How to Work With the Media at IMTS 2016
By Bonnie Gurney, Director – Exhibition Strategy & Communications at AMT — The Association For Manufacturing Technology
With the ability to connect with many editors in a short time frame, IMTS typically provides exhibitors with their best PR opportunity of the year. To maximize your PR efforts, IMTS interviewed four veteran editors and gathered their thoughts on how best to work with the media at IMTS 2016. If you think it’s too early to start thinking about IMTS PR, think again — and that’s our first PR tip.
“At Modern Machine Shop, we like to receive press releases for our pre-IMTS show issue by June 1,” says editor Pete Zelinski, who’s pre-show issue is in August.
While some magazines can work a month in advance, others work three months in advance. The best policy is to familiarize yourself with all the publications and their preferred timing. You can find a list of top publications and pre- and post-show issues at the imts.com/keypubs site.
“Keep write-ups for pre-show issues short, and please include a high-quality JPG,” advises Elizabeth Modic, editor, Aerospace Manufacturing & Design and Today’s Medical Developments. Realistically, most editors will use 75 to 100 words of copy and an image for pre-show news. “Save longer press releases for your show press kit,” she says.
What Constitutes News?
When developing news releases, focus on the facts. “The best press releases truly talk about the specific advancements, new machines or new technologies without overblowing them,” says Modic. “Focus on how you will help others in your industry.”
Chris Koepfer, editor of Production Machining, advises writers to lose the overly promotional, advertorial kinds of verbiage.
“News releases have to go through our filter first, so why not just make it filterable?” In short, avoid unsubstantiated claims (“fastest”) and focus on the fact instead (“spindle speeds increased by 25 percent to 5,500 RPM”).
In addition to reporting news items, editors view themselves as teachers and observers; they want to share new end-user experiences and successes with their audience.
“The technology involved does not have to be brand new,” says Zelinski. “The success with a particular technology might be new to a particular user. The user’s lessons from using this technology reveal something from which our audience could benefit, even if a part of our audience already knows those lessons.”
While some publications accept single-source, single-solution articles, others do not. When an article talks about, “the problem that a manufacturer had and this product was the only solution for it, we call that advertising,” says Bob Vavra, editor of Plant Engineering. “At the top of my list of things I can publish are product announcements, non-commercial case studies and thought leadership pieces that help my readers be smarter about the things going on around them.”
Know the Territory
In addition to keeping press material newsworthy, keep it germane to the editor’s audience. “I get press releases where there is no mention of the industry, but most machines and technologies are developed as a result of industry feedback,” says Modic. “Is it something that works across two or three industries? Where do you see your product?”
Koepfer adds that, “Production Machining is a vertical publication focused on precision turned parts, although we have branched out. Make sure you familiarize yourselves with the editorial mission statements of the publications so you know to whom you’re talking.” He points out that the magazine went to significant effort to create its Contributor’s Guide, which is located at the bottom of its homepage.
“We know who are readers are and what they do and don’t want because we survey all the time,” adds Vavra. To find reader demographics, download a magazine’s media kit (see Plant Engineering interactive media kit; also see its contributor guidelines).
In addition, take a close look at your media list. Do you know the editors, or are they just names on a list? Personalize editor contact in some way so that the editor knows you’re addressing them as an individual.
“I get press releases all the time from people I never talk to and have no direct contact with,” says Vavra. “You can sharpen your focus by starting with your mailing list.”
And please, don’t call to find out if an editor has received your release.
“The follow-up call is easily the biggest waste of time,” says Vavra. “If I didn’t get it, it will bounce back. If I did get it, I will evaluate it.”
Another “media don’t” is pitching the exact same story to different publications. Editors feel that dilutes the value of the story, so they typically request exclusive use of a story. You can, however, customize a common set of information, such as describing how customers in different markets have applied your technology.
When you distribute news to the media, also upload it to the IMTS Online Media Center using your e-Kit. IMTS sends out weekly media alerts noting new content, which further ensures that editors have received your news.
As with press releases, start by uploading the contents to the Press Kit in the e-Kit of your IMTS press kit for the IMTS Online Media Center. Many exhibitors do not take advantage of this free service (and remember: exhibitors can no longer stock physical press kits in the IMTS Media Center at the show; it’s all online).
When building a press kit, be judicious about what to include. Editors face a barrage of news at the show, and they appreciate anything that helps them focus their news gathering efforts.
“Sometimes the press kits are overkill or redundant and don’t offer anything new from what we’ve learned in May, June or July,” says Modic. If you have previously distributed a news release, consider leaving it out of the press kit. In addition, don’t substitute a print brochure for a press release.
“Submit articles in a Word document that we can plug into our computer and edit. That just makes our life much easier,” says Koepfer.
