How Public Relations Can Boost Your IMTS Success
The most successful exhibitors make Public Relations (PR) a cornerstone of their IMTS marketing communication activities - before, during and after IMTS.
Unlike advertising, which is paid space, you don’t pay for placement of press releases and media coverage of events. That’s why you hear PR called “free advertising.” However, because you must earn PR coverage by providing newsworthy information, experts say that PR coverage has the “third-party credibility” of the media.
Planning your Program
A well-rounded PR program should include:
- Press releases and press kit uploaded to the IMTS Online Media Center. Don’t forget to include photos, illustrations and links to your website and YouTube videos
- Press releases that you distribute to key publications for their pre-IMTS and post-IMTS issues
- Press conferences or personal meetings with editors during IMTS (where you can hand editors a physical press kit, typically on a flash drive)
As a rule, press coverage falls into four types of articles:
- News releases about a product, technology or event
- “Round-up” articles where the editor includes input from multiple companies
- Regular columns on a particular topic or by a specific editor
- Feature stories focusing on a central topic
With so much content available at IMTS, editors often hit highlights in the print edition and allow longer articles to run online. Note that increasingly, online articles can include links to your videos.
Elements of Good Media Relations
The “art” of media relations emphasizes the word “relations.” You need to understand what’s important to editors and then find ways to blend their interests with your company’s news.
Know Your Audience
Just like you research a prospect’s company before making a sales call, you should research a magazine. Review past issues to see the types of stories they like to run and focus on specific sections of the magazine that might be appropriate for your news. You can get more detail about readership by obtaining their media kit, and you can see what stories the magazine plans to run in their editorial calendar (both of which are on the magazine’s website).
A magazine editor can receive 500 or more press releases and story pitches every week, and the months leading up to IMTS will be even busier. If you are a lesser-known company — but with a great story to tell — introduce yourself to editors. One way to do this is to send an e-mail with a one- or two-page fact sheet on your company. Use a Word document or PDF and keep it high level; no brochures. In the body of the e-mail, note your areas of expertise and offer to be a general resource if the editor is developing a story, even if it doesn’t involve your company. This establishes your credibility and builds goodwill.
Build a List
Just as with direct mail, success starts with building a good media list. To begin, IMTS keeps an up-to-date list of key contacts at publications for IMTS. Use this as a starting point! Magazines often assign editors to different functions or areas of expertise (“beats”), and this information is frequently noted on their website. Research before reaching out, and when you do, confirm which contacts are most appropriate for your type of news. Note that most editors prefer initial contact by e-mail. Follow up by phone if necessary.
When an editor does reach out to you, respond promptly — they might be on a deadline. If you don’t know the answer, still respond quickly. Ask what the deadline is and let the editor know you’ll find the right answer or locate the correct person.
In a way, PR is like baseball: the PR program that wins the game is one that focuses on consistently getting base hits by performing all the small fundamental activities such as building a good list, routine news release distribution, understanding a magazine’s readership and being responsive to editor requests. The home runs — big feature stories — will come, but you earn them through base hits.
Base Hits and Home Runs
A well-rounded PR program starts with an annual plan that includes:
- News release opportunities for the company — new product and technology introductions, major upgrades and company-specific news, such as trade show appearances, significant promotions, community involvement, large orders and earnings reports. See our guide to crafting a good news release.
- Feature story opportunities for the company – can you generate technical articles or case studies that appeal to a broad audience and/or specific market segments?
- Editorial calendar opportunities – review magazine editorial calendars and find out where your interests coincide. Editors work months in advance, so it’s never too soon to reach out and inquire how you might contribute to a topic.
TYPES OF COVERAGE
While each magazine or website is unique, the media coverage generally falls into several standard areas:
- News Section – here’s where magazines run your news releases. With so much content available, note that editors often hit highlights in the print edition and allow full versions of the release to run online. Note that increasingly, online articles can include links to your videos.
- Society or Organization News – for publications that represent an industry organization, here’s where they cover industry meetings and society events.
- “Round-up” Articles – where the editor includes input from multiple companies. Editors may ask to interview an expert, or they may allow submission of written responses to their questions.
- Regular Columns – on a particular topic or by a specific editor. Many magazines also publish guest columns and commentaries.
- Feature Stories – technical articles and customer testimonials that focus on a central topic. Note that many magazines segment feature stories by topic, such as “Mechanical,” “Software” or “CNCs.”
Remember the baseball analogy: get base hits. If possible, develop an annual plan for generating a steady stream of newsworthy items. Companies that distribute just four, six or eight news items annually are already ahead of the game.