By Robert E. Sheldon, APR, Public Relations Director, Creative Communications Consultants, Inc. (and PRSA San Antonio president elect)
Power Gen International, Days 2 & 3
Making sure you get key editors to the show booth is a straightforward matter of inviting them and then making sure that their time and attention will not be wasted. Getting customers to visit the booth is much the same problem: you need to extend an invitation to key customers who will be attending the show and then make their time worthwhile.
Other exhibitors at the show also try other methods of getting people into their booths. Not far from the Cummins booth, another generator manufacturer has stationed very attractive female models (known in the business as “greeters”) at the corners of the booth to attract attention. They DO attract attention – but I observe that it is mostly furtive glances from men as they pass by in the aisles. They’re pretty, but they are not the technical experts the customers are looking for.
At another large booth, a card-shark magician puts on a display of slight-of-hand that is quite amazing. He draws a large crowd of people throughout the day, entertaining them with humor and skill. Like the pretty women in the other booth, the ploy attracts attention – but for all the wrong reasons. In much the same way that pretty women have nothing to do with generators, card magicians have nothing to do with them either. The lesson seems clear: you’ve got to build booth traffic for the “right” reasons – and yet manufacturers continue to confuse sex and entertainment with substance. Of course, the trick is finding interesting and exciting ways of drawing attention to a client from the right prospects – and that includes editors.
On the final day of the show, I have four editor visits scheduled and several unconfirmed meetings. The editors show up and the meetings go well as they did the day before. Towards the end of the day, a publication editor from the UK stops by. At the end of our brief meeting, he asks whether he can return in an hour with a video crew and interview a Cummins expert on the new products. The publication with the intimidating title – Cogeneration and On-Site Power Production – is a very important global magazine in the power industry that also has a good web site. The web site is now featuring short videos in addition to editorial content, and the editor wants to shoot a two and a half minute segment on Cummins for their site.
Luckily, one of the top Cummins experts is in the booth and I convince him to submit to the impromptu video interview. After quickly reviewing key messages with the expert, we shoot about 10 minutes of questions and answers for the segment. My expert does a wonderful job and I make sure the company logo also appears in the background on several of the shots.
YouTube for techies
The lesson here is that the Internet is opening up new and exciting ways of communicating with narrow markets and audiences – it’s like YouTube for the techie set. Only, the payoff will be greater awareness of my client and its products. Additionally, the details are still important -- putting your best foot forward, supporting the brand and the marketing messages. This is the value we bring to our clients.
By the end of the show, I had met with 13 key editors and had gathered a handful of article ideas for future follow-up. I will summarize these for my client after I get back from the show.
In general, trade shows are very expensive communications mediums for companies. The investment in space rental, booth graphics, materials and manpower is substantial – which makes it doubly important to get the most you can out of the opportunity. This means making as many customer contacts as possible and enlisting the help of key publication editors to leverage publicity in the months following the show. In the week after the show, we will mail out the press kit to key editors who did not attend the show and follow-up with the attending editors to answer questions and encourage use of the materials we distributed.
Katrina’s legacy – where are the people?
There were two large conventions in town this week, but I could tell immediately that the city was not crowded or as vibrant as I remember from the recent past. It’s already been more than two years since the devastating hurricane that flooded New Orleans, and yet the “recovery” is still trying to get started.
My downtown hotel faced empty office buildings in the front and the back. Through the dingy windows I could see that most of them had been gutted, leaving visible empty ceiling tile grids and dangling wires. The problem, according to the hotel people, is that so many people have permanently left the city that there is no one to rent office space to. Restaurants were doing an okay business, but many are still closed or have reduced hours because they can’t get employees -- because there is no housing.
The French Quarter, untouched by the flooding, was nonetheless almost barren of people the few nights I ventured there. I remember Bourbon Street flooded with people in the warm evenings in years past, but not now.
The recovery will happen, of course, but apparently not as soon as everyone would like. Everybody you talk to agrees is it simply sad – a bittersweet backdrop to an otherwise successful week.