Conferences are a straight hustle. They are the same exciting, yet energy-draining experience every year with no surprises.
When it comes to PR, efforts to engage journalists covering and attending the show require in-the-moment and bigger picture planning, especially if you aren’t an industry darling. These takeaways are for you. In the case of HIMSS, the PR team and the strategy created for say, EPIC and its multi-million dollar booth, look a lot different than yours. Goals and objectives (and expectations!) need to be set accordingly for your PR efforts.
The good news is that there is PR value for you regardless of your size or reputation. You should put PR effort forth to capitalize on topics, trends and interactions – whether or not it is what your PR team focuses on for months in advance or simply seeks to ramp up over the course of a few weeks before the show. This can be accomplished by making one new connection or securing an easy news mention, all of which helps to build upon the rest of your campaign.
Aim for coverage, not meetings
Our experience with HIMSS over the years has demonstrated that it offers very limited opportunities to engage with the press face-to-face. We’d say this is actually a trend happening across the board with press from booth meetings to press tours. Journalists have less time to cover more. Most of their time is taken up by press conferences hosted by industry leaders and big names. It’s a simple fact you should embrace and doing so will put you in better favor with the journalist anyways. Instead of bombarding them to meet you, work with them to learn about you and how best you can fit into their coverage plans – if that includes a meeting or demo, fantastic, but not necessary.
HIMSS, in particular, doesn’t seem to be a “roaming” show. The industry outlets don’t have live crews stopping by interesting looking booths creating content. The benefit to you: it doesn’t matter if you have a booth or not in order to get coverage!
Building relationships v. the flash in the pan
Consider how you might use the fact you’re both in the same place to further your relationship with journalists. Offer to meet them for the sake of learning more about working together rather than pitching a story. This is really the beauty of conferences, in our opinion – the chance to engage and place a face to a name. Instead of focusing on getting the mention in their roundup, the flash in the pan, keep in mind what you can work on together after the show that is a larger feature with bigger impact. Believe us, they’ll appreciate you taking the time to get to know them and what they want to cover, instead of shoving stories in their faces when they may be forced at the time.
Bet on roundups
Conference coverage = roundups of news announcement. While this shouldn’t be your goal coverage, it’s important you understand and set expectations that this is sometimes the best that is offered. That’s why the point above is so important. Get into the roundup now and build on it for other stories.
Put some budget behind content
Kudos for having it together enough to do some social media posts about your attendance and showing updates during the show. But you could be doing more to get in on the conversation by promoting your news and relevant content with a little bit of paid strategy. If anything, look to further the reach of your news with sponsored content on LinkedIn that uses the conference hashtag. Unfortunately, posting without promotion simply isn’t enough these days, especially during a noisy moment like a conference.