Industry events can create a great deal of buzz, not just when they take place but also in the run up to them. They offer one of the outstanding opportunities to promote what you do and the press release is a cornerstone of the communications needed.
Yet, press releases about trade shows can sometimes melt into the background just like a supplier’s whole exhibition presence can if it's not unique. Press releases also need to be unique if they are to be noticed. There will be many other exhibitors issuing press releases about their activities; potentially hundreds of announcements for the media and customers to deal with.
It can be tough to figure out what to include in a trade show press release. Authors find themselves assimilating the background news environment from the event, trying to decide how much and how little to include. Here are there are some guidelines that can help.
First let’s look at the number one ‘don’t’:
My Company to exhibit at ACME Trade Show
My Company is delighted to announce it will be exhibiting at the ACME Trade Show on March 4-5 at booth number 262.
Alongside dozens of other trade show announcements, this announcement is no more newsworthy than:
Man gets on bus
Man is delighted to announce he will be boarding the number 9 bus.
The heart of the story is missing.
PR professionals should first identify the heart of their story: what is it about what is happening that makes it interesting? For example, what is the impact of what is happening, not just what is happening. Trade show announcements should offer much more than just that ‘a company is exhibiting’.
And ‘being delighted’? News is only interesting when it means something to others. Being delighted only means something to those who are delighted, no-one else. It’s inward looking (and it isn’t newsworthy enough to be the main theme of a news announcement). The best publicity looks outwards.
So let’s look at the number one ‘do’.
Pick one main theme, such as a new product announcement, an innovation, a thought-leadership position, a research study, a speaker slot or presentation, support for a good cause. In almost all cases, the real interest will be in what you are doing at the event and what that means to people.
My Company to launch XYZ at ACME Trade Show
My Company CEO to argue for XYZ at ACME Trade Show
Next, the headline should work together with the synopsis to deliver the key facts about what you are doing at the event, who it’s for and how they will benefit. For example, taking one of the headlines above:
My Company CEO to argue for XYZ at ACME Trade Show
Joe Bloggs of My Company will present at the upcoming ACME Trade Show explaining why investments in XYZ can help rocket scientists to develop new, faster spaceships.
(Bear in mind that your trade show announcement might be unique in your company newsletter, but to be unique in the wider market place it has to actually be one of a kind!)
Q. Why focus on just one main theme?
A. It’s likely that you will have many things going on at a trade show - launching products, speaking at the conference, supporting a charity, etc. It’s tempting to cover them all with a catch-all headline and then list each activity in the press release, such as:
My Company announces activities for ACME Trade Show
My Company will be launching XYZ, speaking about ABC and supporting DEF at the upcoming ACME Trade Show.
The problem this causes, other than losing impact, is it doesn’t really mean enough to anyone. It’s better to focus the announcement on one main theme and either cover the other activities later on in the press release or issue separate press releases about those which are newsworthy in their own right.
Q. I’m doing a presentation, should I include its date and time in my announcement?
A. These are obviously important pieces of information, but they are not part of the announcement’s ‘news value’. So include them in the main body at the end and not in the headline or synopsis.
(A presentation announcement’s news value will always be its content and arguments and who’s presenting.)
Q. Should I include my stand number?
A. This again is relevant information to include in a press release, but it has zero news value and should not be included in the headline and synopsis. A good place to include the stand number is in a notes section at the end of the press release.
Q. Should I include details about the trade show, its venue, date and other facts?
A. Yes, but ideally in a notes section at the end. Your announcement should focus on what you are announcing. Having said that, it can be powerful to assimilate some of the values of the trade show and use them to support your own values. But again, the headline and synopsis are not the place to do this: instead use a paragraph in the main body to leverage the values of the trade show.
Q. Should I include keywords and optimise the release for SEO?
A. Yes. A press release is a powerful way to assimilate not only the main keywords for your company or product, but also wider keywords associated with your announcement's topic - such as a particular industry sector, a particular customer or topical industry news. But remember, first and foremost, it's a news story and should read naturally.
Q. I have a great page about my product in my brochure and web site. Should I use it as my press release?
A. No. A press release is a topical, news announcement. Of course we all know it's a piece of publicity as well, but it will only create publicity if it's a newsworthy announcement. A press release should also be unique: if it already exists on your web site it isn't.
Q. Why does it have to be written in the third person?
Go to any news web site or news publication and try to find a piece of news that isn't written in the third person. Writing publicity material in the third person can be a challenge for those not familiar with journalism or public relations. Sales material, and articles like this one, are of course often written in the second person, whereas news material only exists in the third person. A good way to approach writing a press release is to imagine that you are a reporter reporting on the situation and the 'third person' usually comes naturally. So avoid words like 'I', 'my', 'our', 'we', 'you', 'your', and instead refer to 'company names', 'market sector names' and 'job roles'.
Q. Why don't press releases have exclamation marks/points?
Press releases only contain facts. Exclamation marks/points exist to enhance and facts should not be enhanced! If an author feels the need to use an exclamation mark/point in a press release it is likely the story is weak and, shouting louder by exclaiming, will simply switch readers off a weak story even quicker. Exclamation marks/points don't exist anywhere in news.