I have a client preparing for a large industry trade show. There are a lot of public relations (PR) opportunities associated with a trade show. From a PR perspective, I’m helping them set up onsite interviews with attending media. As part of their preparation, I’m also providing media training to help them maximize their interview opportunities while at the show.
As I talked to my client and conducted the media training, it occurred to me that the training I provided would actually make a great blog entry. With that in mind, listed below are five tips to help maximize PR opportunities, specifically media interviews at trade shows.
- Remember, you’re always on the record. You’re always on the record. Every company and every client I’ve ever dealt with over the last 15 or so years wants to be in front of and talk to the media. The hope is that if you talk to the media they’ll write a story about you, your company and/or your product/service. Talking to the media is a great opportunity but over the course of my career, I’ve found most people don’t realize that, similar to being arrested and read your rights, anything you say can and will be used against you. Interviews with the media add tremendous value and reliable third party validation to your company. By remembering you’re always on the record you’ll be better prepared to make the most of the interview opportunity and capitalize on the reliable third party endorsement that accompanies any article or coverage that results.
- Be careful what you say, where you say it and who you say it to. Normally, trade show attendees wear a name badge and badges are color coded to reflect specific roles at the event. Media are usually one color, exhibitors another and attendees yet another color. In today’s business world, anybody with a blog or social media account can be a member of the media. If you have confidential information you don’t want made public, wait to tell somebody until you know you’re alone and nobody else can hear you. Similarly, be aware of who you’re telling sensitive information. If somebody asks a question and you’re not sure who they are or why they’re asking, don’t be afraid to ask for this information before responding. Just because a question is asked doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Likewise, be careful where you’re talking. At a tradeshow, you’ll be in airports, taxi’s, hotels, restaurants and a host of other locations. You never know who will be around to overhear what you say. If somebody hears something of a sensitive or confidential nature they can use that and it becomes pubic information. Be careful what you’re saying in casual conversation on the airplane or restaurant, you never know who’s listening or sitting next to you.
- Be cautious around open microphones and recording devices. If you’re speaking at the conference or meeting with people, be careful of open microphones or other recording devices. Mitt Romney and President Obama can both attest to the dangers of saying something or disclosing confidential information unknowingly into a recording device. Both did that in the last presidential election and were embarrassed and forced to go into damage control. Similarly, a former client spoke at an industry event. His presentation went very well and he was excited by his performance. As he stepped away from the microphone he turned to his colleague and said, “We just beat the hell out of … “ and proceeded to name his largest competitor who had representatives in the audience. Unfortunately this individual forgot he had a lavaliere microphone attached to his lapel and everybody in the audience heard his remark.
- Be aware of what information is sitting on a table, open laptop or whiteboard. Even if you don’t say it out loud for somebody to hear, if the information is sitting on your laptop or sitting on a table at your tradeshow booth, a reporter or anybody else that sees it can use it in a story or share that information. Erase whiteboards, pick up papers you don’t want the world or general public to see. Take a few minutes to clean up before walking away. It could save you a lot of grief or embarrassment.
- Be careful about going “off the record.” I see this all the time. A client will say something or tell a reporter something and then quickly come back saying, “That was off the record, by the way.” No, it wasn’t off the record. If you want to go off the record, allow your PR person to arrange it BEFORE you tell the reporter something you want off the record. In order to be off the record, the reporter has to agree to it first. You need to be specific about what is off the record and when you’re back on the record. If the reporter doesn’t agree to it first, you’re still on the record. Saying something and then trying to say it was off the record doesn’t count and the material you provided can be used in an article.
Trade shows are great opportunities for companies to showcase and demonstrate their latest products and services as well as to keep up on the latest industry trends and innovations. They also provide an excellent opportunity to meet press, interview with them and highlight your company, products and services. When done properly these onsite interviews at trade shows can yield incredible articles that establish you as a thought leader and provide the industry validation that helps your business grow and be successful.