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There’s a saying in the newspaper business: Advertising is expensive—but editorial is priceless! This simple phrase speaks to the fact that readers trust and value any information they read in an article or column far more than any data they glean from an advertisement. Even when the facts presented in an article and an advertisement are identical, the results are the same. Positive editorial coverage is worth its weight in gold.
Yet many exhibitors don’t know how to work effectively with the media. I hear it all the time – from both sides of the aisle. Exhibitors wring their hands in despair when not a single word about their new products show up in the trade publications – and reporters get irritated, frustrated, and downright disgusted with those exhibitors who seem to go out of their way to make getting a good story possible. It’s a no-win situation – but it doesn’t have to be!
Here are ten do’s and don’ts about working with the media at a trade show. Remember, the press is not your enemy! Reporters have a job to do, and nine times out of ten, it’s in your best interest to help them do it. You both win – they get good copy for their story, and you get editorial coverage.
Do: Do your homework before the event. Develop several newsworthy angles that showcase your message. Emphasize timely information, such as industry trends, statistics, new technology or products, do-it-yourself tips, techniques or strategies, and useful advice. Human interest stories are great because they allow writers to put a ‘face’ on what could be a dry nuts and bolts story.
Don’t: Decide what story the reporter is going to write before they even get to the show. Sure, you might have all these great human interest angles or wonderful quotes, but if the reporter is trying to put together a succinct, ‘just-the-facts-Ma’am’ story, that’s just extra noise the writer doesn’t want or need. Listen to what the reporter is asking for, and provide that.
Do: Build a working relationship with the press. Get to know the editors and writers. Volunteer to be a resource for them. Reporters keep ‘source lists’ — people who are informative, friendly, and quotable. That’s where they turn first when they need to write a story on a particular topic. You want to be on that source list.
Don’t: Snub the little guy. Just because someone is writing for the Omaha Chamber of Commerce today doesn’t mean they won’t be editing the most prestigious trade journal tomorrow. Professionals move in the media with amazing speed and regularity – but they take their memories with them. Burn a reporter when they’re nobody, and they’re going to remember when they’re somebody!
Do: Have a good press kit. Include interesting and timely information; a one-page company bio sheet – corporate structure, executive staff chart, sales figures; complete product information – specs, distribution methods, pricing; good product photos or links to on-line FTP sites where photos can be found; key contacts. Everything must be accurate and verifiable. Unique packaging is good if you’re unknown, otherwise, don’t bother.
Don’t: Pad your press kit with tons of ‘fluff’. Short and to the point is much better. Avoid gimmicks, head shots of your CEO, outdated, false, or exaggerated information. Misleading statistics can be the kiss of death – give context for all numbers. Standard sized folders or smaller is best, as these easily fit into bags and briefcases.
Do: Make every effort to spread the word. Coordinate with show organizers at any media events they host, and make sure that plenty of your press kits are available in the media room. Post all relevant information on line, so information can be accessed after the event. Hold press conferences when appropriate.
Don’t: Hold a press conference ‘just because’. Press conferences are specifically for major announcements, new product introductions, but only if they are truly new or improved, or general industry trends – what’s hot and what’s not. If you host a poorly organized event when nothing newsworthy is shared, you’ve just irritated a whole room full of reporters. Not a good idea.
Do: Keep your promises. If you schedule an interview, be available and on time. If you arrange to have materials sent to a reporter, make sure they’re actually sent. Promised photos should be as described. Reporters work tight time frames, so when you fail to deliver what they’re expecting, they don’t have time to come back looking. They’ll move onto another, more accommodating source.
Don’t: Assume that the reporter knows everything about your industry, especially if they are from a general interest publication. Provide background data, give real-world examples, and avoid industry specific jargon. Spell out acronyms at least once, and explain the relevance of any awards, certifications, or honors you may be discussing.