Think of Your Upcoming Summit as the Next Blockbuster Release

You’ve invested substantially in your upcoming trade shows, congresses, conferences or summits (collectively referred to as “summits” in this blog piece). Speaker submission forms. Sponsorships. Booth-install, technology and set-up. Videos. Meeting spaces. Air fare. Hotel blocks. Meals and entertainment. Just to name a few of the common and worthwhile expenses.

But, how do you make your speakers stand out from the others? How will you pique interest and draw attendance? How can you show target audiences the value in your solution and engage with them?

Think about your upcoming summit as if you were bringing a new movie to theaters—building anticipation and excitement for your specific offering, making sure your audience gets an entertaining learning experience and then—at the end—leave them wanting more.

1. Coming Soon! (Build Anticipation)

You should begin preparing months in advance of the summit. If possible, make sure the save-the-date goes out to key audiences (including internal sales and marketing teams) during the previous year’s summit. If that isn’t possible, then send out the save-the-date as soon as your appearance at a summit—or a speaking opportunity—is secured.

During the months leading up to it, create talk tracks for sales and account teams to help drive attendance to the summit. Talking points can also be used in emails to clients, customers and prospects. Develop landing pages and digital flyers with information about the summit and speaker.

Something to keep in mind is, if you’re securing speaking sessions or educational forums, make sure they offer continuing education credits. This helps to build interest in your key audiences and leads to better attendance.

As the show draws closer, supply your sales and account teams with social media posts that they can easily post and share. These take only minutes to compose and can be a simple push to their Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.

2. Showtime! (Creating a Meaningful Experience)

From the time the summit opens, you should be taking advantage of opportunities to engage your appropriate audiences. There are various media and formats to create a dialogue and draw attention to your company and solution offering.

If it’s allowed, during keynotes and other speeches, you could consider live-streaming them for your customers, clients and prospects who are unable to attend. This is also a great way to create a “pull” and desire to attend the show in the future.

For social media, make sure that you have an ambassador who is taking pictures and writing recaps of sessions that link to next year’s save-the-date for the show. Include something in the social post like, “Reserve your spot NOW for next year’s summit!”

If you have clients on-site, help them share their stories through testimonials. You can also have a videographer, who is visible to other attendees, grabbing people in the hallway or aisles and asking them about their conference experience, what they’ve learned and their most important takeaways. This is an excellent way to create buzz and get people talking. It also provides content for a recap video to promote future conferences and can be an amazing tool for digital campaigns.

Be sure to have a booth or pop-up in the vendor display area. In addition to having a space to demonstrate your solution, this gives you a meeting area for clients to discuss their successes and prospects to ask questions and sign up to learn more. And, make sure that sales and account management teams are taking notes so they can conduct proper follow-up opportunities. To keep attendees engaged and returning to your booth, consider some sort of raffle or giveaway.

If you have speakers and clients presenting, create polls during the sessions. This gives another chance to engage the audience and gives you statistics and material to post on social media. Build in an appropriate time for questions and answers—those, too, can be posted on social channels. For future material, assign writers to record the sessions and create bylines or post-session articles to add to your marketing content pipeline for months to come.

3. Now Streaming! (Post Show Tactics and After Effects)

As soon as the show ends, issue a press release with a recap of any important announcements, how many people attended, a list of organizations that attended (if it’s impressive) and any awards that may have been given to your customers or clients. Be sure to include client quotes…especially those related to your product or solution.

Create a virtual summit, in a webinar format, with a series of the best sessions. You may need to fill out forms and work with the show’s continuing education people, but it may be possible to offer continuing education for the virtual summit as well.

For those who attended the summit, consider creating a gated microsite, with links to all materials from the show’s sessions, and a link to the next year’s save-the-date. You can also include links to the virtual summit schedule, registrations and the media recap session that was produced during the show (or post-show) as well.

Finally, email your target list to keep them engaged! Develop a cadence of one-a-month, with key takeaways, follow up materials and calls to action.

To get the most from the investment you’ve made in summits, have a strategy and devote the time to plan, execute and follow-up. Remember that the latest big blockbuster movie had many resources devoted to its preparation and release, as well as continuing its popularity after it left theaters. With the tactics in this blog, hopefully you, too, will have a summit that’s a hit for a long time to follow and attracts audiences to many sequels.

