“When you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to do it quickly!” – Jase Robinson, “Duck Dynasty,” A&E, Gurney Productions, 2012-17
Trade shows are when senior management and marketing people start looking hard and heavy at how well publicists do their stuff. Press people, on the other hand, wonder where these people have been for the past six months.
If there’s going to be pressure on all sides, there’s no better place to do it at than IBC in Amsterdam.
Okay, it’s not a party town like Las Vegas when CES comes to town; but Amsterdam, especially in the Fall, is a great place to hold a serious work schedule trade show.
The charm of the city makes the endless hours, back-to-back meetings and behind-the-scenes discussions of the September event enjoyable. For people who don’t take a break from the chaos to meet the locals, explore the city and drink in the environment; it’s just another show.
And it happens to be a very serious, business-oriented event with a lot of key actors.
Nearly 2,000 companies from around the globe preen themselves and get pumped up to have a strong impact – sales - on the dynamically growing M&E industry.
- Show the new products/services they expect/hope will take them to the next level
- Develop a lot of buzz about the company and its products
- At the very least, enable the company to survive another year or be bought
They work through the weekends, nights tweaking/finalizing company/product messaging; finishing up the first run of product; polishing prototypes.
They direct their publicity folks to ensure that they get to meet with/be interviewed by all of the “big” members of the media. (Yes, Virginia, despite all of the social media hype, press people are still held in high regard – especially the boss)
They throw last- minute specifications and applications information to the publicists as they pack their bags and tell them to produce powerful, leading-edge releases that get their messages across loud and clear.
They continually ask which media people they will meet with. In a voice that questions your professionalism and relationships, they ask why Bill, Joan, Jane, Walt, David, Deborah aren’t on the list.
This year, more than 1,000 members of the media – print, web, radio, TV – signed up to descend on Holland and get a first-hand view of what’s hot, what’s not.
They’ll be there to get unfiltered information/analysis on what Disney, Netflix, Comcast, Sky, Canal+, Amazon, Sky India, MBC, Abu Dhabi Media, Tencent, AT&T, Verizon and others will be doing to fill people’s screens.
They plan to meet with senior executives of companies in their interest areas to get insight into what’s new, trends, what’s going on in the marketplace, what’s expected this coming year.
Most plan to cover the show – sessions, press conferences, parties, stand visits – and survive the week as best they can.
Some like to schedule their stand visits/company meetings to ensure the senior person is there to give them the information they need and can use.
Some schedule a few meetings. They keep the rest of their time open, so they can stumble across those hidden gems that come to the show with something totally unique, totally special that will knock their socks off and mark a new chapter in innovation.
Some schedule meetings and hope to gawd they can get from one hall to another in time to keep their appointed rounds. In the back of their minds, they know it won’t happen.
In between, they’ll schedule meetings with companies and PR people they know and work with regularly. It’s a good time to renew face-to-face contact and strengthen the human bond.
The PR Person/Publicist
Some publicists are just hired for the show to get the company … coverage!
Some spend the year working their Facebook, SnapChat, Weibo, Instagram, Twitter followers; posting stuff, sending things over the wire service and attending meetings.
Some keep in regular contact with editors, writers, reviewers, bloggers and others on a regular basis, providing information; getting them product/information; assisting them.
But … this is the big show. They don’t want to disappoint anyone!
With registered media lists in hand (actually, on their systems), the pressure begins.
The Electronic Contact
The work to score the meetings and fill the calendar begins … sorta’ like carpet bombing.
We wouldn’t want to call it real 1:1 hustling because the subject lines of the emails (culled by media friends from last year’s IBC) won’t get you excited (names deleted):
- re: please visit us at stand (number)
- Book Your Appointment to Experience the 'ABC' @ IBC!
- Media Alert// Famous Person to Launch Something at IBC
- Media Alert: (company name) at IBC
- (company name) At IBC
- Register for (company name) Press Briefing at IBC
- Meet with Us Inc. at IBC
- Seamless Capture Through Delivery Expert Available for Interview
- Invitation: Our IBC Drinks Reception @ Hotel
- Discover A New Era of content streaming at IBC
- (company name) Available for Interview at IBC
- Big # opportunities for press meetings at IBC with one email…
- Press conference invitation: Introducing (product name) - World's First…
- At IBC, see, touch & feel the technology that will change…
- IBC Invitation from Small (company name)
- PLEASE SCHEDULE: (company name) In-Person Interview and Demo Invitation at IBC
- IBC DEMO – New (product name) Uses Breakthrough IP
- At IBC, discover how cute (product name) can disrupt all of your preconceptions about OTT!
Yes, true warm, personalized messages that are alive, intriguing.
