Maintaining good relationships with the trade media in your industry should be a key element of your marketing and PR activities. Social media, YouTube and other communications methods aside, the trade press remains a vital channel to reach your customers and get your messages across. Personal one-to-one contact with journalists helps cement these relationships: do it right, and you might become the expert, the go-to source for them to reach out to whenever something crops up to do with your particular market.
Conferences and trade shows are a good place to meet or reconnect with the media, and holding one-to-one interviews on your stand are a convenient way of doing so. Your PR agency will do all the legwork for you: they will facilitate and set up the meetings, prepare background information for the journalists to take away and, perhaps most importantly, they will prepare you for these meetings by providing you with details about the journalist, the magazine and its readership.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
Do not underestimate the importance of preparing yourself for these meetings. You cannot simply roll out your standard sales pitch; you need to demonstrate that you understand their magazine and its readership and tailor your approach accordingly. For instance, if you are talking to a business-oriented magazine, don’t go into too much technical detail. Focus instead on the benefits that your product or service provides to your customers, ideally having a few concrete examples handy.
Everyone is busy at trade shows, and journalists in particular tend to be rushed off their feet, as everyone wants to talk to them about their latest products. It is therefore essential that you ensure not to keep them for longer than 30 minutes, and that you know exactly what you want them to take away from your meeting with you. Make sure you prepare no more than three key messages to talk about. Package those up into neat chunks, providing an introduction and summarising the key points as you go along. Ensure your thoughts are easy to follow (don’t waffle, stay on message!) and that the information is new and interesting – and there’s a good chance the journalist will actually write something about your company! Do, of course, allow the journalist to ask questions, too – but don’t be disheartened if they don’t! Sometimes they are just happy to listen, because they haven’t been able to prepare for each and every meeting at the event.
Know your audience
It is also important to gauge the journalist’s level of knowledge. Some have been around for decades and know the industry inside out: don’t patronise them by explaining how a digital printer works. Others might just be starting out and be grateful if you can share some of your industry expertise and knowledge with them (perhaps including how a digital printer works!). It can’t hurt to have read some of their recent work and have an idea of what they are interested in (again, your PR agency will furnish you with information in this regard). You can also ask them about their magazine, their readership and their areas of interest – most will be very happy that you are showing an interest in their product!
Finally, be prepared for questions, awkward or otherwise. If your company has recently gone through a scandal, chances are you will be asked about it. Your PR agency will prepare a Q&A document detailing all manner of conceivable questions, and how to answer them. Don’t panic if there are things you are unable to answer – if they are not within your area of expertise, say so. Your PR representative will make a note of any unanswered questions and follow up on those afterwards. Never forget one golden rule though: there is no such thing as off the record! No matter how well you might know a journalist, never say anything you would not be happy to see in print.
PR Account Director