As far as making photos for editors easier to use, be sure to include high-resolution electronic images. For print media, photos should be 300 DPI at the size for which it would appear.
“It amazes me how many 72-dpi, 1- x 1-in. photos I receive,” says Modic. If you do not know how to create a high-resolution photo or resize it appropriately, work with a professional who does.
If a news release covers a product that is being unveiled at the show, has never-before been distributed or covers a highly newsworthy announcement, call special attention to it. If there are multiple items in the press kit, recognize that an editor only has a limited amount of space. Use a cover letter, note, email or somehow direct an editor’s attention to one or two specific releases and explain why these are the releases most relevant for their readers.
“It precipitates going in and looking at the website of the magazine you’re targeting,” says Koepfer. After you find out what an editor is interested in, “flag the pertinent releases [so you] get a better shot at publication.”
For exhibitors who want to provide press kits to editors in person, such as for a press conference, “Giving memory sticks is the most common way to distribute them,” says Zelinski. “Chances are I have already seen a lot of the press releases (because they were distributing in the months preceding the show). I hate to take a beautiful binder of printed materials I won’t use.”
Press Conference or Individual Meetings?
There’s no consensus here. Both formats can play an appropriate role.
“A press conference for unveiling and talking about a new technology makes sense,” says Modic. “One-on-one meetings are great, but are often hard to find time for. I have to cover the show floor.”
Conversely, “I prefer to have one-on-one meetings simply because it’s not a homogenous audience,” says Vavra. “There are a number of different types of magazines and audiences, so the information given during a press conference isn’t necessarily what I need to know.”
Do not set up a one-on-one meeting just to show editors your latest machines. Editors expect the opportunity for a focused conversation about things they don’t know. Editors want to speak with experts, people who can tell them what they’re seeing out in the field, misperceptions they encounter and aspects of a technology that may not be widely understood, for example.
“Conversations with people who are knowledgeable in their area are really beneficial,” says Zelinski. “An expert will typically say something that sounds simple to them but is new to me. There’s a good chance something [a story] is going to come out of that conversation.”
“I want to talk with the engineer who worked with the customer to develop the product, for example,” adds Modic. “I want to learn about the technical details.” If you can’t supply an expert resource, reconsider having a media event. If you don’t have an in-house expert available, consider introducing editors to a customer.
“Most of the press events we attend are in theoretical terms,” says Vavra. “I want to talk to people who understand how theory is applied. Talking to an end user moves the conversation from theoretical to practical.”
Given the time constraints at IMTS ¬— the maximum length for a meeting or press conference should be 15 to no more than 30 minutes — consider it an IMTS PR victory if you just gain an editor’s attention.
“Taking a business card away and having a foundation for a relationship that was established from a brief conversation gives me a resource for when I cover the topic at another time,” says Zelinski. In short, forming relationships at IMTS paves the way for future media coverage.
At press events, note that while editors ask general questions, they rarely ask questions that would tip other editors to their story angle. Give editors a week after the show to address their immediate deadlines, then follow up.
The IMTS Media Center can solve some issues arising from a booth press conference.
“For a formal press conference, the Media Center is extremely handy, unless you have something that really needs to be seen,” says Koepfer. “Moreover, it’s got AV equipment and a PA system. I can’t tell you how many booths I’ve stood in where I can’t hear a word from anybody.”
Whatever type of meeting you hold, consider crowd noise. “If there’s a quieter place, it’s much easier to focus,” says Zelinski.
In terms of setting up meetings or sending invitations out, editors have already started putting them on their books, but chances of getting a confirmation this early are slim; most editors will not know their availability for several months.
Vavra says that, “The closer I get to a show, the more flexibility I have in determining what my schedule will be.” Modic’s team has a sit-down roughly mid-August to look at the invites and plan one-on-one meetings. With that in mind, consider August 1 as a good time to send out event invitations. Be sure to contact IMTS so that your event can be listed on the master event calendar, which is posted online and in the Media Center (to register your press conference, e-mail Andrew Taggart at ataggart@AMTonline.org with the date, time, location and subject matter).
In summary, craft press releases with editors’ needs in mind. Explain how the contents relate to the industries they cover if it’s not clear from the release. Upload all press materials to the IMTS Online Media Center, and include high quality images. When you hold a press conference, limit it to 15 to 30 minutes and consider using the IMTS Media Center. Set up one-on-one meetings for deeper conversations with industry experts who can enlighten the media. Adhere to these guidelines and you’ll enjoy a mutually productive relationship with the media at IMTS 2016.
Press Kit Options:
- Upload press releases, images, etc.
- Virtual Press Release Writer - need help writing a press release
- Reserve Media Briefing Room
- Download Key publications page