How to promote yourself before a show
Whew, what a ride! It was great meeting everyone at the show. I’ll write more about the social part later. For now, my first entry on the February 2008 Magic show will be about my experiences of pre-show promotions from exhibitors. I’ll follow this up with another entry on promoting yourself at the show to the press with give aways (“swag”) in and out of your booth since people always ask if that strategy is effective.
I was registered as editorial press for the show. This means I was on a release list available to exhibitors before the show. I think some exhibitors used the press list effectively but others didn’t. I should say I don’t know if all exhibitors had access to the email addresses of the press in advance or if that was something an exhibitor had to pay extra for. Maybe an exhibitor will let me know. Anyway, here’s some observances on pre-show press releases.
Editing: Check your spelling! I am amazed at how many misspellings, grammar and diction errors I found in otherwise professional looking press releases. Read titles and headlines three or four times. If you’ve hired an agency, your contract should stipulate that they don’t send anything out unless you’ve signed off on it. This is less problematic if you’re using an established firm. If you’re using a less experienced PR firm, this is more critical. Some of these leave the impression they’re being run out of dorm rooms.
Formatting: Staid and boring plain text is preferred! Please pass on html, wonky formatting in text (centering etc), it often doesn’t come out right. Also, you can include a pdf attachment of something prettier if you like but do include the basic information in the text email. Don’t rely on an attachment to get your point across. Our time and connection may be limited. Ditto for emails targeted to buyers.
Information: Really now, if you’re emailing a press release, it’s pretty much a waste of time to send a press release if you don’t have a website. Of the ones that did include a URL, probably a quarter of them were incorrect. Really! Review the URL and test it before you hit send. Another shocker was how many press releases didn’t include a booth number. This is something I’ll mention repeatedly in my next entry on give-aways.
Another annoyance was the omission of a company’s URL if they had one. Instead, the PR person limited the point of contact to themselves. Okay, I get it. A media point person is highly useful and the press will use them, but why deliberately omit site information as a useful orientation to the company? Maybe I’m missing something?
I like to preview product lines on the web to see who I want to visit at the show. On your website, my first stop is to check products and categories first. I will check to see if you use categories correctly. For example, if you list “blouses”, I don’t want to see tees; tees are not blouses. I will check the “about” page. I’m torn about these. On larger company sites, the about page is rather corporate as it should be. If I’m going to a DE site, I like to know your name, I want to connect with you. A photo of you (maybe with family even) is great; you look like a real person to me. I’ll want to know how you got into this, a one or two paragraph chronicle of your journey. If I know you’re a one person outfit, I think the corporate spiel is distancing. This is just my opinion, I don’t know which is best from the perspective of PR experts. Above all, if you go the corporate route and you’re a one person company, do not use the “imperial we” (or in some cases, the “schizophrenic we”). Say, “the company” instead.
Subject line of the press release: Just the facts please. Do not use wording that is weird or enigmatic in the subject line. Even respected established firms did this, complete with misspellings ["get it here- OFFICALLY!*- TS PRO MODEL X GABRIEL URIST"]. I know people do this because they think it makes them look hip or maybe they are hip, but I’m not and maybe because I’m not, I don’t care that you are. It’s not a value to me. All the previous is not germane; the point is, if I don’t understand the context of the subject line and it looks like spam, I’ll delete it unread. Ask yourself, is it more important to establish rapport with the press or is it more important to convey how hip you are to your in-crowd? If it’s the latter, why are you emailing me :)? Returning to topic, preferred subject lines are ones with the booth number and specific mention of Magic or a related show. Otherwise I’ll think it’s a run of the mill release to stick in another folder and I probably won’t read it in time for the show. Here are some good examples.
- Catch Flojos’ New Sandals at MAGIC – Booth # JR 12526
- RENARD & Co. Fine Leather Handbags debuts at WWDMAGIV Booth 40926
- MAGIC – Labour Compliance Press Conference – Wednesday, February 13th
- Coverage Request: Apple Bottoms at the 2008 Magic Marketplace
Timing: You should send out press releases at least a week in advance, maybe even ten days. The closer you get to the actual date of the show, the less likely I was to read it because I didn’t have the time to research the line and think of a possible story angle. I know you’re busy but try to get those out in advance. It was shocking how many sent their first releases during the show. It’s okay to email reminders during the show, assuming you’d emailed in advance but if this is your first approach, your line has got to be pretty dynamic to beat out everyone else for attention. Speaking of reminders, I thought those were effective too.
- If you’re using the media list, don’t stick everyone’s address in CC. Use BCC; it affords privacy and is more professional too.
- If you can, use the media person’s name. This was effective (in my opinion).
- Be fast with responses. I have no complaints but imagine this isn’t always the case. The PR people I had occasion to write for clarification were amazing. Very fast and personable.
Next, I’ll write about promoting yourself to the media at the show.