Re-thinking CES

As the US tech industry’s annual newgizmopalooza wraps up, we’re thinking about the PR benefits and liabilities of participating in such a huge event. CES, like its bigger brother CeBIT in Germany, has come to be regarded as a necessary evil by veteran PR people and journalists alike. Pricey hotel rooms, crowded flights, long cab lines are matched by a level of news “noise” that is deafening. Here is this year’s view from the New York Times:

For small companies hoping to make a splash, it’s nearly impossible to get media attention. A growing roster of industry giants have decided that CES is the place to make their news public – even if product availability is months away.  This year, even Lady Gaga joined the chorus to shout out the news! The competition for coverage is fierce, and getting even more intense.

Against this challenging backdrop, both this year and in the past, OnPR helped clients get more than their “fair share” of coverage by:

  • Framing the story in advance of CES. We conducted press tours and briefings with clients as “previews” of CES resulting in pre-show coverage. This year, at least one journalist even invited contact during the week between Christmas and New Year, saying: “Apple, Google and Facebook PR teams must be on holiday. Give us some news.”
  • Thinking like journalists. What broad themes are likely to emerge at CES and how can we take advantage? Can we position the company to be a poster child for the trend?
  • Fast action. If you can predict what is likely to be announced, and if you have a relevant connection to make, you can prepare to monitor, create data, develop comments, and put processes in place to increase the possibility of getting included in news stories.
  • Wrap-up. Most publications write reviews of major shows summarizing key trend, themes and highlights. By thinking about what these trends are likely to be, it’s possible to provide some insight, example, data or something else that might fit for a journalists’ wrap-up story.

For those few large companies that are able to command attention – or even a keynote – CES can still be a challenge. Increasingly, conference attendees and journalists are critical of presentations that are slow to get to the point, not well-produced or positioned. This year we noted several journalists that tweeted their frustration during keynotes – “just kill me now”, “get it over with” and “WTF?” were some of the milder criticisms.  This ode called A Valediction: Forbidding Keynotes was penned by Curt Hopkins at ReadWriteWeb:

For the near future, we think CES, CeBIT and the mega shows will continue to be a magnet for technology companies. Our challenge is to make sure we create strategies to make our clients stand out and shine.

What do you think about the big industry conferences?

Simon Jones January 16, 2011 at 10:57 am

With CeBIT coming up, we’re asking this question again – and will end up coming to the same conclusion: if the media are there, then we’ll be there too… and it looks like they will.

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