Maximizing Trade Show Exposure

Article excerpt

Maximizing trade show exposure

The old image of trade shows as being mainly social events is dead and gone. Today, they are recognized as essential components in a balanced marketing program. They exist to facilitate the purchase and sale of goods and services. Budgets hinge on results; expenses must be justified.

Trade show programs and public relations share many common elements. They are both components of the promotional mix and they often share the same messages and act as one of the few, or only, representatives of their organization. Frequently, both seek measurable results. With all this in common, it's hard to believe that public relations and trade show professionals don't interact more often.

Yet, when I recently moderated a seminar on the subject of public relations and the trade show at "The Exhibitor Show '89," the trade show industry's largest educational conference on trade show marketing, and asked a group of about 50 corporate exhibit managers whether their in-house or firm public relations counsel assisted in either the strategic planning or implementation of their trade show promotions, there was only one positive response.

In progressive organizations, trade show and public relations practitioners should interact whenever possible. It behooves the public relations counsel, either corporate or firm, to initiate the building of administrative and budgetary bridges to link these functions for the benefit of both.

When an industry's suppliers and several hundred or more direct customers meet in the street market environment of a trade show, it presents the savvy public relations practitioner with many unique opportunities. You must understand and appreciate the full extent of the publicity opportunities presented at your company's or client's trade shows.

There are three reasons public relations practitioners should become involved in a trade show program. The astute practitioner can:

* reinforce the company's sales message at the show and enhance immediate show participation;

* extend the publicity windfall associated with show participation via pre- and post-show publicity;

* use the on-site exposure as a high visibility/high interest base to pursue and achieve other public relations goals.

Counseling the team

Although trade shows last only a few days, the coordinated effort of planning the participation and the various promotions should occur at least three to five months prior to show dates. One of the best ways to start is to contact the trade show organizer and review the plans for show promotion. Show management is usually interested in the same audiences you are: attendees and the media. Playing off their efforts can be beneficial.

Once you understand the basic plan of the show organizer, you can devise your own plan. This process should involve many individuals, including: R&D personnel, product and sales managers, the advertising manager, exhibit manager and other public relations counsel. Public relations practitioners, either firm or in-house, might find their presence to be new to the exhibit "team". Nonetheless, their advice should be integral to the coordination of promotional projects surrounding the exhibit, including the formulation of the major messages that will set the promotional tone. Though the vehicles used will vary, the main goal is always to establish a clear image through continuity. To ensure this continuity, three phases of planning are necessary: pre-show, show and post-show.

Establish pre-show interest.

The public relations practitioner has a variety of ways to approach the task of trade show publicity. Planned pre-show promotion can help ensure that attendees will be looking for your firm's booth during the show, and creates a foundation for communicating your desired message to attending media.

A series of direct mail pieces will help establish interest among potential attendees and provide the vehicle for communicating any on-site promotions. …