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Challenges, problems, and triumphs -- from a manufacturer's perspective.

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Trade Show Press Pointers

Maximize your publicity for a minimal cost.

by Kindra Foster, Foster Executive Writing & Editing (June 20, 2005)

With all the hubbub centering around short-term on-site sales, itís easy to forget you also have exciting opportunities at a trade show to nurture your companyís long-term corporate image, which leads to extended sales. Those are the reasons to woo the press just as enthusiastically as you woo your customers.

This article will explain a few of the opportunities at a trade show to connect with the press and some pointers for making the most of those contacts.

Press Room: The Inner Sanctum.

The most obvious way to appeal to the press at a trade show is the press roomówhere only members of the press are invited. Here, you can capture the attention of editors and reporters with a press kit. Your kit will be placed on tables lining the outside walls of the room, along with those of many other companies.

Because editors and reporters will be looking for new product and company information intentionally, this is an exceptional opportunity to reach them with your message. On the other hand, because your press kit will be presented with hundreds of others, itís important to make it stand out.

Press Kit: An Opportunity.

Here are a few ways to make your press kit stand out and increase the odds that itís one of the kits editors take home:

1. Choose a folder with bright or unique colors.

2. You might choose a container for your press kit contents that is unusualóa box, a gift bag or a book in a unique shape, for example.

3. Put something intriguing on the front of the kit, such as a product sample or other artifact that is a bit unexpected: a toy, a gift or something with unusual texture. The idea is to stop the eye of the editor and make him or her curious about what you are offering. Be sure to remain professional!

4. On the front of your kit, make it clear that it represents your company, and maybe even include some brief info about the exciting new products described inside. This will make it easier for editors to scan kits and decide which ones to take.

5. Donít make it too big. Keep in mind that editors and reporters must lug all this stuff back to the office and read through it. They will appreciate brevity.

The goal of the press kit is to interest the editors and reporters in your products and convince them that they are important enough to cover them in their publications. Once youíve caught the editorís eye with a unique wrapper around your kit and youíve compelled her to open the kit, you must be sure there is truly useful information inside.

Here are possible press kit contents:

1. A cover letter. This summarizes the contents of the kit and lists the highlights briefly. In large type, include your booth number at the show, so editors can easily figure out where to go see your product in person. Include contact information, so editors can easily figure out where to call you after the show.

2. Press releases. Include one release about each of your new products and any other news about your company. This is the heart of the kit and what editors will use to write articles. (Editor's note: For tips on how to write a press release, click on Kate's Collage.)

3. Photographs to go with the press releases. Include slides, a disc or Web addresses for high resolution images.

4. Product samples. If the product is not too bulky, include a package in the kit. You also can include samples of small projects made with the product, such as paper die cuts made with die cutting machines and dies.

5. Sales sheets about the products. Include beauty shots, so itís easy for editors to see what product you are talking about. Include any diagrams that make it easier to understand the way your product works.

6. Company background sheet. Include a brief history, information about where you are located and other info that could be used in a company profile.

Make sure the information inside of your press kit is clear, accurate, complete and easy to review. Cut anything from your kit that doesnít give editors and reporters substantial informationÖin other words, leave out the fluff.

A final word of advice about your press kit in the press room: make sure you stock it early enough and keep it stocked. Members of the press usually come to a show a day early and your kits should be on the table by early that morning. Bring enough kits to last the entire show. Some editors wait until the last minute to gather up these bulky kitsóright before they are ready to leave.

Press at the Booth.

Youíll make your best impression on editors by showing your product in person. If itís truly an interesting product, invite editors and reporters to visit your booth at the show. If itís not a substantial product, or just a version of an existing product, donít take editorsí time with it. Save your invitations for the best products.

To invite editors to your booth, simply send an email or make a brief call. Tell them what they can expect to see and why it is so exciting. Talk a bit about how your new product compares to other products in the market.

Remember, editors will see many, many new products at a show, and you should not be offended if they canít come to the booth in person. Remain professional and undemanding, and offer to help in any way you can. Even if an editor canít come to the booth this time, they will be impressed with your professionalism and helpfulness, and are likely to want to work with you in the future.

If the editor is interested in coming to the booth, either set up a specific time or be "on call" at the booth for them during a particular morning or afternoon. Itís okay to give tours to more than one editor at a time, even if they are competitors Ė allow them to decide whether or not they will be comfortable there with one another.

Terrific Editor Tours.

Editors and reporters donít have a lot of time at a show, so follow these guidelines to make your tour as effective as possible.

1. Be interested in editors or reporters as individuals, not just as people who can do something for you. On the other hand, donít overdo it. You are not an editorís best friend! You are a business contact.

2. Hand each editor a press kit, if he or she wants one. Editors and reporters already might have picked up a kit in the press room. Or they might want you to send them one. If so, be sure to follow through after the show and send one.

3. Show the editor around the booth, pointing out whatís new and explaining why your companyís new products are interesting to the market.

4. Keep explanations of product as clear, concise and information-rich as possible.

5. Ask how you can help editors with their job of reporting on new productÖcan you provide free product, completed projects, or even full-length articles? Each publication has different needs. Ask what they are, and keep them all straight!

Other Press Opportunities.

Your job with the press at the trades how is to stand out from the crowd, so donít be afraid to think outside of the box when communicating with editors and reporters.

You can give them small gifts to help them remember you. You can send letters and samples to their hotel rooms, if you know where they are staying. You can offer to take them to lunch, where youíll have more opportunities to talk about your product, and also to get to know them better. Again, just donít overdo it or act in a manner that is inconsistent with how well you know a particular editor or reporter.

If you have a truly revolutionary new product, you should consider having a press conference or opening a hospitality suite. Be sure to abide by show regulations.

Finally, some of your best opportunities might come after the show. You can call to follow up your appointments, review the things you agreed to do and ask if there is anything else you can do.

Umbrella Rules.

When dealing with the press anytime, follow these general rules to make sure you present a positive impression of your company.

1. Keep it clear and concise.

2. Report only about things that are truly news.

3. Donít present a lot of hype with editors. Tell it like it is.

4. Be unique, but donít take liberties that compromise your professionalism.

5. Remember editors and reporters are people, too. Be courteous and interested in them and their work. Think about what they need to do their jobs and help in ways you can.

6. Follow through. If you say you will do something for an editor, be sure to do it.

There you go! Youíve learned how to create a press kit, how to present yourself to the press and get appointments in your booth. Youíve learned the general rules of dealing with the press, so you will be taken seriously and seen as a help, not a hindrance to their work at the trade show. You are ready to meet the press!

Mike Hartnett comments.

As a member of the trade press, I can promise you that editors never visit all the booths they want to visit Ė or promised to visit. Trade shows are NEVER long enough. As a result, any smart journalist will religiously visit the press room to pick up press kits. Consequently, a clear, concise press kit may be your only link to free post-show publicity.

(Note: Kindra is President of Foster Executive Writing & Editing and has many years of experience do marketing and public relations in the industry, particularly in scrapbooking. To contact Kindra, call 402-325-0457; fax 402-325-6757, or email Kfoster2@neb.rr.com. To read previous "Vinny" columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column. To read Kindra's advice on how to write a press release, click on Kate's Collage in the left-hand column.)



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