By Andy Marken
CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is probably the best, worst trade show in the world.
It's the best because:
- It's the place where firms of every size launch new product concepts, new products.
- It attracts the best potential business partners from around the globe.
- It is the one main event that everyone in the media wants to/has to cover.
It's the worst because:
- Every new firm, every small- to medium-sized organization must compete for attention side-by-side with the biggest household name firms.
- It is held right after the first of the year which means Christmas, New Years are shot for most of us.
- Publicists will do anything to get their hands on media folks.
CES is where reputations – company and individual – are made or broken, live or die.
Large companies have big events, big parties.
Smaller firms can't financially justify the tightly choreographed events so they often settle for crumbs.
No company has to "go big or go home," it just means thinking differently, thinking more creatively and doing it all exceptionally well.
The key is to leverage everything you do to maximize your ROI (return on investment)/minimize wasted time and money.
Doing show media activities on-the-cheap only proves that, as far as your organization is concerned, it's an expense, not an investment.
It's the road to no positive results!
CES PR should be part of your total program, not a one-shot deal.
It should also have its own complete set of goals, strategies, tactics, results.
It requires a professional plan ... professional materials ... professional approach ... professional budget. Anything less is a waste of time, effort, money, opportunity and worst of all, a disservice to management and the press.
Professionals will tell you that you should make your biggest, best announcements a month or two before the show.
That's when "news" is light. You have a better chance of getting good coverage.
In addition, you have a better opportunity to attract decision-makers to your booth, rather than hoping they'll stumble in during the show and say "OMG!".
Of course, it's tough to convince your boss because:
- Management feels they have to keep their best under wraps until the show and then surprise the competition.
- The major trade show becomes an engineering/development deadline for project completion
Products are only one of the details for effective trade show activities ... not the plan itself.
The challenge for every company, every announcement is that you're competing with everyone else at the show for mindshare.
Getting coverage before the show means people–customers, prospects, partners, media–will visit the booth at the show so the event will be more profitable.
It's a tough sell to management, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve your best recommendations.
So get over it!
Focus on doing the best you can for the company, management, marketing, the products and the media.
CES was a pioneer in having a paperless press room.
It has been something many publicists still find difficult to relinquish.
Publicists give lip service to the online world, but still put their press materials on CDs or on USB flash drives for members of the media.
It's estimated that 99 percent of that effort is wasted!
Editors/reporters usually say the discs are taken, sent back to the office and never loaded because:
- The disc only identifies the company and possibly the show. There is no indication of the company news that is entrapped on the disc.
- If the editor/reporter is going to get information to use at the show, he or she has to load the disc, read through the content, determine if there are product/story ideas they want to cover on the floor, print out the release and follow-up. Doesn't happen! Their schedules are too tight to do your work for you.
If the kit is on a flash drive, we've seen guys/gals grab a handful ... well because.
Every media person has 10-20 drives in his/her desk that they erase and use for really important things.
Or, they give the devices to friends or family to use.
Oh yeah, there's another big problem with these physically stored releases ... the newest, best announcements aren't finalized until days or hours before the show.
You know it ... I know it!
Eliminate the Stress, the Hassle
Virtual Press Office (VPO) has worked closely with CES for years and pioneered the online press room.
The online press room makes it fast and easy for media people at the show and around the globe to register and receive company announcements.
Some firms take a different approach, putting their press materials on their press website.
That's O.K., but it's also like having a self-standing store somewhere, rather than being in a large shopping mall.
If you're looking for a new pair of shoes, it's a lot easier to walk the mall rather than driving from store to store to store.
For the average publicist–and his/her boss–the VPO CES press room is sufficient:
- The basic press kit is cheap and provides plenty of room for the show announcements, photos, white papers.
- Releases go live (are available for viewing) on the day/hour you specify.
- Your information is not only available to the media at CES but also to registered media around the globe who want to cover the show but can't afford the expense of the trip to Las Vegas.
- The kit is available online six months after the show for people to visit/review, but you'll quickly find that interest fades to almost zero four-six weeks after the show.
- A detailed analysis of press kit and press release access is provided post-show so PR and management can see exactly which announcements were most interesting to people, which announcements were not only visited but opened, what areas of the country/globe viewed the kit/announcements, specifically who the individual was and his/her media outlet.
More to Do
But for the person who wants to/needs to do a great CES PR job, there's more that can be done.
It just takes a little creative thinking to develop a special online CES package for your company/products.
CES coverage doesn't begin with the mad rush onto the floor on the opening morning of the show. There's also CES Unveiled in NYC in November and in Vegas the evening before the show.
Both are good for getting the attention of attending media. And they're a great way to press the flesh, exchange cards, give them an idea what you're showing at the booth.
Of course for most publicists, it's probably the only time they'll talk to you during the year.
The rest of the time you don't call ... you don't write ... you don't even send flowers.
We know ... too busy with all your social media stuff.
But the show is where the boss expects you to deliver ... in spades!
So go beyond the standard online kit.
Develop your own package that meets your objectives:
- Determine which releases are most critical for the company and have VPO schedule them for release over the wire on PR Newswire.
- Convince management that the best results will be achieved with a schedule of announcements, not everything going live the first day of the show. Then schedule outreach to the media signed up for the show a month and a couple of weeks prior to the show.
- Use the pre-show, daily summaries going to the media people and make your announcements on specific days.
- Think in terms of really educating, informing, exciting the people who access your online press kit with white papers, Power Point presentations, embedded videos.
- Pinpoint the direct access location of your press kit well before the show and publish the link in your media contacts.
- Print special cards that give summaries of your announcements along with the press kit link and give them to media people at CES Unveiled, in the booth. A little trick we learned over the years is to put the show information on one side and note taking lines on the other side–they'll take notes and hang onto the card to use when they get back to their hotel room or office.
These are the easy parts of the show effort ... all they require are thinking and planning ahead.
The hard part is writing the news.
"Good writing is damn hard work." – Author Unknown
It's called "news" for a reason.
It's about new products, new services and new applications.
It's about establishing the company's position, focus and direction.
It is not about including copies of releases from the past three months.
It is not about stuffing the online kit with data sheets and brochures.
It is about quality news, not quantity.
Releases aren't short stories or the great American novel. Releases should:
· Begin with contact names, phone numbers and email addresses. For trade shows, let the press know your hotel and your cell phone number. If they need something – information, quote, photo sent somewhere–they need it immediately, not when it is convenient for you.
· Be written with the editor/reporter in mind and his/her audience–not management
· Start with the essentials – who, what, when, where, why and how
· Be written in a manner that permits the editor/reporter to go from the summary idea to the greatest detail
· Be well formatted so they are inviting and easy to read with bold-face subheads so they can be quickly scanned and the reporter quickly gets the essence of the news
· Include information essential to the story and the editor/reporter–not management flattering "fluff"
· Be simple, factual, complete. Tell the complete story, deliver all the facts ... and stop
· Be written to position the company and product/service quickly, clearly and concisely
· Have complete sentences with active nouns and verbs
· Follow the fundamental news style and have solid/complete information – nothing more, nothing less
· Include contact information at the end on how the press can get more information, photos and request review product, if appropriate
If the story is complex or needs amplification, include a good Power Point presentation in the kit. Or include a clear, concise and complete white paper or backgrounder.
Just remember, good information doesn't sell itself.
Just remember there are 3,500 + companies from around the globe clamoring to get the most media coverage they can.
They're hungry for it; but after the show, they'll forget about them until next time the CES virus hits 'em.