This article originally appeared on PR Daily in September of 2017.
Industry events are great opportunities for education, networking and inspiration.
However, they also present a lesser-known benefit—the chance to meet journalists who are key to your industry and to pitch your organization for coverage.
In case you’re new to media outreach, industry events are the perfect occasion to get your feet wet. They present a natural angle to break the ice with journalists and a defined set of media contacts to tap.
So, whether you’re marking your calendar for the National Association of Elevator Contractors’ fall convention or the Wisconsin Cheese Industry’s annual conference, get the most out of your experience with these tips:
1. Secure the media list. For most industry events, journalists register as such, and coordinators keep a running log. Sometimes this information is free for the asking; other times, it’s a paid sponsorship benefit. In the latter case, you can build a free list by conducting a quick Google search to find reporters who covered the previous year’s event (or similar ones), as well as local or industry journalists who might be interested. Reach out to these folks to confirm their attendance, and you could curry favor by introducing some of them to another relevant event they didn’t know about.
2. Be an early bird. Shrinking news rooms and 24-hour news cycles have become harsh realities. Journalists are busy, so reach out early. For huge, national events, this might mean a month in advance; for smaller, local events, it could be a couple of weeks. Avoid reaching out at the last minute, after many reporters have finalized their agendas or, worse, have set up their out-of-office messages.
3. Prioritize your targets. When pitching journalists, do your homework to ensure they’ll be receptive or, at least, won’t resent you for wasting their time. Attending the same conference gives you common ground, but it doesn’t guarantee reporters’ interest. Sometimes they’re covering specific niches (e.g., aviation at a travel conference) that lie outside your organization’s scope. (They might also not be reporters at all but advertising reps there to drum up business.) Once you have the media list, review it carefully and prioritize the contacts by relevance. You might find only a few are a fit. In that case, tailor your pitches for each high-priority contact and craft a more general pitch for the rest.
4. Go with the flow . Journalists seem increasingly reluctant to commit to scheduled meetings at events. Be prepared for a response such as, “I’ll be at the hotel bar from 4–6 p.m. on Tuesday—feel free to stop by.” Taking advantage of these offers could yield a one-on-one meeting, or you may be joining a cadre of businesspeople who got the same generic reply. Either way, come prepared to make a strong impression quickly. Try exchanging cell numbers with media contacts, encouraging them to reach out if they get extra time between sessions.
5. Share the spotlight : If you land a coveted meeting with a top industry journalist, manage your expectations. Industry events are hectic, and unless you have something groundbreaking to announce, a “win” will be a mention in a roundup piece or a new media relationship you can tap later. Regardless of the outcome, you will have gained valuable experience you can apply for success at future events.
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