Louise Findlay-Wilson, MD of Energy PR, provides some tips on how to attract international audiences to upcoming events.
The way to grow an event is clearly to attract more visitors and exhibitors. But what if your domestic market is saturated, and serious additional growth can only come from overseas? If you don’t have budget to spend on agencies in multiple territories do you have to give up on those growth ambitions? No. You simply must get smarter with your PR. Here are some things to try…
Prove the market’s there
Firstly, recognise that no one is going to get on a plane to be at your show unless you prove its value – and remember what excites your home vendors and buyers might not resonate overseas. You must demonstrate to would-be exhibitors that your geographic market offers a new business opportunity.
To do this conduct research among your past show visitors identifying their issues, needs and spending plans; the supply areas where they’re looking for new inspiration, expertise, products and services. Also explore their willingness to source from overseas. This can be done as part of your post-show activity.
If you already have some international attendees, segment their answers. That way you can compare and contrast the different countries. A few key stats will be all you need to develop relevant news stories tailored for each overseas territory.
Focus & know your media
Start with a small number of overseas markets. Focus on the key media in each. It’s better to ‘go deep’ with a few than spread things too thinly. You really want to cultivate relationships so that the international journalists get close to your event and are equipped to talk about it. A properly hosted and run international media delegation scheme can work incredibly well for this.
Be prepared to advertise in overseas media but work contras into as many of your arrangements as you can, with editorial agreed wherever possible. Your home PR agency should know the international media and should be able to advise you on who to focus on and the best way to work with them.
Your speakers are a resource, use them. Many should be willing to get involved, after all you are offering an opportunity to build their profile overseas. ‘Sell in’ bespoke features from them, written for specific geographic markets. These obviously trail their talk at your show.
To do this you will need to have your conference programme sorted sooner rather than later. If that’s not possible and you only have a few speakers signed up, work with those you have. Don’t wait for the whole programme to be buttoned down.
Some of these speaker ‘features’ could be delivered as video – perhaps even create an international online ‘learning hub’ featuring speaker video content which gives a flavour of what’s to come.
Also work your speakers’ international contacts; develop branded Twitter and LinkedIn cards for each speaker, highlighting them and their talk. Send these to the speakers for them to use on their social channels and of course use them centrally within your social media activity too.
Think about your content and internationalise it. I don’t mean simply modifying your current show news through the addition of the word ‘international’. At best that’s ineffectual, at worst it’s insulting.
Adjust your mindset. Talk about your exhibitors’ innovations in terms of how they will help potential visitors from specific overseas markets. Remember your international visitors don’t want to hear about exhibitors from their country, why would they travel to see them?
Host receptions for international delegates. Think about how your speaker programme will resonate overseas? If you host awards, have a special international category.
Social media offers a tremendous opportunity to reach international audiences but don’t forget the subtle cultural differences. For instance, if your focus is Europe, remember the UK, France and Italy are far bigger users of LinkedIn than, say, Germany.
These are just some of the ways your PR can build your exhibition’s international visitor and exhibitor base. The trick is not to limit your ambitions but to expand your PR thinking.
Louise Findlay-Wilson is MD of Energy PR which handles the international PR for events as wide-ranging as New York Toy Fair, StocExpo, Packaging Innovations, and ADF&PCD Shanghai. She is a regular speaker and commentator on PR, digital and social media and has worked with an array of B2B and consumer brands and major organisations including the BBC, Lloyds Bank, Capita, Cap Gemini, Schwartz, 20th Century Fox and St Paul’s Cathedral.