Trade shows - a PR waste of time?

Posted by on 2nd March 2011 / 2 comments

If you’ve worked in PR for any length of time it is inevitable that you’ll have a whole host of trade show war stories. Journalists not turning up for meetings, a seriously hungover spokesperson, noticing a typo in a carefully-proofed press pack and a client’s shiny new product not working are just the ones I can share in public.

So with a million and one other PRs vying for press attention I got to thinking, from a PR-perspective are trade shows worth the investment of time? I’ve just got back from ecoBuild at ExCel (the world's least conveniently located venue?) in London and decided that trade shows can be useful for PR, as long as you bear the following in mind:

1) Go digital – press packs get scrawled on, used as coasters and lost. They rarely get read, so if you (or your client) insist on a press pack, at least pop it on a memory stick.

2) Chose your press targets carefully – some of the bigger trade shows draw hundreds of journalists every year, how many of those do you really need to see? You can end up chasing your tail trying to get volume of meetings, so concentrate on quality not quantity.

3) Book ahead – I conducted a quick straw poll of journalists at ecoBuild about their PR preferences and 75 per cent said that they would rather not schedule meetings, preferring instead to wander round and meet with those companies that grab their attention. However, two-thirds of that 75% admitted that they did have meetings already scheduled, so it pays to be persistent.

4) Is it news? – issuing press releases with little news value is something of an occupational hazard in PR, but it’s even more important to evaluate exactly how interesting your announcement is at a trade show. There is so much competition, if you news is less than riveting it could easily get lost in all the noise and would probably be better saved for another time when it might find its audience more easily.

5) Be flexible – you may have to turn your hand to anything at a trade show, often non-PR related. This could be manning the stand, dashing across town to pick up brochures or fetching the coffee. Smile, take a deep breath and get on with it.

Any other pearls of wisdom? Any horror stories you’re ready to share?

Tagged: PR trade shows ecoBuild

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19 March 2013

That's interesting Joanne, I figured that printed press packs were going the way of the dodo, especially given the volume I saw discarded at ecoBuild. The irony! But its certainly horses for courses, everyone will have slightly different preferences so maybe there is still a role for the printed press pack for a while yet.

Joanne Mallon

19 March 2013

As a journalist who goes to press shows, I like a printed press pack to flick through, plus a digital pack or a website link so I can access images easily.