How a news release program can boost your exhibit marketing results
by Wayne Dunham, Owner of Dunham Communications
If you’re like many event/exhibit professionals, you may be overlooking one of the most effective, least expensive ways to realize your exhibit marketing goals. It isn’t high-tech. It isn’t complicated. It isn’t even something new. It’s the often overlooked news release (press release). And that’s a shame.
Unlike advertising or direct mail, maintaining an ongoing news release campaign usually requires only one person to manage it. Placements can be made at almost no cost, with little effort. And news releases, generally speaking, have more credibility than ads or direct mail. Why?
News releases that appear in a business-to-business (B2B) publication, on an email newsletter or on a blog or website must have a “third-party endorsement” your other marketing media, such as ads, don’t need. In other words, someone — usually an editor — must decide your news release is worthy of readers’ attention and, therefore, deserves space in his or her media outlet. This third-party “endorsement” gives your news release a “believability factor” your ads or direct mail pieces may lack.
In fact, a news release placement benefits your company in two ways. First, your release, whether it appears in a pre-show issue of a publication or online, can generate interest and prompt trade show attendees to visit your booth. Second, thousands of people who find your news release through an online search for information or read it in a B2B publication or newsletter learn more about your company and products, even if they don’t attend the show.
Use the press room
Surprisingly, few of today’s companies use news releases as part of their trade show integrated marketing programs. Don’t believe it?
The next time you’re at a trade show, check with the press room on the second day and see how many companies have left news materials for members of the media. Chances are, you’ll find somewhere around 10 percent of them are using the press room. And that represents a huge advantage for your company. After all, what other step can you take to increase your company and exhibit visibility that 90 percent of your competitors don’t?
Best of all, in most cases, implementing an effective news release program is very easy and doesn’t take a lot of company resources. Your company public relations person or outside agency just needs to spend a few hours creating a news release about the products and/or services featured in your trade show exhibiting program. After that, all you usually need to do to update the release for the next show is search for and replace the booth number and the name of the event.
Even finding the media outlets where the news release should be emailed isn’t difficult. In many cases, trade show management has a free press list of news media that cover the show and have indicated they want to receive information about the exhibits. This press list normally is in the exhibitors section of the show’s website and included in the marketing section of your online exhibitor’s manual.
Along with the press list, here are a few other outlets to consider for your news releases:
Your own company website — There should be a place on your company website where editors can find news releases about your exhibiting program. Along with the releases, include some downloadable, high-resolution photographs of the products and/or services you feature in the exhibit. Many editors work from home at odd hours or in their hotel rooms on the road and are delighted when they can find the information they need on a company website.
The show website — Don’t forget to post your news release on the show’s website. Because many attendees plan their visits to the trade show floor before they hit the exhibit hall, the website get numerous hits as the attendees look for information about what they want to see.
The show daily — The vast majority of these publications need as much editorial material as possible. If you send your news release and a good-quality photograph to the editors, there’s an excellent chance your information will be used.
Pre-show issues — Many trade show managers enter into agreements with B2B publications that allow them to approach exhibitors about advertising in their pre-show issues. In return, the B2B editors agree to extensively cover the upcoming show with stories about the products or services that will be on display, networking events, seminars, keynote speakers, etc. This is another great opportunity for your news release because it’s almost certain to be used.
News release metrics
Even if you only implement one or two of these ideas for news release distribution, you should see a positive impact on your exhibit marketing goals. But don’t just depend on a “gut” feeling of whether or not the program was a success.
Measure the number of visits to the websites listed in your news release during the period between its release and the trade show you participated in. If there’s a big jump compared to a similar period before the news release was sent to the media, you know your news release has done the job.
An even better measurement method is to include, in the engagement process used by your booth staff, a question about how people visiting your exhibit learned about your company. Or, put a question about how the booth visitor learned about the exhibit on the lead form staff members must fill out after the customer leaves.
However you measure your news release program, you’ll see positive results. And remember, because the vast majority of your fellow exhibitors don’t issue news releases in support of their exhibit programs, you’ll have taken a big step toward rising above your competition.
Wayne Dunham, owner of Dunham Communications, has been active in trade show and special events public relations for more than 25 years. He began his career as a feature writer and columnist for the Chicago Tribune before moving to the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau as the director of public relations. In that position, Dunham fell in love with the trade show industry as he worked with hundreds of trade shows and small exhibitors, helping them with suggestions on how to maximize their public relations efforts and get a thorough schooling in the exhibition and convention industry.
Since forming Dunham Communications, he has specialized in trade show, special events and business-to-business public relations as well as extensive free-lance writing and editing. Currently, he represents EXHIBITOR2013, the Chicago Golf Show and Buying Behavior Metrics. He also has represented The Motivation Show, the Taste of Chicago, the National Restaurant Association and the Eyes to the Skies Balloon Festival.
You can reach Wayne Dunham at 630-963-4280 or firstname.lastname@example.org.