Then there are Subject lines that may not excite you, but the opening discussion will put you on the edge of your seat:
- I hope you’re having a great day
- I’m sure you’re getting a lot of calls for IBC meetings
- I have something really exciting you’ll want to see at IBC
- I saw that you will be at IBC and I wanted to reach out on behalf of (company name)
- I'm sure you've received countless emails asking for IBC appointments, but I was hoping you might be interested in
- Hope you are well. I was wondering whether you might be interested in scheduling an IBC meeting
- Hear me out because you’re going to be glad you met with (company name)
- Hello! You're probably buried in IBC-related messaging and I know how difficult it is to sift through to what's important to you
One of our editorial friends sent us a copy of a DIY meeting invite:
Just got an email from a PR firm telling about THE most exciting thing to see at IBC. It looked interesting, so I read the whole email (something I’m not famous for). At the bottom it closed with (let me rephrase that - it went for a close) – click on the url to make an appointment – no booth number, no person.
I may have broken my own record for how fast I hit the delete button.
Except for the fact that a company’s list of interested contacts is probably only a small subset of the registered media list (people you know, outlets/editors focused on your product/service, folks who follow categories where your products/subjects are of interest to their audience) everyone gets the same open invitation.
It’s usually better to fill the schedules with meetings you hope will be meaningful for the media person and his/her audience.
Still, the email contact is efficient for both parties because the recipient can respond yes/no and suggest times that are convenient for him/her.
Smile/Dial Still Lives
Some will tell us that we live in a totally electronic age; but obviously, that isn’t the case when it comes to scheduling show press meetings.
More than a few still assign the newest kid in the office to use the POT (plain old telephone).
An analyst friend told us about a publicist’s call he had received:
Normally I don’t get the call, (individuals names) usually answer the phone. When it’s a PR person calling to ask for an appointment at some upcoming show, our folks are polite and explain that no, we don’t write about flatostrates and phren modulators, we chase (technology name).
Alone today I answered the phone and Tiffney said, “I see you are registered for CES. Are still going?” Since all PR girls are named Tiffney or Jenifer and since I had just gotten off a plane from (country) and since I can’t remember my kid’s names, I answered her thinking it might be someone I had once met, and said, “yes, why?”
She said,” We’d like to invite you meet with Gazilfraze”
“What does Gazelfraze do?” I asked and looked at the clock.
“They make social video networking software for B2B marketers to keep track of zingbats and dildos.”
“And you thought we’d be interested in that?” I asked – I’d been on the phone with this girl for 3 minutes and could feel my fingernails growing.
“Yes,” she replied in her sugar sweet, PR-trained voice.
“Have you looked at our web page?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” she answered as perky as when we started, which was four minutes ago, and I was fighting my ADD thinking about the coffee I was going to make as soon as I could hang up the phone.
“And what is it you think we do?” I asked
“Well,” then her cheerful 20s something voice dropped, and she mumbled, “you do content and communications…”
“No, we don’t,” I said, “we follow (technology name), and we’d have no interest at all in social video software. Why did you think we would?”
“OK then,” she came back up to her super-charged, over-hydrated self, “I guess we don’t have a fit then.”
“No,” I said, “I guess we don’t”.
“Well,” she said, with snarkyness creeping into her voice, “You just have a great day.” Click.
I’m sure she wanted to say, go to hell, you AHole. But I didn’t know what a crappy jet-lagged memory I have. Knew she had identified the company and her firm. (I wish now I had remembered it, I would have cc’ed them).
We get a dozen calls a day from PR girls who have no clue who we are or what we do. They don’t have the common sense to look at web page and just go dialing for dollars in a spray and pray mode hoping to bring traffic to their client’s booth. Is this what client companies are paying for? Air-headed girls – no I’m not discriminating, just stating a fact - to be telephone solicitors? Or am I just a grumpy old fart who should take a nap?
For the sake of our long friendship, we didn’t bother responding because …
Not every member of the media is interested in every company at the show.
This is especially true of IBC, which continues to grow in depth and breadth as M&E creeps into every aspect of people’s lives.
As the technologies become broader and more sophisticated, media people must focus on market segments, understand them thoroughly, and interpret overall video/audio storytelling industry trends as well as the firms in the marketplace.
Unless the senior executive is absolutely the most interesting man (or woman) in the world, meeting attention should be focused on quality, not quantity.
The truth is management wants/needs meaningful, mutually beneficial meetings.
The best meetings are those where management gets meaningful information and insights into product/technology trends and provides similar product, technology information in return.
And if he/she is fortunate, they’ll walk away with a new product/service/technology idea and maybe a few good prospect leads.
Every analyst/media person who wants to meet with the executive is important. They should be given the most assistance possible, prompt follow-up and contact/support throughout the year--not just at show time.
It’s difficult for some to appreciate that delivering bodies to the booth is a small part of the larger picture.
Major shows like IBC are important to firms because they attract senior industry executives from around the globe to see first-hand what they need to do – and use – tomorrow to survive and grow.
The event gives company management a condensed opportunity to show M&E executives where their products/services can meet those needs.
It’s management’s opportunity show the benefits of working with their firm.
Or, as Si Robertson explained his unique talents, “I am the MacGyver of cooking. If you bring me a piece of bread, cabbage, coconut, mustard greens, pigs feet, pinecones and a woodpecker, I’ll make you a good chicken pot pie.”