Exhibiting at a trade show or home show can be an expensive yet often necessary marketing initiative. Yet, many companies fail to maximize their return on investment.

Exhibitors often base the success of the show solely in terms of the orders written, leads generated, or customer contacts maintained. They often ignore the value-added opportunity they can achieve by gaining publicity in media reaching key audiences before, during, or after a show.

Publicity is a cost-effective way to gain attention among show attendees as well as prospects and customers who do not attend. The following are proven techniques to help accomplish these goals:

  • Provide national or regional trade publications with information far enough in advance to be included in special show editions. Reprint the published stories to use as a handout to visitors at your exhibit.

  • Develop a complete media information kit detailing your company and products for placement in the pressroom at the show.

  • If there is news about your company, or a truly unique new product introduction, notify local media in advance of the show. For example, a company that unveiled an unbreakable security window glass at a show invited media to attempt to break the glass with a baseball bat. Local newspapers and TV stations carried the story the morning the show opened, gaining the attention of attendees and increasing visits to the exhibit.

  • If consumers are a target, radio is an effective way to highlight your product. An interview of a company spokesperson can be pre-recorded and electronically transmitted locally, regionally, or nationally when the show opens. This takes advantage of the timely news value of the show.

  • Conduct an informal poll at your exhibit of 100 to 150 attendees on an industry-related topic, then develop and distribute a news release based on the findings, gaining credit as the sponsor of the "survey."

  • Build relationships with the media by scheduling appointments with editors to visit your exhibit and meet with top executives. Don't succumb to the temptation to hold a press conference unless your "news" warrants it.

    The battle for mindshare at a show always is intense. This underscores the need to maximize the investment by creating synergies. Gaining publicity is a comparatively inexpensive response to that need.

    John DeFrancesco is executive vice president of L.C. Williams & Associates, a public relations and research consulting firm headquartered in Chicago. He may be reached at 800-628-0443 or jdefrancesco@lcwa.com. More information on L.C. Williams & Associates is available at www.lcwa.com.

    Publication date: 10/20/2003