Six Trade Show Tips for Beginners

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By Julia Prior. Account Coordinator

With the spring conference season over, Public Relations representatives from companies around the world are in recovery mode after attending industry conferences and trade shows. The three to four month flurry of trade shows, expos and conferences can be daunting, even for a seasoned professional, but for a beginner, it’s downright terrifying. Between traveling, staffing booths and meeting with media, the whole season can be quite an ordeal. Here are our top six tips for getting through it in one piece.

Image courtesy of flickr.com/energytomorrow

Image courtesy of flickr.com/energytomorrow

1. Preparation. This is probably the most important item on the list. Starting as soon as possible, nail down travel and logistical plans that you can. As soon as you have your hotel and booth number, begin planning your logistics. Will you be renting a car or walking? Are Taxis readily available in case walking isn’t an option? (Rain, heat, etc.)

2. Preparation. This is on the list twice because yes, it is just that important. Not only should you have any and all logistics planned out, but you should also have planned your messaging and key topics for the conference. Be focused and remember your audience. Make sure that if a reporter walks up to your booth, you have something newsworthy to tell them.

3. Research. This goes along with the preparation points. Research everything. What other companies will be attending? Will there be media there? Will you have a chance to meet with the media? Have they written about you before?

4. Comfortable Shoes. On a more literal note, you’ll be standing a lot during a conference. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes that you’re comfortable standing and walking in for hours at a time. You don’t want to worry about your feet aching when answer questions from reporters or potential customers.

5. Start your planning early. Begin nailing down messaging and booking media appointments at least 2-3 weeks before the conference. Don’t risk missing out on a media opportunity because you waited too long and all your target reporters were booked solid.

6. Sleep! Make sure to get enough sleep every night of the conference. I know, there are always tons of networking events, happy hours, and sponsored parties to go to. But you want to be on your A game when representing your brand, so make sure you are operating at your highest level. Making sure you get enough sleep during the conference will also help you hit the ground running when you get back to the office after the conference.

Bonus Tip! Don’t go alone! Make sure you have support, whether on or off site from your PR and Marketing teams. They can help set media appointments, brief you on the background of the media in attendance, and even assist with nailing down messaging so everyone at the conference is saying the same thing.

So now you’re ready! Keep these tips in mind this fall when you start planning your conference schedule. Remember, planning and preparation is key for conference season success.

What are your top things you do to survive industry events?

Creating Killer Visual Content for B2B Brands

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By Julia Prior, Account Coordinator

The verdict is in – compelling content in the digital age comes in the form of images. And it makes sense because images are an eye-catching way to convey information, feelings and news in an easy to digest and relatable manner.

But how does all this work for B2B companies?

Often a major strategy in a B2B plan is to position the employees and executives as thought leaders and trusted experts on the company’s particular topic. Images are a creative way to disseminate this kind of information to the general public.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership in order to promote its programs that help professionals grow in leadership and management roles.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership.

By sharing a quote or industry insight on its own, you may gain a few customers that read it and think about it. But people are more likely to read and engage with the content if it is presented not only in short and sweet “snackable” sizes, but in a graphically creative way.

Instead of just sharing a headline or quote from an article, try pulling a sound bite sized learning out and creating an image out of it. You can then use the image to post to social media, or even use as an embedded picture with the article in a publication or on your website or blog.

The key here is to make the content interesting. Support your executives’ brilliant articles and thought leadership pieces with compelling images that help tell the story.

The easiest way to do this is to simply impose a quote or learning from the article into an image, as shown here. This gives readers a quality look at topics and draws them into the article. Make them want to read more.

High resolution images of your company’s product can also be used to this effect. If you work in technology, use the images to back up any claims you’re making.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Get creative with your visuals. Showing your product on its own is nice, but to really add weight and credibility to the image, try using a picture of someone using your product. Pair this with a quote from your executives or customers about the product or technology, and you’ve got a compelling image to use practically anywhere.

In addition to small, snackable sized images, give some thought to using the research your company has no doubt done to create your own infographic. By teaching the reader something unique about your industry, and supporting your claims and products with data and facts, you earn the readers trust and become an expert in their mind. Infographics are also a great way to show how your customers are benefiting directly by using your product or service.

