Trade shows, especially international ones, used to be affordable for only the largest of technology companies. Think Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Salesforce, and Google.
But today, with air travel cheaper than ever and the ability for small and mid-sized tech companies to build out global infrastructure on the back of the digital economy and flexible officing solutions, even smaller tech companies can get into the global trade game.
What follows are some insights, based on Swyft’s work with several international tech organizations in locations as far away as Hong Kong and Dubai, to help you build and run a successful trade show media strategy around the world.
Find the trade shows with the most promise in your field of work. For example, say you are a startup or established company in the AI space, you would want to take a close look at some of the top tech trade shows around the globe that prominently feature AI. We put together one such AI trade show list at Swyft for our readers. What’s more, other trade shows in established fields like the physical security and surveillance industry or healthcare technology industry will undoubtedly feature AI in some form or fashion and may even have a separate seminar track for it. So do your research well to find out your highest potential trade shows in the parts of the world where you have identified your best market opportunities.
Review past media coverage:
This stems from doing your research homework, but once you have found your trade shows of choice, do some organic search engine research to see what companies were covered in the media in the year prior. You can learn what trends were hot, how the news was covered, who the more active media outlets were, how many were from the local market versus other international locations, and much more. The end goal here is the figure out which media you want to go after at next year’s trade show. You should be able to develop a strong list of media outlets, the key journalists and influencers covering the shows, topic clusters from past coverage, etc.
Determine your best message strategy:
You can take a number of approaches when it comes to developing your messaging strategy for a trade show PR campaign. At the end of the day, what matters most is that you play your strongest hand. That may not always be the one you want to lead with but just be patient and the chance to talk about other topics can and will arise. For instance, say your company developed AI technology that bridges facial recognition with social media and other relevant public databases to speed up responses to credible threats at airports, seaports, entertainment venues, and more. Perhaps you want to talk about the game-changing technology behind your innovation but say you are a small player and the media seems more interested in an alliance partnership you are about to announce with Dell. Rather than get frustrated, embrace the opportunity to share some of the limelight with a much bigger player in Dell then ride their coattails as it were to be able to discuss your technology.
Honestly, you can’t over plan for a trade show. Well, you probably can, but starting about six months before the trade show is NOT too early. It’s wise to get all key players involved in the planning: product marketing, the C-suite, digital marketing, sales, and any 3rd parties like a PR agency. The goal is to create a planning document with input from key stakeholders to ensure you don’t miss anything important. Keep the document current and make sure you have planning calls bi-weekly and eventually weekly as the trade show start date nears. Planning can and should include sections addressing your messaging strategy, media list, spokesperson availability, communications calendar to define dates of key announcements, social media, and more. Final thoughts on planning is to develop SMART objectives, meaning they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Read this article for a more in-depth discussion on developing SMART objectives for a trade show.
This is something you will undoubtedly have to work out with your chief marketing officer or other decision maker within marketing. What budget you have to build your trade show media strategy will have a direct bearing on how ambitious your strategy can be. Mind you, paying for PR at a trade show is not nearly as expensive as the trade show booth and other marketing collateral, but still, your budget will decide important things like whether you can send somebody from your team or a 3rd party PR firm to work with the media on-site versus working remotely.
You should always ensure your spokespersons are trained to handle questions from the media. Even if they’ve had training in the past, a refresher can always make them sharper at articulating the company’s key messages. Your PR firm may have a media training session it can run for your spokespersons, or you can hire a media trainer individually to conduct a one-off training. Whatever the case, you should ensure the training takes place within 1-2 weeks of the trade show to ensure the training and key messages are top-of-mind for the spokespersons. Swyft actually wrote a couple of articles about media training a few years back but the information contained therein is still good. We suggest a quick read in case you are new to the rules of media training.
3rd party support:
I am calling this one out separately because it’s so critical. Many SMBs in the tech space do not have a fully staffed communications team to help them plan for and execute on-site trade show media support. Many 3rd party agencies specialize in that kind of support and can provide you with insight, expertise, and boots-on-the-ground help during a busy, stress-filled trade show. We’ve helped our trade show clients with both on-site and remote support no matter where they happen to be on the planet. Working closely with your 3rd party PR firm will ensure that you maximize your interview opportunities, close off any outstanding requests from media, and track and report on media activities for the trade show. By embracing your PR firm and keeping them included in the planning and execution you will greatly improve your chance of success.
Trade show logistics:
You would be wise to make sure that your public relations team lead at the trade show has the mobile phone numbers of the spokesperson to ensure that if a journalist has to reschedule unexpectedly — it happens more times than you would think — then you can quickly alert the spokesperson and find an opening. Speaking of openings, your planning document should have the blocked out times where spokespersons are busy and times they can flex for an interview. This will help when things get crazy on the trade show floor.
Before you go into the trade show, you should know who your main competitors are. That way you can track how well your company does in the media compared to them. Call it ‘share of ink’ or ‘share of voice,’ it really matters not. Just be sure to see what kind of media coverage you and the competition receive based on types of coverage. You can pull a page for Swyft’s trade show playbook and come up with a numbering system to weight media coverage and make the comparisons easier. A full article with photos and quotes about your company may count for 3 points, whereas a solid mention in an article involving a quote or two may count as 2 points and a mention in a summary article with a few lines about your company may count as just 1 point. Just be sure to keep careful track of every company’s coverage for up to two weeks following the trade show then tally up the numbers to see how you performed.
As a follow-on to tracking, it’s wise to do a trade show media report to show the C-suite and other key stakeholders how the company fared relative to your initial plans and the competitions. Did you meet or exceed your media placement goals? Put together some nice visual charts to make the review as fast and easy as possible. Address successes, explain what went well and what could use improving, and try to trace back the impact of media coverage on the website (may require you to work closely with digital marketing to do that). That way the C-suite can see the top metrics at a glance and decide if the results are worth investing in again next year. Obviously the hope is that they will see the wisdom in keeping the trade show PR budget funded, if not beefed up, for the following year. Even if your results didn’t blow the expectations out of the water, your report can detail why and possibly point a way to dramatically improve next year’s media outreach.
We wish you the best of luck to you on your international trade show preparation. If you have any questions about how First PR Alliance can turn your trade show media strategy into a huge success, please contact us today!