The trade show industry was drastically affected by the COVID pandemic last year, and as a result was forced to innovate in order to survive, and introduced virtual trade shows. These new platforms have enabled us to network, view product demos, and attend talks from industry leaders from the comfort of our own homes.
With some of the biggest shows across many industries such as CES, DMEXCO and NRF adopting a virtual format, we’ve supported a number of clients in adapting their PR activity around such shows. Our team has provided their advice on how best to adapt your communications strategy and stand out around virtual trade shows.
“The PR activity that will be different now that trade shows are virtual will be more focused on content and making your clients visible online. There will be less focus in organising press meetings for your clients like there would be at physical shows, and more of a focus on what content can be shared and placed with publications so that they can become more recognisable online.”
Luke Smith, Account Executive at Jargon PR
“With the help of PR, businesses can host branded, interactive press conferences ahead or during the trade show. This is a fantastic way to launch an exciting product or announce some breaking news. These conferences can either be offered to a group of journalists or on a one to one basis with a company spokesperson available to answer any questions from the press. It’s also important to have a bank of assets that you can share with journalists, which will include important content, fact sheets, product specifications or images.
The most important thing for businesses to remember is to follow up with the media who attended the press conference. By sharing additional assets or a video recording, you can keep the conversation flowing with journalists to drive ongoing coverage.”
Emily John, Account Manager at Jargon PR
“As face to face meetings will not be happening, it is important that virtual meetings are set up instead. This can involve some careful planning and preparation ahead so being super organised is important. Additionally, planning news and offering it to journalists under embargo is another tip. My main piece of advice would be to pre-book virtual meetings with specific people you want to talk to – this is a time to stand out. Also, pre-prepare content and actively use social throughout the event to interact with attendees and share any news.”
Katie Ward, Senior Account Executive at Jargon PR
“Previously, the majority of PR activity around a trade show involved tracking down industry media and escorting them to your client’s stand which would typically be designed to draw in visitors. However, with no eye-catching booth to entice media attention, clients have asked us how to garner press interest.
With many physical trade shows moving to an online format, it’s essential that businesses double up on their online presence; maximising their social channels to not only announce they are attending the virtual shows but also track and engage with those that are also attending. Simply engaging with a trade show’s hashtag will uncover who else is attending – whether this is a potential customer, partner or an influential journalist – it’s crucial to pay attention to the conversations that are taking place online more than ever. Without the luxury of meeting in person, companies need to utilise their social channels to generate buzz ahead of the virtual trade show; potentially putting additional budget behind specific posts to gain additional reach.”
Kevin Winfield, Account Director at Jargon PR
“When it comes to promoting virtual trade shows, the rules of engagement haven’t changed drastically – there will still be a requirement for businesses to create buzz and highlight their participation at an event.
The good news is that the budgets usually reserved for booking physical space at trade shows can now be redeployed for PR campaigns designed to build awareness and anticipation in the run-up to the event. This will still involve the creation of traditional press materials such as preview announcements and new product launch releases, but they will be supported by digital and social media campaigns that are more visually-led and engaging.”
Michael Grass, Account Director at Jargon PR
“Companies can really take advantage of the fact that virtual trade shows are much more accessible than traditional events as you don’t have to leave your home. Capitalise on this by using PR tactics to promote your involvement in the event and demonstrate your expert knowledge on the event topics. This is a great way to position you as a thought-leader ahead of the event, to encourage customers and press to come to your business first.
Companies can increase their own activity ahead of the event – including social media, press releases and mail-outs – to ensure as many people as possible know they’re attending. If you have a representative speaking at the event, companies should be shouting about that too.”
Megan Eakin, Account Executive at Jargon PR
“Using PR to stand out ahead of a trade show will be what’s most important. Doubling down on social media will be critical in order to create buzz around your business in general, letting your current customer base know as well as turning up on future customers’ radar. Secondly, without a physical presence in the form of an impressive stand, catchy merchandise and engaging staff, it is vital that PR is used to engage attendees. This can be through a streamlined communication plan, perfectly timed product launches and company news.
I would also suggest to line up virtual meetings with journalists at key publications in order to really catch the attention of trade media. This is your chance to show how amazing your business is, and the press is what’s going to get the attention of future customers.”
Hannah Conway, Account Executive at Jargon PR
“Clients often want to use these events to tell their story on stage to their peers or customers; driving the conversation as opposed to listening in the audience. The beauty of virtual events is that they offer speakers that same platform from the comfort of their homes. As a result, not only have the trade shows we know and love made the move online. The accessibility of digital has paved the way for hundreds of new virtual conferences, webinars and even podcasts over the last few months, opening up new avenues of exposure, discussion and storytelling.
Beyond Zoom meet and greets, these new formats have created many new speaking opportunities, a chance for clients to share the ‘stage’ (screen) with other companies from across the world and their industry. With it, producing digital content that can often be shared and accessed on-demand for even greater reach amongst key audiences – beyond the crowd at a physical session. A fantastic way to help your clients connect, tell your story and create valuable digital content – I have no doubt this will continue in what is shaping up to be a truly digital-first PR landscape!”
Dani White, Senior Account Manager at Jargon PR
Our team is supporting a number of clients with their PR activity at virtual trade shows in 2021. If you’d like to hear more about launching a PR campaign around the shows you’re attending this year, email us on email@example.com.