The Bread and Butter trade show at the former Tempelhof airport during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin on July 3, 2013 in Berlin, Germany.
I recently returned from attending a tradeshow with a client and it got me thinking about the importance and opportunity that kind of event provides for startups and small businesses. Sure you want to meet buyers, but the media potential is crucial, as well.
Over the years, I’ve helped many clients attract media and set up interviews at a wide variety of industry tradeshows, and I can’t tell you how valuable it can be to a business. Yet, most don’t put a program in place to connect face-to-face with media when in the same city, let alone the same room.
You must understand that if you want media attention you must make it a priority. Tradeshows offer a once or twice a year opportunity to meet editors and writers and build relationships that will benefit your business.
Over the last year and half, I have made a point of building relationships with key media on behalf of this particular client. The pay off? At this particular show, due to my efforts and focus on connecting with media beforehand, our booth was swamped over three days with a variety of major consumer and industry publication editors, as well as bloggers. I secured five story opportunities for my client, including a last-minute video and post-show follow up interview this week.
Here are a few of my tricks for creating this kind of success:
• Media are friends! Most people get so caught up in the fact that they need the media that they become nervous and scared to approach them. My trick is to treat them all like we’re great, old friends who I am very much looking forward to seeing again. This isn’t a rouse, but something I genuinely strive for. Some of my favorite people and friends are media I met this way, and they always make an effort to stop by my client’s booth.
• Get the media list. Although I’ve seen a decline in this over the years, most shows should offer a list of media RSVP’d to attend the show. Get this list a few weeks beforehand and send a show advisory to everyone with your booth number and why they should stop by. Then keep this list, make notes on it and work to keep it current throughout the year in case your tradeshow decides to opt out of providing this information in the future.
• Give them something new. Attracting people to your booth, buyers, media or otherwise, is a balance between introducing those who are new to your business and giving those already familiar something new. When you have something new, and a great relationship, your odds improve for additional coverage.
• Be willing to scratch their back. As a journalist, it breaks my heart to say this, but you have to be willing to advertise in return for editorial mentions in a publication. I tell my clients with small to nil budgets to give preference to those who provide editorial. Ask for remnant ads. If you have a good relationship with the outlet, they will do you that favor for your business.
• Build relationships with other vendors. Sometimes businesses get to shows and don’t talk to anyone around them. I’ve found that these relationships can be as helpful to sharing names of buyers as it is to generating media awareness.
Jennifer Fortney is President of Cascade Communications, a boutique virtual PR and marketing communications company in Chicago focusing on small business and startups. In her 15+ year career she has worked with some of the top Fortune 500 companies and a wide variety of small businesses and startups across the country. A Journalism major with Music minor from The University of Kansas, she is also the PR Instructor at SCORE Chicago and Founder of @MyStorySource live media pitch feed on Twitter and Facebook. @SmallBizPRXpert