PR GUIDE: FUNDAMENTALS OF PR
The most successful exhibitors make Public Relations a cornerstone of their IMTS marketing communication activities — before, during and after IMTS. This introductory PR guide covers the following six topics and emphasizes media relations:
- What Is PR
- Why Is PR Important
- Standard PR Tactics
- Developing a PR Plan
- Elements of Good Media Relations
- Producing Steady Results
Key Publications: Help meet your show objectives with a strong public relations program that supports your exhibit at IMTS. IMTS makes it easy with information on key industry publications, special pre- and post- show issues.
1. What Is Public Relations?
Public relations is a comprehensive and strategic means to manage the relationship between an organization and its target audiences. PR enables an organization to communicate specific messages about its brand, products and services, as well as listen and respond to audience needs.
The most common PR “vehicles” as it relates to IMTS are industry trade magazines and their associated websites and social media channels. Media outlets also include newspapers, TV and radio stations, podcasts and third-party outlets, notably social media influencers with large followings.
Unlike advertising, or paid space, you don't pay for PR placements in the media. That's why you hear PR called “free advertising.” However, you must earn PR coverage by providing newsworthy information. PR experts say that media coverage has the “third-party credibility” of the media.
Don't use PR interchangeably with marketing; it's technically a marketing communications (MarComm) discipline.
“If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that's advertising. If the young man tells his date she's intelligent, looks lovely and is a great conversationalist, he's saying the right things to the right person – that's marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that's PR.”
-Sylvia H. Simmons, author
2. Why is Public Relations Important?
To fulfill its mission and successfully uphold its values, an organization must form a mutually beneficial relationship between itself and its constituencies. Public relations can be thought of as a tool to manage that relationship.
Use PR to:
- Build relationships
- Create and increase awareness
- Deliver key message points
- Predispose customers to your products or services
- Differentiate yourself from competitors
- Increase traffic to your website
- Support your sales channels
- Establish or improve credibility
At its best, PR helps companies decide that they benefit by working with you; with current customers, it consistently and positively reinforces their purchase decision.
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some hire public relations officers.”
– Daniel J. Boorstin, historian, professor and writer
3. Standard PR Tactics
A public relations program provides prospects and current customers with a consistent and reliable stream of content about your company, brand, products and services.
Standard PR tactics include:
- News releases. Use news releases to introduce a new product, technology, service or promote an event. See our PR Guide: The News Release for how to craft a good release.
- Fact sheets and biographies. When too much background information bogs down your news release, supplement it with a fact sheet or bio in a Word document.
- Case studies (customer testimonials) create third-part credibility by describing the positive experiences of a specific customer with whom others can identify.
- Technical articles offer solutions to industry issues or explain a new technology in an educational, non-promotional manner.
- Round-up articles that feature representatives from multiple companies.
- The interview. Make your senior personnel and subject matter experts available for media interviews to generate news.
- Regular columns and blogs on a particular topic, by a specific editor or a guest columnist (ask if you can become a guest columnist).
- Photos, graphics and videos.
- Press events, such as to launch a new product or technology or to open a new facility. IMTS has a press room exhibitors can use to hold a press conference at the show, and of course you can hold them in your booth. To make editors’ jobs easier, gather all your supporting information in a press kit and put it on a flash drive.
- Social media posts. Leverage your media content by using small chunks for posts on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.
- Creating your own webinar or podcast might be too ambitious for beginners, but you can participate in those hosted by others.
Use your e-Kit to upload news releases to the IMTS Online Media Room!
Post PR materials on your own website in a News section and use them as part of your direct-to-customer communications, such as in an e-newsletter or an easy-to-read self-published format. Remember that customers like to read good news from companies with whom they already conduct business. It reinforces their purchase decision, and there’s a good chance they’ll share the news with those around them!
Important: Give editors prose and content in a format they can use and easily edit: Word documents for written information, JPGs for images and MP4 files for videos. A PDF of a brochure may supplement your information, but the copy may be too promotional for direct use in a news story, nor will editors be able use the images.
“A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.”
– Richard Branson
4. Developing a PR Plan
The worst plan is none at all. If you can create a list of newsworthy topics to write about between now and IMTS 2020, then you have the start of a PR plan.
PR planning steps and elements include:
- Company- and brand-level messaging.
- Product and technology specific messages.
- Target audiences and markets; rank them.
- Aligning message points with audiences.
- Identifying newsworthy topics or creating newsworthy content, then aligning them with tactics and editorial opportunities.
- A competitive evaluation. Emulate what you admire, improve where they’re weak.
- Goals and outcomes. Keep it simple to start, e.g., “In 2020, we will achieve 10 positive media placements in top-tier media.” More sophisticated programs focus on increasing net promoter score and other metrics that require supporting research.
- Identification of PR assets. Do you have the internal talent, or will you need outside expertise?
- A budget that supports your goals and assets.
- A PR content production schedule —and execution of your plan.
- Methods to track results. When you share them with management, include such metrics as reader circulation, unique views per month, advertising equivalency (e.g., how much it would cost if you paid for the space) and cost-per-impression.
“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”
– Yogi Berra
5. 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 news. Good media relations requires you to:
- Know your audience
- Introduce yourself
- Build a list
- Be responsive
Know Your Audience
Just as you research a prospect before making a sales call, you should research a magazine and its editors. Review past issues to see the types of stories they like to run; focus on specific sections of the magazine that might be appropriate for your needs. See our list of Key Publications as a good place to start.
You can get more detail about readership by obtaining their media kit, which usually provides a reader breakdown by title, function, market/industry and other qualifying metrics. You can find out what topics the magazine plans to cover in a calendar year by requesting an editorial calendar. Some magazines post a media kit on their website, while others require you to contact an advertising representative.
The majority of publications run press releases free of charge, and most of the top-tier publications separate their editorial and advertising activities. You cannot “buy” a story, only earn it by providing good content. Some publications use a “pay-to-play” structure where coverage requires an advertising commitment, and those might be an option when you want more control over story timing and content.
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 sales, success starts with building a good media list. To begin, IMTS keeps an up-to-date list of contacts for its Key Publications. 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 editors before contacting them; when you do connect with them, 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 it comes to “Show Daily” publications – the tabloid magazine distributed each day throughout show and at select hotels – note that IMTS has selected Gardner Business Media as its media partner to produce the Official Show Daily for IMTS 2020. We do not endorse any other show daily.
Lastly, be wary of publications that use a “refer a friend” format where a representative asks you for names of vendors or customers, as they will hit up those references for advertising dollars.
When an editor contacts you, respond promptly, as they might be on a deadline. If you don’t know the answer, still respond quickly so the editor knows the email or call came through. Ask them about the deadline and clarify the type of information they need — is it two sentences, two paragraphs or two pages? Can you supply a written answer, or does the editor need to interview someone? Do they need a photo? Let the editor know you’re responding to their request, even if you need to find another person to help them.
Old PR joke:
Q: How many PR people does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Let me get back to you on that.
6. Producing Steady Results
A well-rounded PR program generates content that you distribute to key publications before, during and after IMTS.
Think of PR like a baseball game. Teams that win consistently do so by putting runners on base. With PR, producing a steady stream of news releases and focusing on the fundamentals listed here are your base hits. Home runs – the big feature stories – will come, but you will earn more of them as editors respond to your PR program.
A steady stream of PR content helps keep you top-of-mind with prospects. When they are at a point where they need to evaluate a new solution, good PR puts you in position for consideration.
“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
– Oscar Wilde
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