Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is Your Trade Show Booth Costing You Free Publicity?

This is a guest blog post written by Tom Groenfeldt

As a reporter covering finance and technology, I get to my share of trade shows. I am often surprised at how unprepared exhibitors are for writers who might get them free press.

Reporters at trade shows
Photo by Tom Groenfeldt
Most reasonably sized trade shows (I'm not talking CES or MacWorld here) get anywhere from 10 to 50 journalists. Most of them come from trade publications, but in some areas they get coverage from the local dailies, glossy tech publications like Wired, the occasional general news publication and a growing number of bloggers of varying repute and skills.

Quick follow-up pays off

So I step up to a trade show booth and identify myself by whichever publications I am writing for at the time and the most  that the exhibitor has at their booth is a product brochure (you can improve a booth pretty easily today with video displays, or even just an iPad). I swap cards with a sales guy and often two or three months later I get a call, as has happened with HP a couple of times.

I am sitting in my home office with a MacBook Air in front of me and a couple of dogs for company, and the telephone sales rep asks if I want to buy a server. Yeah, most days I am not in the market, and I wonder if they can’t read the information on the card I gave them. And, of course, I never do hear from the PR people.

I know trade shows are a pain and preparations often run right up to opening -- I have seen the booth people at Kinko’s running off the promo materials that didn’t get approved until an hour before. And I realize that in tight budget times it’s not going to be possible to take a press person along for every show.

How about having one or two booth people with some basic instructions – like knowing how to take a business card and jot a note on it about specific interests so the PR team has something to work with. Maybe have some press packs with the latest news, preferably on a USB stick. And take a look at press and sales followup. That should get done within a week or 10 days after the show’s end.

Don't get cheap about your trade show giveaways 

Reporters are just as keen on trade show giveaways like T-shirts, stuffed animals or travel mugs as any other visitor, and they have the potential to give you some good coverage. You’ve paid a lot for your participation in the show, try to get some new press contacts and fresh coverage out of it.

Tom Groenfeldt
Tom Groenfeldt is a longtime journalist and conference connoisseur who writes about financial technology at Forbes. He's a regular contributor to the Peninsula Pulse, an independent newspaper in Door County, Wisconsin.