Trade show press strategies

Should you put out news during a trade show? We’ve taken a look at data from some of the world’s biggest trade shows to understand if it’s a good idea – odds are, you’d be wasting your budget.

You’ve booked your stand, planned what you want to show off to your customers, arranged your meetings and you want to tell the world about your new offering. Should you tell them at a trade show?

There are three main press strategies when it comes to trade shows

  • Make announcements in the run up to shows – customers will see the coverage and book meetings in advance.
  • Make announcements at the shows – the press are there / wanting to cover the show’s news and it will be fresh in the minds of readers who’ve checked the news sites that morning
  • You don’t make announcements at shows – using press meetings for relationship builders or pre-briefings to avoid being drowned out
  • I’ve always erred on the side of argument three.

Now, most of my working life has been in either science or PR, but I have spent time on the journalist’s side too. And, in this short spell, my brief was to get 5 or 6 stories and spend as little time out of the office as possible.

This meant I went to three-four big companies (Intel, Honda etc) that would be guaranteed to have something new and shiny; then spend time looking for one-two startups doing something novel and interesting. And that was it. The vast majority of companies got overlooked.

But was this just me?

How much coverage comes from a tradeshow

First up – we analysed the number of articles a publication prints. With Electronica (the world’s largest electronics trade fair) taking place right now I’ve chosen coverage from its last running. 

At the show over 2700 articles were written. However, the number per publication is not particularly high. The highest was Electronics Weekly (currently has seven full-time and contributing staff), which published 40 articles mentioning Electronica during the 2016 show. But it dropped rapidly  – see chart below.

Articles per publication mentioning the term “Electronica”

At most therefore, there are 40 articles for more than 3000 exhibitors.

Is there an effect on coverage for an announcement?

To look at this in more depth we looked at date from one company over the period of a year to see the effect, comparing coverage from releases made at a trade show (in this case MWC and Embedded World, which take place simultaneously) with others from the year. The company is ADI, a significant chip maker.

The search is for Analog Devices / ADI and IoT (which the announcement was on) with any published by Business Wire or PR NewsWire removed*.  While this hasn’t removed all wire coverage (see a January spike which is a German wire for pre-Embedded World)

As you can see there is a correlation between announcements and coverage with only a few outliers: January (as mentioned), July (initial news of a merger), October (the completed merger)… and February – no spike for the MWC coverage.

We then looked at the news to compare it with others put during the year – while we couldn’t know how much the news was pitched, we can say it looked newsworthy and in our opinion should have generated similar levels of coverage to other announcements. 

We also searched a couple of other companies, and a similar pattern was seen.

Is it possible to get coverage at trade shows

Interestingly, in the research for Electronica, Infineon showed it’s possible to get coverage in large numbers. But you’ve got to do something eye catching. 

Almost 10% of all Electronica coverage was on its Rubik’s cube solution system. Something that takes seconds to understand, is very visual, and novel / fun. 

Does show coverage have an effect on the business

To understand this we also checked the Google Search traffic for Infineon during the show to see if there was a spike. 

There wasn’t.

Despite all the coverage, people at the show / following the show weren’t then following up on it by searching for Infineon.

Lessons

  • Don’t use trade shows to drive coverage. It likely won’t work.
  • If you do, make sure what you’re doing is novel, fun and can be understood intuitively.
  • If you do get coverage, don’t expect it to increase awareness among your customers.
  • And if you don’t get coverage at the show – don’t fret. It wouldn’t have had an effect anyway.

Instead we recommend to launch before for coverage to drive show meetings. And use the show to give customers first demonstrations. With journalists, use it to develop relationships with journalists who are likely hungry, tired, thirst and weighed down with press releases.

Talk them through the announcements that are coming up in the near future, give them a scoop… but nothing that needs them to write anything up urgently. Follow up with the press release by email – under embargo. And then again when it’s ready to go – about two to three weeks after the show should be enough.