Please, No More “No Comments”

By now it should be settled: when confronted by an inquiring reporter, never ever respond with “No comment.” Just don’t, no matter how uncomfortable a question makes you. As others before me have emphatically noted there is no faster way to make a reporter instantly suspicious. And the public, if the reporter decides to publish your “no comment.”

Yet companies keep saying it. Over and over and over. And so, we must keep advising they not. I polled a number of my colleagues here at Amendola Communications for their thoughts on alternatives to a phrase that’s anathema to the media and public alike.

 “When you are approached by a reporter and there is a temptation to respond “no comment” that usually means it’s a negative story. But by commenting you have an opportunity to contain, control, or redirect the narrative to something more favorable,” observes Ken Krause, senior account director at Amendola.

Otherwise, he adds, by responding “no comment” you are leaving it to others to fill in the blanks.

“And they may do it in a way that is not only bad for your organization but incorrect; at which point you’ll have to do full-on damage control. But the horse is already out of the barn,” Ken warns.

It’s also just a plain off-putting statement that comes across as dismissive and even arrogant.

“You’re actually better not commenting than saying ‘no comment’…. that said, a response of some sort is almost always better,” Tara Stultz, VP at Amendola advises.

As for what that response should be, it hinges on a multitude of scenarios. But honesty is the crucial ingredient in any response, even if your comment is more or less a brief one noting that your company is still in the fact-finding stage.

“In a crisis situation, you really do need to have an answer, even if it’s a non-answer initially. If a reporter is trying to get someone to dish on a story they aren’t ready to release, saying ‘we aren’t ready to discuss at this time’ or ‘we will be ready to discuss it at a later date’ I think is perfectly acceptable,” shares Linda Healen, senior account director at Amendola.

Even a “I can’t comment at this time” is softer than “no comment.” But follow it with a reason why. In healthcare, for example, companies are sometime asked about specific patient cases, which by law they can’t discuss without a patient’s express, written permission.

“In that case, it’s fine to note that you can’t comment due to HIPAA privacy requirements, but you could follow by noting some trends in general that apply to that situation,” recommends Megan Smith, senior account director at Amendola.

Of course, the best way to increase the chance you’ll give the best possible answer is to plan ahead for questions that could otherwise catch you off guard. That’s why at Amendola we place a lot of importance on messaging, media training, and crisis communications drills. In today’s fishbowl climate, these are elements that every organization should cultivate. If you haven’t yet, give us a call. We’re here to help!

Maximizing the Value of PR Placements

The big day has finally arrived. After rearranging schedules, sweating out interviews or writing deadlines, and walking the line between “persistent” and “pest” your PR placement has seen the light of day.

Huzzah! (I am bound and determined to bring back “huzzah” as something  people say when something great occurs.)

It feels like a weight has been lifted off of everyone’s shoulders – especially in the case of an interview, where you had little to no control over the content. Fortunately your SME sounded like the expert he/she is rather than a babbling idiot who struggles to string two coherent sentences together.

It’s easy to think that you’ve now reached an end point, closed the loop as it were, so you can move on to the next crisis opportunity du jour. If you do that, however, the benefits of all that work end up having about the same lifespan as a mayfly – here today, gone tomorrow and all that. (If you click the link it will count as your “I learned something today” moment.)

The reality is the article appearing online or in print isn’t the end point. Instead, it’s really just the starting point.

Here are a few ways you can take better advantage of all that nerve-wracking work and maximize the value of those hard-earned PR placements.

Share via social media channels

This tactic should be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often organizations don’t take advantage of this opportunity.

When a PR placement appears – an interview, a byline article, a case study, even a good quality rewrite of your press release – you should let the world know. Send a Tweet with a link. Put together a one- or two-sentence summary and post it on LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or whatever other channels you use and send it out.

Don’t trust that the people you want to influence will come across this great example of your expertise by happenstance. Be proactive in telling them it’s there.

By the way, taking this approach has an added benefit. The media (even trade media) is very focused on getting traffic to their sites. If you help them with it by sharing they will notice. And they just may be a little more inclined to read your email or take your call the next time you have a story for them.

