Media relations at tradeshows: The editors weigh in
Tradeshows like HIMSS are great for those of us in public relations: we get to spend extended time with clients and hear what is being said about trends. It also gives us a chance to connect with industry-leading editors. But since editors are bombarded each day with requests to meet at HIMSS, how do you stand out? We asked a few of the journalists from around the industry to provide tips for tradeshow media relations:
Do your homework. Marisa Torrieri, associate editor at Physicians Practice, has been to the last three HIMSS shows and each year the number of pitches she gets increases, but she makes a point to answer all of them. Unfortunately, with the limited time available at the show, she has to whittle down the pitches; to do so she uses some criteria, including: “Relevance: If you’re pitching an enterprise-level EHR for hospital CIOs, you’re not targeting my audience of practice managers. Do some homework before you pitch. Tell me why – in a paragraph that precedes the release, perhaps – I should care about meeting with you when I have a zillion other suitors.” She also looks closely at pitches if “it fits into something I’m covering: If my editor assigns me to cover a session on mobile EHRs, another on ICD-10, and a third on patient portals, then any pitch or product announcement along those lines is going to get noticed. I always look for people to talk to so I can “flesh out” my areas of coverage.”
Be succinct. Jason Free from Health Management Technology notes that PR reps should “be ready to tell your story well and quickly. Our time is incredibly limited at conferences, especially at conferences as large as HIMSS. If I do not hear a truly compelling reason to continue the conversation as so many other possible contacts are walking around, I will ask the rep for their contact information and move on. A strong "elevator" pitch will keep me in the conversation, but it will only keep me around for a few minutes even if I am very excited to hear what the rep has to say. Do not interpret the brevity of the meeting as an indictment against the value of your pitch. There are only so many hours at a conference and I have to make the most of them. I want to hear about actual successes and setbacks, not specs and forecasts. If a pitch contains a demonstration of a real-world scenario, I am much more inclined to consider it as a potential lead.”
Give background information. Eric Wicklund of HIMSS Media says “Go BEYOND the standard 15- or 30-minute booth visit interview, if at all possible. Many journalists tend to cram in as many of these as possible, and so those sessions can very easily become standard sales pitches that are lost in the chaos. Make background information like press releases available in advance of the conference, look for topics that appeal to specific journalists, and look for extra sources that can be made available either at the conference or by phone. Remember: The actual visit won't necessarily be a story in and of itself – it may provide information for an ongoing story or lead to a better story that's written after the conference is over.”
The editors also noted that “small” things can play a big role: correct spelling (especially their names), personalizing emails and using correct grammar all matter.