Lastly, don’t forget the fun side. Take pictures at conferences and events, even around the office. Office birthdays and special events provide a chance to show your customers and the world what kind of personality your brand has. Give a peek behind the curtain every once in a while and allow your Facebook fans or Twitter followers a glimpse at what your company does at conferences or events.

Images are a great way to tell your brand story not only through social media, but to make your website, blog posts and contributed articles more interesting. As long as they are high resolution, professional in appearance and relevant to your overall messaging goals, images can be a great way to draw more attention to quality content, which will in turn draw attention to your brand’s product or services.

What kind of visual elements do you use to tell your brand’s story?

The Top 4 Social Media Penalties

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By Julia Prior

With the Super Bowl this afternoon, don’t find yourself committing a social media penalty. Here are the top four.

Illegal Formation: A tweet that has more than 140 characters, more than 3 hashtags or is too vague for the average person to comprehend.

Messaging is key on social media platform, but so is execution. It takes skill and strategy to communicate and contextualize your message in a quick, engaging and thoughtful manner.

Offsides: Retweeting a story you haven’t fully read. Always do your research and get the back story, and don’t just share things because the people you follow are sharing it.

What if there’s a point in the story that your company doesn’t fundamentally agree with? Read, research and strategize before sharing or posting anything. I cannot stress this enough.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Also known as trolling. Purposely commenting, posting or tweeting in a way to elicit a negative reaction from others and either de-rail a current discussion topic or to bring attention to your own brand by hijacking your competitor’s community. This can also be exhibited by brands who use hashtags and topics in their tweets to show up in trending searches.

Just don’t. It’s poor form, and frankly it’s very rude. You wouldn’t drop into a conversation in real life and immediately change the subject to yourself, so don’t do it online.

Helmet – to – Helmet Collision: Attempting to address and resolve a customer complaint directly in a public forum. If a customer takes to social media with a complaint, offer to contact them privately to discuss, either through a Twitter direct message, email, or even better, a phone call. Always offer your information first. Example:

mortons

Morton’s addresses the customer directly, in a timely manner (this replay was time stamped only 3 hours after the original comment was made) and offered another medium to hear additional grievances, with the promise to look into the issue.

 

UPDATE: 

Power Outage: Going dark and not posting for an extended period of time.

Social media is a relationship tool. You wouldn’t neglect any of your other relationships for an extended period of time, would you?

 

What do you think the biggest social media penalties are?

How to Be a PR Rockstar at Tradeshows

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By Robyn Brown

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is fast approaching and if you’re lucky enough to attend 1) mail me tickets and 2) check out my event reminder list below.

Here are just a few tips and tricks I’ve collected from attending conferences over the years that helped me exceed client expectations. I’d love to hear what’s worked for you as well.

  • Bring your camera, and if possible video camera. It’s not always the job of the PR pro to take photos at the event but, it’s a detail you can’t miss. Take photos of your company’s tradeshow booth with key personnel, your spokesperson speaking with a reporter (with the reporter’s permission), your company presenter whether in a demo, breakout session or keynote, and attendees standing in front of your company logo on a backdrop.

With video you can capture short (two minute or less) segments with your spokesperson or even customer speaking about your news and your company’s role at the event. Share photos and video on social media channels like Facebook and YouTube – the sooner the better – and include the event hash tags so attendees can find you.

  • Connect with media on Twitter after an interview. While preparing for the event, be sure to locate the reporter’s Twitter handle. Then, write a quick tweet to the reporter after they’ve met with your spokesperson to thank them for their time. You can even include a URL to your company’s news posted on your website. Example below:

tweet

  • Make full use of your time. You may find a few hours in between interviews, appointments and checking back in at the office. During these moments, feel free to take a swig of water, munch a power bar and take a quick breather. When appropriate, you can also pitch in to help your non-PR colleagues – relieve someone manning the booth and help answer questions from prospective customers, help your company presenter prepare for his upcoming speech, or even re-fill the tchotchkes (small giveaways) on the booth table. These folks may even remember your goodwill when you need something from them later.

