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Planning ahead to measure trade show PR effectiveness

After a multiyear hiatus due to the covid-19 pandemic, trade shows are back. A standard meet and greet forum alongside a showcase of the newest and best offerings across a range of industries, trade shows are once again “can’t-miss” opportunities for corporations.

Participation can sometimes be pricey, and despite inflation easing a bit, cost sensitivity can be a concern. So, how can you determine how to maximize your PR investment in a trade show?

If you do your planning ahead of time, analyzing your media monitoring can set you up to answer this question—and give you better data for the future.

Review business goals

Sometimes, we get so into the routine of things we stop asking why we are doing them—such as attending trade shows. Your business has a reason or reasons for attending these, and knowing why will help your analysis team zero in on the right ways to measure.

Will your company be introducing a new product or system at a trade show this year? If so, your analysis team will want to look at measures of emotion, such as sentiment and message penetration.

Are you there to increase sales leads? Or, are you hoping to reestablish partnerships and make new industry connections in different parts of the world?

Any objectives you have for attending a trade show are worth tracking for their effectiveness. Using post-event monitoring analysis will help show you what to pursue in the future, and what you can adjust for maximum effectiveness in the future.

Track key messages, not just simple mentions

Simple mentions give you an idea of how many times your company’s name appears within the scope of outlets monitored, in a fixed timeframe. Simple mentions are a metric, but ultimately they are of limited utility when it comes to measurement, for the obvious reason that context matters.

Share of voice is worth examining, but don’t leave it at that—make sure that volume is examined for topic identification. Having a high level of mentions at a trade show because you’ve introduced a new product that really causes a buzz is different than having a high level of mentions because critics and audiences think it’s a flop. Again, context matters.

Tracking key messages, on the other hand, can show you clearly what is resonating and where. For global trade shows with international audiences, comprehensive coverage is a must. Checking off the content completeness box first is key, so verify that all of the sources you want to monitor are included at the outset. This is another great reason to plan ahead; it gives you time to add new publications or refine your lists.

Whether you are examining key message penetration in mainstream media mentions, trade and industry publications, or in social media, this deeper-level monitoring helps to demonstrate how your audiences are responding to your messages.

If you work with an analysis partner, use the time leading up to a trade show to define which key messages you want to track during the trade show. Because trade shows frequently are about introducing new products or services, key messages to track should reflect what you hope to learn about the value of your attendance. Some ideas to consider are key messages that reflect your product/introduction is innovative, or that it adds value over and above what currently exists in the market.

Additional depth adds value

To really round out trade show monitoring, while you are in the planning process consider what information about coverage is really helpful to understanding the landscape of your market.

You can layer on additional aspects to track, such as:

  • Is the company mentioned in the headline of the article?
  • Is anyone from corporate leadership mentioned in the headline?
  • Does the article contain one or more quotes from key company spokespeople?
  • Is the product or company an article’s main focus, or a passing mention?

Using these additional metrics as the lens through which to view trade show coverage will give you a better understanding in future trade shows as to what products, spokespeople, and key messages lead to coverage with which journalists and in which publications.

Competitor analysis

Applying some or all of these same metrics to competitors that participate in the same trade events further enhances your analysis. For example, by comparing your coverage to your competitors’ coverage, you can identify journalists and publications that covered your competition but didn’t focus on you, providing you with an outreach roadmap before the next event on your trade show calendar.

It’s easy to get swamped or overwhelmed with data, so be selective when you choose which competitors you want to analyze.

Proving your investment

Maintaining this type of in-depth trade show performance analysis for all trade shows in which you participate can yield a treasure trove of data for the future. By comparing your media analysis with data from your business goals (such as sales or new funnel leads), you’ll be able to see which messages work, and which publications are most impactful for your industry. This helps to focus your efforts in the future in the areas that matter, and can provide a persuasive case that trade show attendance is an investment worth making.

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