Last updateSun, 07 Aug 2022 10pm

Trade Show PR Isn't All About Body Count

By Andy Marken

For a whole bunch of publicists, the holidays – Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, you name it – are the starting gun to perform/deliver for bosses and clients at what is arguably the largest trade show in the world ... CES (Consumer Electronics Show).

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Here are the players:

The Client/Boss

More than 5,000 companies preen themselves, get pumped up and spend a whole lotta' money to descend on Las Vegas. Their goal:

- Show new products they expect/hope will take them to the next level

- Develop a lot of buzz about the company and its products

- At the very least, survive another year or be bought

They work late at night and through the weekends finalizing product ideas and finishing up the first run of product or polish prototypes.

They direct their publicity folks to ensure that they get to meet with and be interviewed by all of the "big" media names. (Yes, Virginia, despite all of the social media discussion, press people are still held in high regard.)

They throw last- minute specifications and applications information to the publicists. And, as they leave for the holidays, they tell them to produce elegant releases that get their messages across loud and clear.

They continually ask which media folks they'll be meeting with; and with a voice that questions your professionalism/ relationships (close personal ties), they ask why Bill, Joan, Jane, Walt, David and Deborah aren't on the list.

The Media

Again this year, more than 5,000 members of the media – print, web, radio, TV – will hit Las Vegas and get a first-hand view of what's hot ... cars, mobile things.

They plan to meet with senior executives of companies in their interest areas to get insight into what's new, trends, what's going on in the marketplace, what all will move on to be the 2014 winners.

Most plan to skim the show – sessions, press conferences, parties, booth visits – and survive the week as best they can.

Some like to schedule their booth visits/company meetings to ensure the right person is there to give them the information they need and can use.

Some schedule a few meetings and keep the rest of their time open so they can stumble across those hidden gems that come to the show with something totally unique, totally special.

Some schedule meetings and hope to gawd they can get from one hall to another in time to keep their appointed rounds; but know it won't happen.

Some schedule meetings with companies and PR people they know and work with regularly because it's a good time to renew face-to-face contact and strengthen the human bond.

The PR Person/Publicist

The newbie publicists are there for the parties.

Some are just hired for the show to get coverage!

Some spent the year working their Facebook and Twitter followers, sending out releases and occasionally talking with someone.

Some kept in contact with editors, writers, reviewers, bloggers and others, quietly doing their job.

But ... the holiday season is the warm-up for the big show. They don't want to disappoint anyone!

With registered media lists in hand (actually on their systems) the pressure begins.

The Electronic Contact

The work to score the meetings and fill the calendar begins ...like carpet bombing.

It's not real 1:1 hustling because the subject of the email won't get you excited (names deleted):

- Re: please visit us booth (number)

- Book Your Appointment to Experience the 'ABC' @ CES 2014!

- Media Alert// Famous Person to Launch Something at CES

- Media Alert: Company at CES 2014

- Company At CES

- Register for Company Press Briefing at CES 2014

- Meet with Us Inc. at CES 2014

- Invitation: Our CES Drinks Reception @ Hotel

- Discover A New Era of Consumer Electronics at CES 2014

- Company Available for Interview at CES

- Big # opportunities for press meetings at CES with one email...

- Press conference invitation: Introducing Product - World's First

- At CES, see, touch & feel the technology that will change...

- CES Invitation from Small Company

- PLEASE SCHEDULE: Company In-Person Interview and Demo Invitation at CES

- CES DEMO – New Something Uses Bluetooth

- At Las Vegas CES 2014, discover how cute product can disrupt all of your preconceptions about social media!


Yes, warm, personalized messages that are alive, intriguing.