Email your customers and prospects

Don’t assume that your target audiences will see the original article, or are following you on your social channels. Having your sales team email the article directly to them is a great way to make them aware of your great PR placement.

It also gives you an opportunity to focus it more specifically on your company since most PR placements will tend to be vendor-neutral. If your salespeople aren’t good at writing emails, have your marketing team or PR agency craft the message with some blanks that can be filled in to personalize it.

That doesn’t mean you can send them the entire article – unless you’ve paid for a reprint of course. But fair use laws usually allow you to share a paragraph or so. Pick one that you can use as a launching pad, and again direct the email recipient to the publication’s website.

One word of caution with emails, however. Make sure the PR placement you’re promoting has some level of value to the reader. You don’t need to send out every personnel announcement or minor upgrade release that appears. That’s a quick way to ensure ALL your emails get deleted.

But if you share good information that demonstrates your organization’s knowledge and expertise you can condition your audience that it’s worth their time to see what you’re sending.

Post them in your online newsroom

Again, nothing revolutionary here but you’d be surprised how many organizations miss this opportunity because they feel they don’t have time, or have more important things to do. My advice to you is make the time.

Think about it from a prospect’s standpoint. The decision-maker has never done business with you before, but thinks he/she might want to. So what does he/she do? For many, the first step is to check out your website.

That checking out process includes looking at news about your company. If there isn’t much news there it’s easy for the prospect to assume there’s not much happening at the company on a regular basis. Even without that assumption, however, he won’t learn very much from an empty newsroom.

But if you have press releases, published articles, case studies, etc. readily available the impression that prospect will get is that your company is a very active, happenin’ place. He/she will also see that your experts are well-respected because their thought leadership is appearing in a variety of industry publications. Never underestimate the power of the implied third-party endorsement.

Again, unless you’ve paid for online reprint rights you can’t post the article in its entirety. But you can offer an excerpt, or a summary, with a link to the original article.

That’s actually better for you, because then the publication’s masthead is tied to the article, ensuring its legitimacy. Just remember to set the publication’s website to pop up in a new window so when the visitor is done reading the article he/she still has your website open.

The online newsroom is also good for customers. Everyone wants to associate themselves with winners. An active online newsroom is confirmation that they’ve made a good choice.

Include them in sales presentations

Just about every sales presentation, at least in the initial stages, has a section that talks about who the company is and what it stands for. That’s an ideal place to insert a slide with an array of PR placements to show that your organization understands the industry and its challenges – and has recognized solutions.

Try to include multiple topics from different people to demonstrate a breadth of expertise. If they are all from one expert, however, that’s ok too. You can promote that person as a recognized authority; if the prospect wants the benefit of that person’s knowledge there is only one place to get it.

Display them in your trade show booth

To ensure your PR placements are the gifts that keep on giving, try creating a graphic panel showing some of your best articles, case studies, etc. in larger-than-life format. Think of a movie poster.

If you can’t do that do to space or cost considerations, think about creating easel cards that can sit on counters or shelves.

Even if no one stops to read them – and the odds are they won’t – it’s a quick way to capture some attention and tell show attendees that your organization is a player in the industry.

Post them around the office

Another great way to gain lasting value is to frame significant PR placements and post them in various locations around the office, including the lobby, hallway, and conference rooms. You can even double down on a few if you don’t place them too close together as it’s unlikely anyone will stop to read them all.

If the article is in a print magazine (yes, there still are some left), have someone with an artistic flair cut it out with an Exacto knife. If it’s online, buy some high-quality glossy paper and print it out. Then take it to a professional framing shop and have them do the final work.

These framed reprints aren’t just for the benefit of customers and prospects either. They can also help get potential employees excited about coming to work for such a well-known, well-respected organization, and keep current employees feeling good about it.

If you have a video display in the front lobby, cafeteria, or other areas, be sure your best PR placements show up there as well. Anything you can do to make them visible within the office is a plus.

Get your money’s worth

These are just a few of the many ways you can ensure that you wring every nickel of value out of your PR placements. Sure, it takes a little more effort. But approached properly, what at first seems like a one-day opportunity can continue delivering rewards for weeks, months, or even years to come.

What are some others you’ve done? Leave your ideas in the comments below.