I’ve also used my ‘down time’ to learn more about an industry – especially if it’s highly technical or new to me. The first time I attended the Society of Exploration Geophysicists annual conference, I asked a geologist to explain in simple terms how he used my client’s software to display 3D seismic views of deep sub-sea resources – something I had written about but wanted to understand first hand. Not only did I get a good perspective, but I gained a contact that provided a use case and quotes for a future bylined article. David Carriere, a frequent collaborator, also suggests working the tradeshow floor to do a little of your own market research, and observe how your colleagues are handling their own publicity efforts. (From David’s 2008 book, Publicity: 7 Steps to Publicize Just About Anything).

  • Hang out near the press room. While I’m not a media stalker, it does make sense to casually be outside the reporter hangout when you can. You may chance upon a reporter who you were unable to speak with prior to the event. If this happens, strike up a genial conversation, make sure they have your company news and offer the chance to speak directly to your spokesperson. You may score 20 minutes of their time for an interview or, at the very least, you’ve strengthened a relationship with some face-to-face time.

For many of us, participation at trade shows and conferences are spread throughout the year, allowing months in between to prepare for each one. For others though, there may be a three-month window in your industry called tradeshow season where one event comes directly after another. When you represent multiple clients, your calendars can even overlap over multiple seasons. Earlier this year, I attended three conferences over a month and half period for two clients in different industries. Talk about changing gears! It’s also not unheard of to wrap up press release approvals and book interviews for an upcoming event while attending another. Done that one, too!

Seasoned public relations pros are experts at multi-tasking and supporting the strategies for multiple projects and accounts. We can pull together materials for our PR kits, brainstorm messaging 1:1 with an executive, make sure everyone in the press room has seen the client’s news, and ensure that reporters show up for an interview when they’ve promised – all while overseeing the bigger picture of our PR objectives. While there’s always a set of standard PR activities at any conference, take the time to consider how to go the extra step for your company’s media and marketing efforts.

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Writing Skills Without Breaking a Sweat

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By Julia Prior

As PR professionals, our writing skill is one of the most important that we have, but also the one we probably take for granted the most. It’s important to consciously strengthen and improve our writing, not only to benefit ourselves, but also to benefit the brands that we represent and support.

But what do we gain from the same old writing exercises? Press releases, backgrounders, industry blog posts definitely build your writing skill, but after a while you start to run on autopilot.

Below are my favorite ways to spice up my writing routine and strengthen my PR muscles. Go ahead and give them a try.

  1. Read. We’ve always been told that reading makes you smarter. It’s true. Reading also helps you write better. It can fuel both content and craft in ways you don’t even realize until you start reading on a regular basis. Plus, reading for pleasure has been shown to help you sleep better and will lower stress. Read books from industry leaders as well as novels. Variety is the key; it will expose you to different information as well as new ways of telling a story.
  2. Volunteer for writing projects. Does your company have a blog? Write up a few posts for it. Write case studies and white papers. Each project will flex a different part of your writing muscle.
  3. Start your own blog. Have a passion for something unrelated to your work? Write about it. We live in an age where anyone can be a writer, as long as you have a topic and the passion and dedication to build an audience. Sure, write about your industry, but also write about your passion in fishing, local music and BBQ. If you have multiple passions, pick one. Personally, I write about social media, public relations, writing, healthy lifestyles and weight loss. I used to write about college basketball. My point is: write about what you love and suddenly writing won’t be such a chore or cause anxiety.
  4. Tweet. The ability to get your thoughts, messages and points across is good, but to be able to get them across in less than 140 characters takes skill. The essentials behind writing for Twitter are the essentials of writing for PR. Be engaging, informative and concise.
  5. Ask for feedback. Ask someone you trust to read over what you’ve written and give you honest, but polite reviews of your work. It will help you grow as a writer and will ensure you produce a quality end-product.

What are your favorite ways to exercise your writing muscle and mix things up?

5 Ways to get the Most out of Your PR Firm

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We’re here to help. Really.

By:  Julia Prior

Having a PR firm under contract can be a huge asset to your brand, and if you know how to use them they can help your brand grow and succeed in the media and the minds of your customers. We’ve put our heads together on the top ways you can get the most out of your PR firm.

