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By Ben Beckles, Media Relations Consultant, TopLine Comms

Trade shows are often expensive and time-consuming, but they have the potential to lead to great business opportunities. In terms of PR, getting journalists’ attention at a trade show is tough, as you’re fighting for their attention in and amongst all your competitors. But it’s also a great opportunity to network and show off your brand. If you’re well prepared and have the right materials (and story) to hand, you’re in with a good chance of getting some great coverage.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to make the most of a trade show from a PR perspective.

Make sure your company is listed on the trade show website and guide

This is basic but important. Make sure your company is listed (along with an up to date description of your company and what you’re doing at the show) on the trade show’s website and any other literature they’re publishing for the event. Show organisers can sometimes ask for this early on, but it’s really important to get it right. At the very least, any press attending will check out the website to look at the schedule and see which companies will be exhibiting, so make sure all the information you want to be listed about your company is on there.

Get a copy of the press list

The first step is to ask the organisers for a press list. They’re unlikely to give you full contact details but they should, at the very least, give you the names of the publications that are sending journalists to the show. This will give you a good idea of what type of story will work and what type of coverage you might get from the show. For example, if there are regional newspapers on the list, you might want to create a story specifically around what you’re doing in the region. By comparison, if lots of technical publications seem to be attending, you’ll want to create a story that talks about your technology (or how you use technology).

Whether the organisers give you a list or not, it’s worth searching for past coverage of the show. It’ll give you an indication of what types of stories press have written on it and will help you manage expectations of the types of coverage you might get for your company.

Create a press kit

A press kit (or PR kit) used to consist of a printed version of a press release and some other materials about your company. Nowadays it’s more likely to be a USB stick and some other more niche giveaways. Having something physical to give press who come by your stand (or come to meet you) is still important and the easiest way to make sure they have the relevant information on your company.

Ramp up PR before the show begins

The fact of the matter is that, unless your company is already famous or in the news, journalists won’t proactively search for your company. You need to give them a reason to do so and creating a PR campaign before the show is a great way to do that. Provide them with valuable content, usually in the form of research, and by the time the event rolls around, they’ll come looking for you to find out more. If you need to pay to carry out a survey in advance of the show in order to create a story, work that into the budget for the show itself.

Create your story

As mentioned, journalists won’t seek you out unless you give them a reason to. Exhibiting at the show isn’t a story in itself. You need to create one, whether it be about your company, some thought leadership about your industry from your CEO or (as mentioned) some research that you’ve got to share.

If you’re struggling to come up with a story, some tried and tested ideas include:

  • An interesting CEO/entrepreneur story
  • Opinion on how political activities are affecting your industry
  • Client case studies

If you do go down the research route then consider launching it at an exclusive dinner you can invite the media too. This’ll help you build closer relationships with them and get their undivided attention. 

Continue with PR after the show

If you want to keep the journalist’s attention in the long term, you’ll need to keep up the PR momentum once the show is over. A good way to do this (if the trade show organisers will allow) is to conduct a survey on your stand with delegates. It’s a great way to capture some market research with a specialist audience, get people to hang around your stand and will give you a story to run with once the show is over. Show organisers should be okay with it as it means giving them a bit more publicity once the show is over, too. Just remember that you’ll probably need to give delegates something (like a sweet or other freebie) in exchange for doing the survey, and you’ll need to keep it simple, short and anonymous.

Make a lasting impression

If you want people attending the show to remember your company’s name above everyone else’s, you need to give them a well-rounded experience at your booth. You’ve got to make an effort. You’ll want decent promotional items (not just pens), offer food or drink on your stand, think about the design of your booth and consider some contests and giveaways to capture contact details and create engagement on social media. Make it accessible, but also make it memorable – attendees (and press) are bombarded with all the booths at shows, so it’s up to you to make yours stand out.

Just showing up at an event isn’t enough. Instead, take the time to know the show, plan ahead, create a story and make an effort, and you’ll get the most out of the event.


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