A journalist’s inbox in the final weeks prior to a large exhibition or conference, usually resembles an aquarium of piranhas at feeding time – a heaving mass of incoming emails from exhibiting companies, eager to inform about press events, MoU signings at their booth, or invitations for interviews. And journalists will be juggling the conference agenda against already agreed interview slots and previously communicated PR events, to see how everything can best fit together on the day, whilst usually kissing goodbye to the prospect of any kind of coffee break. Just as well that we function on words and willpower, isn’t it?
Journalists are your friends (if you treat them well!). They are always happy to hear your latest news, especially if it sets you apart from the competition, is innovative and/or drives the
industry forward. And international conferences are the best place to communicate to an entire press corp - or "scoop of journalists", if you wish. CargoForwarder Global recently put a poll out
on LinkedIn, asking people when they thought was the best time to communicate a press event in the run up to the planned conference? “How far in advance should you send out the invitation with
date, time and place to journalists?” was the question with “6 weeks in advance”, “4 weeks in advance”, “2 weeks in advance”, and “at the event” being given as response choices. The first three
answers received equal voting numbers, with the last choice being selected by almost one in ten participants.
The best time to reach out
So, which one was the right answer? For easy recollection, I propose adapting the saying "The early bird catches the worm" to "The early air cargo company catches the journalist!" Basically, the earlier you reach out with your press event details, the better. Between 4 to 6 weeks in advance is perfect. By that time, the conference agenda is published, and journalists can balance out interesting panels with the different press events and the many one-to-one interviews.
The closer you get to the conference, the trickier it will be to get your audience together. Waiting for the event, itself, is a definite No Go and – to be honest – this reflects poorly on your company image if journalists gain the impression that your communication came as an afterthought.
Perfect preparation looks like this
Three pieces of advice:
- Start planning your communication concept at the same time as you plan your booth, and make sure that you get the information out early - at least one month in advance. That information should include the time, date, place, and title of your event, along with the names and titles of those who will be present from your company.
- Make sure you reserve a press room for your press conference. Booths are great for networking, but they are not good for hearing/recording quotes or answers to questions and taking notes. There is too much noise and distraction. If you prefer the booth backdrop for the photoshoot, arrange that the conference photographer takes a photo before/after the event, and send this out along with your final PR shortly after the event.
- Send your information out to journalists in advance, albeit under Embargo (state the time and date that this info can go live.) In this way, journalists can prepare intelligent questions for the day.
You can look, but you can’t touch
Just because a journalist attends your press event, and even if you have laid on a luxurious platter of vol au vents, this is not automatically a guarantee that they will write about you. If the press event content is pure, scripted marketing propaganda with no real “meat on the bones”, innovation or news, it will likely not be of interest to readers. If answers to journalists’ questions cannot be given at the actual press event, then ensure that these are followed up soon after, since the piece may otherwise miss a publication opportunity. Journalists may send you their articles for final go-ahead prior to publication. This is a courtesy on the journalist’s behalf. Companies can point out factual errors or furnish more information but are not at liberty to rewrite pieces. Nor should they make the mistake of thinking the journalist is an extension of the company marketing department. Again, feedback to any piece that has been sent for approval, should be given within 24 hours so as to avoid missing a publication slot.
Spread your news
Everyone wants to make a bang at a conference, and therefore that week is usually flooded with press releases which risk going under in all the noise. Consider using the conference as a get-to-know-your-journalist platform, and instead set up a longer zoom call with the journalist for the following week, for a more dedicated focus on the company’s news.
Last, but not least: avoid being classed as a timewaster. If you have set up an interview time and date with the journalist, make sure that you keep it, and avoid shifting it. Journalists have a packed program at every event, and the next interviewee is usually already waiting. Journalists finding themselves being stood-up or investing a great deal of time in an article only to have it completely rejected upon completion, are unlikely to be open and favorable to your company’s news the next time around.
Mutual respect breeds the best articles.
See you at the next conference!
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