Opinion: How To Get Media Coverage at Trade Shows

Technology PR is in a sad state of affairs if a recent tech conference that I attended is any indication.

Invited to provide news coverage of the tech show, it wasn’t long before my e-mail inbox was flooded with pitches from public relations folks representing companies exhibiting and speaking at the event. 

First, let me be clear about one thing: I know from experience that it’s difficult to get journalists to cover tech businesses or any business, especially those who aren’t a household name.

But that’s no excuse for the PR pitches that failed miserably to arouse my interest in speaking with their clients.  Here are a few examples (The names of the companies are not disclosed to protect them from embarrassment):

  • A few pitches offered to send an embargoed press release about companies’ launching new products or services at the show. Why didn’t they just provide the details in the pitch? The “lure” of an embargoed press release is an old and contrived PR tactic that has seen its day.
  • Most of the PR pitches started with hackneyed phrases like “most technologically advanced solution” and “revolutionary new technology”. Those words should make anyone run for the hills.
  • Virtually all of the pitches were tomes. Journalists have neither the time nor the inclination to read long and sleep-inducing e-mails about their clients’ “innovative” products. I imagine the authors of these pitches have never heard of economy of language.
  • Last but not least, one PR person took brevity to an extreme, asking if I had “any availability to meet” with the client. That’s it. No explanation as to what the client did for a living or why it would be of any interest to me.
  • PR outreach consisted of only canned pitches. The pitch that went to The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets was most likely the same one that was sent to me.

It should be noted that only a few of the PR people followed up on their initial pitch. And none bothered to reach me via social media and, heaven forbid, telephone. This “one-and-done” mentality is emblematic of an industry that is increasingly less focused on getting media coverage for their clients.

But for those companies who still believe that “earned” media remains a valuable tool in their communications toolkit, here are some recommendations to increase their odds of journalists covering their products or speeches at trade shows.

  • Do Your Homework:  There’s no guarantee that doing research on journalists and their work will result in a media interview for a company planning to attend an industry event. But, it’s a safe bet that without it, journalists will immediately hit the delete button on an e-mail pitch. Journalists, who are trained to research their stories, have zero patience for pitches that aren’t tailored to their work or publications. According to a recent Muck Rack survey, the lack of personalization in pitches is the number one reason why journalists reject them.     
  • Build Rapport:  One of the biggest reasons why companies aren’t getting media interviews at trade shows is because their in-house or agency PR people don’t make it a habit to regularly reach out to journalists—unless the company is hawking a new product or service.  PR people ought to provide useful information to journalists without immediately expecting anything in return. Companies that regularly engage in this practice will more likely get a journalists’ ear and perhaps a meeting than those who don’t.
  • Use Twitter for Pitching:  If you or your publicist aren’t using Twitter to pitch trade show meetings or any journalist outreach, that could be a big part of your problem why the press is showing no interest in what you have to say. The Muck Rack survey said that nearly 90 percent of the journalists polled found Twitter to be the most valuable social media platform. The survey also revealed that nearly 80 percent of the respondents want PR types to follow them on Twitter.       
  • Nailing a Meeting: It won’t be so onerous arranging a journalist meeting if the PR folks properly researched their media targets and made a sincere effort to build a relationship with them prior to an industry event. However, the meeting shouldn’t just be about a product launch or new services. If you want a journalist to write about your product or service, then position it as part of a new trend or how it’s solving an industry pain point.
  • Follow-up is Critical: Often, PR people who arrange media interviews at trade shows don’t bother following up with journalists. They either think their job is done or that journalists will automatically crank out a story following the interview.  In both cases, neither is true. It’s important to follow up with journalists to determine if they require additional details or the best way to work with them on future stories.  Failure to follow-up soon after an interview will most likely lessen the likelihood of news coverage.

Marc Weinstein is a contributing editor for NJ Tech Weekly and CEO of integrated marketing firm Ascent Communications.          

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