Each year in June, NSSF hosts its SHOT Show® Exhibitor Academy for new and seasoned SHOT Show exhibitors. A two-and-a-half-day event held onsite at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, the Academy provides seminars, information, and the opportunity to connect with show support vendors such as florists, food and booth design services and staffing agencies so that exhibitors can make the most of their experiences and investment in SHOT Show. Among several seminars offered in 2019, a three-part series worked to explore how buyers, exhibitors and media members each capitalize on their time attending the show and what they need from those with whom they need to interact each day of SHOT Show Week.
I was asked to participate in the media panel and joined popular editors Roy Huntington and Slaton White. Huntington is the editor of American Handgunner magazine and publisher at FMG Publications. White has his finger on the pulse of all news pertaining to NSSF as the editor for SHOT Business and SHOT Daily, and he is a contributing editor at Field and Stream. I publish Women’s Outdoor News and contribute to SHOT Business and SHOT Daily, as well as other outdoor and firearms publications. Here are our tips to exhibitors looking to maximize exposure of their products and brands through their relationships with members of the press.
Huntington wants exhibitors to focus on honing marketing skills before arriving at the show. He advised:
- Marketing is difficult, time consuming and can eat resources, but if you don’t do it, you don’t succeed. Be prepared to work with media members attending the show by having an up-to-date website, hand-out thumb drives with clean images and information on what you do and be prepared to send out test and evaluation samples as appropriate.
- Learn to write and send press releases that are timely, focused and easy to understand. Attach a simple, clean image to each one. Don’t make someone go to a website or link to find an image. Take advantage of the various online news services such as the Outdoor Wire and use them for your releases.
- Work your booth aggressively and watch for important media members who stop by. Smile, thank them for stopping by and follow up with them after the show. Make their job as easy as possible and you will be included in the publications they write for. At the same time, be aware of self-proclaimed “influencers” who are a waste of your time and money.
During SHOT Show, White can be found in the back pressroom of the Bonnier suite, meeting daily deadlines with his team for the print version of SHOT Daily. The publication begins the process of pulling together the show’s four issues long before the January. In fact, by fall of the year before the show, most of the content has been submitted and layouts designed. White stressed several points exhibitors should key on in gaining exposure in the official SHOT Show publications.
- Since everyone, and I mean everyone, is on deadline at SHOT Show, it’s important to respond quickly to any request from the press for new product information. The exhibitors that do this greatly increase the possibility of coverage. At SHOT Daily, we will make more than one attempt to access necessary information, but given the time constraints, late responders often lose out. To avoid this, make sure you have a person on your staff responsible for responding to media requests and ensure their email will accept messages from someone they don’t know. That email access if critical. When asked after a show why SHOT Daily never ran a company’s new product release, I tell them, “We got it. We asked for a hi-res image, but never got a response.” Turns out, in most cases the person responsible for sending out press releases had a spam filter that filtered out our request.
- Press releases need to be to the point and limited to one page. Explain what the product is and what it’s expected to do. Include relevant specs, especially pricing, and both hi-res and low-res images. If you make a writer or editor search for the relevant information, your release will, in many cases, be thrown into the trash.
- Press release copy needs to be in a format that can be easily copied and pasted. Use standard punctuation, and do not end sentences with triple exclamation marks. A release written in all capital letters requires the writer to re-type it. Guess what? They won’t.
- If your press releases reside on your company’s website, make sure they are easily accessible to the press. Do not password-protect it. (If company policy requires such protection, you need to put in place a system that makes getting your releases fast and simple. In other words, don’t expect the press to remember a password.) Anything that slows down the information-gathering process hurts you.
- Not every staffer has the skill or patience to deal with the press. Pick someone with the right temperament and skill set to do this. Every staffer in your booth should know the name, phone number, and email of the press contact for your company, and if you promise to get back to the writer and editor with the requested information, make sure you do.
I am on the floor doing at least 20,000 steps a day and visiting booths on behalf of several companies (including my own) I work for during this amazing show. One thing exhibitors should keep in mind is that people who cannot attend the show still want to see what’s taking place at the show and they want to see it while it’s taking place. Media attending the show are key to making that happen, so here’s what I added to the stellar advice given by Huntington and White.
- Exhibitors should identify which publications are likely to provide the best coverage of your product. Do your homework, make a “Top 10” list and contact the editors regarding an appointment at your booth or an invitation to a lunch or dinner. If it’s lunch, make it near the exhibitor hall in one of the many restaurants found in the Venetian or Palazzo and make a reservation well in advance. (In fact, always make reservations for all your meals in advance. I use the Open Table app well before the show starts.)
- Plan a media event at your booth or at an approved Sands Expo room away from the floor. Offer food, drink and an opportunity for press members to meet with your experts such as engineers, designers and ambassadors. Give something away for attending. Make it worth their time to attend and reveal something new they will want to talk about.
- In your booth, designate or hire someone who can ably explain what your products will do, any new products you are touting.
- Take advantage of apps such as InShot and photo services such as Canva for making quick videos, collages and attractive photos (from your smartphone) to post what’s happening at your booth during the show. These social media updates and videos (which should be organic, short and to the point) should be pushed out on your social media platforms immediately.