By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter
We’re officially in trade show season, which means planning booths, putting together promotions, connecting with customers and preparing your staff for the show. One often overlooked aspect of trade show participation is the media.
When you exhibit at a trade show, you can trust in the quality and relevancy of the attendees as potential customers. You can also trust that the media that is most important to your ideal customer will be at the show, so make sure you prepare to talk with them as well.
I once supported a company at their biggest industry show. I’d set up meetings with media at the show and spent a lot of time in their booth. During a lull when I didn’t have anything scheduled, I decided to go eat lunch. When I returned, the sales rep in the booth handed me an editor’s card and told me he’d stopped to see you. I asked about the interaction with the editors, what had been shown to him and so on, just to find out that they had given him my card and sent him on his way. Throughout the show, the booth staff was so laser focused on getting leads that every time they encountered the media, they said two words, “See her” and pointed them to me.
It’s important to treat the media personnel at a show as if they are just as important as a customer … if not more. Trade media have a huge audience of hundreds or thousands of the people who you want to reach.
Beyond trade shows, you may find yourself speaking to the media for other reasons, so it’s important to be ready.
Interaction with the media benefits both you and them. They gain depth and substance to the piece they are working on, and you and your company gain priceless publicity.
For this partnering to work though, each party needs to understand how the other works. When you are interacting with a journalist, it is important to remember certain guidelines.
Prepare – It is important to be prepared when you speak to the media. Before a scheduled interview, take some time to anticipate questions that a reporter might ask. Take some time to learn about the medium, reporter and the audience. By doing this, you can modify your responses to better fit the piece.
Think before you speak – When talking to a journalist, you want to make sure you are in control and that you have a clear idea of what your agenda is. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to say? And what don’t you want to say?
- Don’t go off the record. If you’re not prepared to hear it, see it or read it in the article, just don’t say it.
- Make sure you take the time to think through your answer before it is spoken, because once something is out there, there is no going back. You want to control your answers. If a reporter tries to pin you with a tough question or brings up something you don’t want to speak on, either say you have no comment or try rephrasing the question in terms that are more favorable to you. Whatever you do, don’t lie. Tell the truth, even if the truth is, “I’m not able to comment on that.”
- Don’t ramble. Make your point and move on. Reporters think concisely so try to answer the same way.
Use layman’s terms – You don’t want to use company or industry jargon that might confuse the reader or sound too complicated. Keep it clear and concise for the best results.
Journalists work on deadline – Editorial opportunities, especially interviews, are requested by a deadline. Often times, the editor calls at the last minute without very much lead time, and you have to be able to meet that deadline. Reporters will go to the next opportunity if they don’t get a response, and a lot of the time that means they will turn to your competitors. No one wants to miss out on a valuable and highly credible opportunity, so it is important to respect an editor’s deadline.
Know your message – When speaking with a reporter, try to make sure you get in your key points. Don’t simply answer the question, but try to bridge the questions to a key point you want the reporter to know about. This can open new opportunities to you as well. A reporter might expand your addition to the piece he/she is working on or may wish to contact you further on the new points you have spoken on.
Time is of the essence – Always make sure you provide information asked of you. If you tell a reporter that you are going to send him/her more information, make sure you do.
Adhering to a few simple guidelines can result in valuable publicity and gain trust between you and the journalist that can generate future editorial opportunities.