The right PR effect: PR at exhibitions

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Joanne Marshall, senior marketing manager, UBM Built EnvironmentjThe role of PR has fundamentally changed; it is no longer simply a means to amplify a campaign and now has a much more integral role, with PR activity often forming the basis of a campaign. PR is essential to enable us to position and build our brand, enable truly effective engagement with exhibitors and visitors and to capture the industry’s imagination. We make sure we communicate the results from the buzz our PR creates. With our launch show Interiors London, taking place next year, one of the first steps we took was to employ a PR agency. The agency helps facilitate relationships with contacts we might not necessarily have, which then enables us to generate newsworthy content. We chose an agency that has a targeted approach, is embedded in the interior design community and could be an extension of our show. With Decorex International, we hold an exhibitor event before each marketing campaign to remind exhibitors of the importance of thinking creatively about PR, and to get them committed to creating news about our industry. We drum home the importance of celebrating excellence. This ensures each exhibitor is a show brand ambassador and that we are working with them to really engage our visitors. Maintaining contact with key press is still important and we continually drip-feed information to keep the events visible and to build momentum. We’ve also deployed include missions, blog tours and interactive press trips. Social media has seen our PR campaigns interlace traditional PR methods with digital ones, and allows us real-time storytelling and two-way communication. The Decorex 2011 Loves Bloggers campaign targeted social media designers with a competition to find the best design blogger. It resulted in 2,292 social media mentions, 110,000 Facebook post views and 109 pieces of coverage. While social media allows many PR opportunities, we are careful not to over-rely on our own opinions of ourselves or think social media as a communication channel is more important than our message. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Marilyn Jarman, head of marketing, Haymarket Exhibitions PR has always been integral to the overall marketing strategy of our shows. Whether it is a PR stunt, a celebrity interview or an editorial piece, PR has the ability to leverage our marketing campaigns, increase the awareness and ultimately strengthen our brands. We have many celebrities attending our shows and they play a key part in our PR strategy. Their status enables us to raise the profile of our brands and engage with the media. The level of recognition they experience can have a positive impact. It does not always need to be an elaborate PR stunt; a radio interview can easily bring a fantastic return. The alignment of our sponsors and exhibitors also plays a huge part in strengthening our brands and it’s key in developing good PR stories. With the media landscape evolving so much over the last few years, we have had to adapt our approaches and strategy accordingly and shifted focus towards social media. Although we have maintained our budgets, we have gone from using agencies for all shows to splitting our portfolio between external agencies and an internal department. The shows employing agencies recruit their supplier on their industry knowledge and experience. These agencies bring a breadth of contacts, creative ideas and renewed thinking. Our internal department has built great partnerships that help us with continuity and they work more closely with the show team. Each approach has benefits and we adopted the approach best suited for each brand. We are not always in control of what a PR campaign can deliver and it can be challenging, but we have to have the attitude that any PR is good PR and turn it into a positive whenever possible. This is even more relevant today with social media. Not only do you have to respond, you also have to work with the thousands of individuals commenting on your brand. They have become a powerful new type of media setting trends, with the ability to convey their opinion fast and with an unlimited reach. But ultimately it’s also an opportunity to communicate direct to individuals. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lorna Charlish, head of marketing, i2i Events Group Our spend on PR stands at 11 per cent of marketing activity today, compared to about five per cent a few years ago. We recently developed a two-tiered approach to PR, from top-tier international news channels including digital, print and broadcast media, to the invaluable trade press that work across each sector of our shows. The increased investment is a reflection of our commitment to build global and well-recognised brands that are market leaders. PR is a wonderful way of amplifying the brand message and gaining market reach in a credible way. Our in-house team has been restructured so individuals have specialisms and are focused on building the trade contacts necessary to get closer to their market. This is complemented by media consultants with strong industry ties. Digitally, we have built our social media networks in-house, and we try to engage via blogs. We also look to ensure we have eye-catching images to back stories. Tier two is a new development focused on international consumer and business press. For this, we will use a global PR agency, who we will announce shortly. Agencies have the kind of reach to amplify our message on a global scale, although through our two-tiered approach I hope this means we have the best of both options. A good example of successful coverage would be the BBC Breakfast Show at Spring Fair 2012 and at Naidex, which reaches 7m viewers and is a great prompt for on-the-day attendance. A key success criteria for our PR strategy is to generate publicity on behalf of exhibitors. We recently had a four-page article in The Guardian for Naidex that came via PR with a focus on market issues. We do research with exhibitors to understand how they felt about our PR support; this is used to benchmark success. We also have our own KPI ratings system based on volume, favourability and placement. Thirdly,  visitors who cite an article as a prompt for attending is used to evaluate success. Our Cost Per Visitor for PR can never compete with that of email, for example, but it is key in terms of brand building and thought leadership. This was first published in the July edition of EN. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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