  1. Communicate with them. Your PR agency is an extension of your marketing team. Keep them in the loop with any changes to your marketing strategy. Allowing them the same insight as members of your in-house marketing team will allow your agency to create a more seamless, comprehensive strategy for your brand.
  2. Take them with you to events. Big events, small events, your PR team can help you extend the value of your trade show investment.  We can promote your news at the event and schedule 1:1 interviews with media and analysts. We can ensure that your news appears in the conference Show Daily or newspaper. As communicators, PR people have skills and knowledge stretching across many subjects and are the perfect asset to help you make the most out of your event.
  3. Don’t underestimate them. PR professionals are skilled multi-taskers and jacks of all trades. It’s easy to assume that they just do press release writing and media pitching if that’s all you’ve asked them to help with.  However, their list of services may range much wider.  If it isn’t in their scope of work, not only will they tell you, but they might also advise you on where you can get the service you need.
  4. Don’t think you’re overloading them-unless they say you are. Your PR firm is there to help you. Their primary role is to help you do your job and  o help your brand grow. Don’t be afraid to call them, think you’re interrupting them or think they’re too busy for your project.
  5. Trust their instincts. The value of hiring a public relations agency is the perspective they offer as an outside member of your team.

At its very core, your contract with your PR firm is a business relationship. Communication and collaboration are the basic steps that will allow both you and your firm to grow and succeed with each other.

7 Things You’re Doing Wrong on Social Media

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By Julia Prior

There is no denying that social media has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. It has opened up so many ways for us to keep in touch with our friends, family and, more significantly, our customers.

But there are right and wrong ways to do everything and the same holds true in social media.

1.       Not linking your posts to other pages.

When you mention another page, person or entity in your social media posts, make sure to link back to their page. On Facebook, make sure to put @ before their name, and select them from the drop down menu that will appear. On Twitter, make sure to research the correct handle and use that in your post. A lot of times it will save characters, and all the time it will help your brand reach to other users. It also helps you develop a relationship with the brand. And isn’t that what social media is all about?

2.       Linking your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Yes, it is very easy, and efficient to link Facebook and Twitter and only have to post once. But Facebook and Twitter are completely different networks with completely different audiences and different engagement metrics. A few words and a shortened link work well on Twitter, but falls flat on Facebook. Take the time to rework your message, add in a couple details and tailor the link for the network.

Also, on Facebook, make sure to delete the link out of your post after the preview pops up. You wouldn’t say “Visit this Link. Visit this Link” so why are you putting more than one link in your post?

3.       Blatantly asking for people to “LIKE this if you agree” or “COMMENT with your favorite story”.

I read a fantastic post over on PR Breakfast Club about this. It’s pretty simple. If you create great content, you won’t need to ask for engagement.  True, it’s an easy way to get interaction and feedback from your audience. And yes, it’s a good tool to have in your arsenal, but don’t make it the backbone of your social media strategy.

4.       Not having a strategy.

We are communicators. Every word we write has layers of strategy behind it. So why don’t your social media posts have that same background? Every post should get you closer to your goals and you should know how it is going to do that.

5.       Liking your own Facebook posts.

Why would you skew your metrics and numbers by liking your own post? To get true engagement metrics, you need to know how many of your fans are interacting with your content, not how many of your employees are doing so.

6.       Automating all of your posts.

Scheduling posts has its time and place. It makes it easy to post on evenings and weekends when engagement is higher, and it streamlines the whole process. But again, don’t let it be your go to move. Social media is meant to be spontaneous and organic. Your audience wants to know they are interacting with a real person, not a machine.

And if you do schedule posts, please keep an eye on what’s trending and what’s going on in the news. You don’t want to be that brand putting out a promotional message amongst a stream of posts about Hurricane Sandy. Not only does it make you look uninformed, but it makes you look insensitive as well.

7.       Only sharing your own content.

It’s important to share your own content, yes. But it should not be in every post you make. Be sure to interact with customers and partners online as well. We always tell clients for every one post about yourself, you should have three others promoting someone else or building a relationship with someone else.

What else do brands do wrong on social media?

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