By Raschanda Hall, Director of Global Media Relations, Business Wire
Trade shows are all about product reveals, updates and, engaging media. And by engagement I mean, “come ye media and tell the world of the things you have learned today.” All meant to guide consumers into the conversion funnel, from awareness to action, faster and farther. The Chicago Auto Show is no different.
A successful press conference and product reveal is virtually a Hollywood production, and with sticker prices nearing $500,000, what you’ll hear from the communicators responsible for pulling off these events is that you have to nail the basics.
Birthing an automobile:
Preparation and planning are fundamental tenets of public relations. As the dust settles on one show, exhibitors are looking ahead at ideas for next year. According to Curt McAllister, Midwest public relations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, “This is a little bit of Hollywood. Typically a press conference reveal [the birth of an automobile as he called it] may last all of 20-25 minutes and will probably range between half a million to a million dollars to produce. It’s the closest thing we get to Hollywood here in the auto industry. A lot of preparation is involved. There is constant communication with our media to let them know we are going to do something big in that city so that they can save a spot on their schedules, and we can ensure a really good attendance.”
Authentic messages and messengers:
“Focus on what’s changed, what’s new, and why you did it,” says Andy Love, the head of car product marketing for Chrysler Group. “Explain things in an easy-to-understand way. If you have a new safety feature, help the audience relate with a story. Explain how things matter and fulfill a need. If it’s a high-end technology show, how it is easy to use and how it applies to their lives.”
Wendy Orthman is the Manager of the Midwest Region for Chrysler Group Communications. She works with Chrysler
executives to get them ready to present on the big stage by first having them present at smaller shows. “We want our executives at these shows. You want to make sure the speakers you choose have a high enough title that they attract the media. Their quotes bring authenticity and have significance and weight. The sweet spot is when you have someone with title that can speak with knowledge and be impactful to the media.”
James Zahn, the pop culture and lifestyle blogger better known as The Rock Father, has seen his fair share of press conferences. “Excitement and Enthusiasm. It’s all about the two E’s. Don’t make us [journalists and bloggers] feel like you’re giving us the company line. If a speaker sounds passionate about the business or product, that makes it more fun for us.”
Show up differently:
There is a lot of competition for news at these tradeshows and many of your competitors are also holding press conferences. You want to think of how you can show up differently. Nissan of North America flipped the order of their press conference reveals. “A lot of other guys, they would do a slow build up and reveal the vehicle at the end. We do the opposite,” says Joe Gallant, Manager of Shows & Exhibits at Nissan. “We keep the speeches short and we reveal the vehicle almost right away.”
The showbiz side of your product reveal means nothing if it doesn’t further your message. “There are very extravagant and flamboyant ways to pull a drape off a car. But don’t get over your budget, and be realistic. Make sure the message and the product is at the heart of it. If you get so caught up in the smoke and mirrors you’re going to lose your audience,” warns McAllister.
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