When most people have their team go off to a conference, but stay back themselves, it’s considered a week of vacation. Not so much in my case. Instead, I helped run press for the HIMSS Annual Conference from 1,514 miles away. HIMSS took place in New Orleans, but I worked the event from my cubicle in Boston. Even so, I had the chance to see what seemed to work best from a PR standpoint and how PR pros can be successful in a conference with 1,158 exhibiting companies all vying for the attention of 150 reporters.
When to Release News (AKA- Don’t Release News the Week of the Show)
Another client of mine was exhibiting at the show and had a lot of news and announcements ready to go, and together, we decided to release them the week before the show. Unless you have truly industry shattering news, it isn’t likely to get attention at the conference.
If the story is good, the news will still rise to the top at the conference. The client came out with a product that one reporter called “one of the coolest things” he’d seen- pretty high praise. Regardless, we put the release out the week before, because it gave us the opportunity to pitch the reporter, ask for a meeting at conference to show him the technology and get the news covered the week before and after the conference. That’s a heckuva a lot better than not getting covered at all because we waited to release at the conference.
Don’t Do Tomorrow What You Can Do Today
My team lined up as many briefings as we did because we started pitching six weeks before the show. We didn’t finalize most of our interviews until the week before the show, but the early outreach was what secured them. For example, I reached out to one reporter in January regarding a product announcement, and he said he’d like to see it at HIMSS, but he wouldn’t know his schedule until February. When we followed up on February 2nd, four weeks before the show, he was almost entirely booked up; thanks to our early outreach, we were able to wrangle one of his last spots.
Holy Hashtag, Batman
Following the #HIMSS13 hashtag in real time was impossible. It was trending nationally this year, and as such was being updated faster than could be read by a standard human. However, we had a better view of it than our team on the ground in New Orleans, who had plenty of other activities to manage in the press room. Since it was so important to stay involved in the conversations happening with it, I developed a strategy that worked pretty well for me. At first I used the Twitter site to monitor the hashtag, but it only gave me highlights. Then I realized if I let it backlog a little, it would start to post new tweets in chunks, so I had the opportunity to read, digest and respond in a timely manner without wanting to pull my hair out.
Make the Most of Social Opportunities by Planning Ahead
At the conference, social media is one of the best ways to keep momentum going, but without a plan, it can get overwhelming quickly. One thing we did was make a “photo sheet” of all the types of photos we wanted – interaction with this executive, a photo of the booth going up – and a timeline of when we could capture those photos. In doing so, all photos were approved, we knew what we wanted and we were poised to strike when the conversation was right for us. We made sure to have a good mix of promotional information and content about the conference itself. Ultimately, you want to be able to trumpet your company, while providing people with content they can truly engage with.
I may not have been there, but as you can see, I had to stay involved. What are your tips for staying up on news when you can’t be with a client?