Louise Findlay-Wilson, founder and managing director at communications agency, Energy PR, has worked with many of the exhibition world’s biggest players. She shares advice on how shows can use PR to get more international visitors and exhibitors through the door.
Turning an exhibition from a local into a global event doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build awareness and credibility among visitors, exhibitors and the international media. That said, it can be done.
We work with organisations to build their visibility both on home soil and in countries outside the UK. The Energy PR team has looked after international PR for events as wide ranging as US-based shows: New York Toy Fair, Licensing International and The World Shoe Association’s Shoe Show, which is now WSA@Magic. We have also globally promoted international Easyfairs events StocExpo Europe and Tank Storage Asia, and work on all its UK shows too.
We’ve learned that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach, however there are some commons lessons to share.
What’s Your Difference?
Before you embark on any international PR activity you need to be really clear about what makes your show useful to international visitors. What will they see at your event which they just can’t get at their own domestic events – or at your international rivals?
It’s far better to target a few international territories well, than to try to do everywhere at once and achieve no cut-through. So, prioritise a few countries which you want to get more visitors from, and really concentrate on building strong media relationships and compelling content to reach them. You can always extend your focus in subsequent years.
Use Your Experts
Your event’s content and experts will often be part of its appeal, so use your show’s key speakers ahead of the event, to create great editorial. However, be mindful – just because an expert is a ‘name’ in the UK doesn’t mean their expertise or reputation travels. Be careful to select people with international credentials.
Don’t Get Lost In Translation
Make it as simple as possible for an international magazine or website to include your content. If that means translating it, then so be it. Professional translation services take a couple of days, so factor this into your deadlines.
Sending out news stories about trends in the UK market place will only get you so far. Publications and websites want content that’s relevant and interesting to their specific readership, that means editorial which is geographically tailored. It takes more effort but trust me, issuing blanket stories just won’t cut it.
Make International Guests Feel Loved
Hosting special events for international guests is a great way to make them feel loved, but to also make sure they get the most out of the event – which is important as you want them to return home as fans of your event. Throwing a drinks party for international visitors after day one of the show, for example, will give international guests the opportunity to meet like-minded visitors and exchange experiences. A Q&A session or press conference with your key spokespeople, held exclusively for overseas attendees, will also make them feel catered for – and will allow international media to ask questions which matter in their markets.
Welcome the Press
There’s no one who understands your market better than the reporters working for industry trade magazines. An honest review by a respected editor is gold dust. So not only invite them along, but create tailored itineraries for them. This will make it easier and more likely for them to cover the event. Plus, it develops relationships for the future.
In 2015, we led a delegation of 17 media to the New York Toy Fair show, all of whom wrote about the exhibition within their March/April issues. These were glowing extensive reviews. In 2016, the show opened its doors to 30,600 global professionals from 92 countries – a 16 per cent increase in international attendees. The proof, they say, is in the pudding.