appropriate to approach them and ask if they want to see what you’re announcing. They may give you a card and tell them to call after the show, and so forth, but you’ve scored a solid hit – certainly more effective than a cold email to a reporter you don’t know.
- Don’t worry if the reporter is late or doesn’t show up. You may still get coverage. Many reporters take a pile of press releases with them after the show and do write-ups in the days that follow.
- Follow up and build your media list.
Conferences are a great venue for PR. You have to work them, but they are set up for media attention. That’s one of the reasons that the major sponsors put them on in the first place. The trick is to understand the value of your news in the bigger news conference. Then, you have to go out and make it happen.