Then there are Subject lines that may not excite you but the opening discussion will really grip you:

- I hope you're having a great day

- I'm sure you're getting a lot of calls for CES meetings

- I have something really exciting you'll want to see at CES

- I saw that you will be at CES in January and I wanted to reach out on behalf of ABC

- I'm sure you've received countless emails asking for CES appointments, but I was hoping you might be interested in

- Hope you are well. I was wondering whether you might be interested in scheduling a CES meeting

- Hello! You're probably buried in CES-related messaging and I know how difficult it is to sift through to what's important to you

Or, how about the DIY meeting invite a friend received:

Just got an email from a PR firm telling about THE most exciting thing to see at CES. It actually looked interesting so I read the whole email (something I'm not famous for). At the bottom, it closed with (let me rephrase that - it went for a kill) – click on the URL to make an appointment – no booth number, no person.

I may have broken my own record for how fast I hit the delete button.

Except for the fact that our list of contacts was actually only a small subset of the registered media list (people we know and want to meet on specific products/subjects), we work hard to schedule meetings that should be meaningful for both parties.

Still, the email contact is efficient for everyone.

The recipient can respond yes/no and suggest times that are convenient for him/her.

Or not!

Smile/Dial Lives

Still, there are more than a few who love the POT (plain old telephone).

An analyst friend sent us a note about a publicist's call he had just received:

Normally, I don't get the call; (individual's name) usually answer the phone. When it's a PR person calling for an appointment at some upcoming show, our folks are polite and explain that no, we don't write about flatostrates and phren modulators, we chase (technology name).

Alone today I answered the phone and Tiffney said, "I see you are registered for CES; are you still going?" Since all PR girls are named Tiffney or Jennifer and since I had just gotten off a plane from (country) and since I can't remember my kid's names, I answered her thinking it might be someone I had once met, and said, "yes, why?"

She said, "We'd like to invite you meet with Gazilfraze."

"What does Gazelfraze do?" I asked, and looked at the clock.

"They make social networking software for B2B analytics to keep track of zingbats and dildos."

"And you thought we'd be interested?" I asked – I'd been on the phone with this girl for 3 minutes and could feel my fingernails growing.

"Yes," she replied in her sugar sweet, PR-trained voice.

"Have you looked at our web page?" I asked.

"Absolutely," she answered as perky as when we started, which was four minutes ago and I was fighting my ADD thinking about the coffee I was going to make as soon as I could hang up the phone.

"And what is it you think we do?" I asked

"Well,.." then her cheerful 20s something voice dropped and she mumbled, "you do content and communications..."

"No we don't," I said, "we follow (technology name), and we'd have no interest at all in social software, why did you think we would?"

"OK then," she came back up to her super-charged over hydrated self, "I guess we don't have a fit."

"No," I said, "I guess we don't".

"Well," she said, with snarkyness creeping into her voice, "You just have a great day." Click.

I'm sure she wanted to say, go to hell you AHole, but didn't know what a crappy jet-lagged memory I have and knew I'd never remember the company or her firm.

We get a dozen calls a day from PR girls who have no clue who we are or what we do. They just go dialing for dollars in a spray and pray mode, hoping to bring traffic to the booth. Is this what companies are paying for? Air-head girls to be telephone solicitors? Or am I just a grumpy fart who should take a nap?

In the name of our long friendship, we didn't bother responding because ...

Bottom Line

Not every member of the media is interested in every company at the show.

This is especially true of CES, which increasingly covers everything from phones to cars, TVs to tablets and flash drives to talking stoves.

As the technologies become broader and more sophisticated, media people focus on specific areas.

They have to survive too!

Publicists who focus on filling senior executive hours with the most meetings are only focused on body count, no matter what it takes.

Every analyst/media person who wants to meet with the executive is important, not just another score.

He/she should be given all of the assistance, attention possible not just at CES but throughout the year.

Publicists like to say they're "experts in the optimum use of communications technology across the full range of subjects that today's more open, increasingly visible organizations must deal with."

That's a little difficult to accomplish when they're so focused on body count.

Still, the show takes a lot of fun outta' the holidays ... and we all look a little dead after a week on the floor!!!



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