The Trials and Triumphs of Trade Show Season

February 9, 2016
When you specialize in promoting brands in the home and building products arena like we do, January is inevitably one of the busiest months of the year. Why? Trade show season! This year was no exception. Between the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the International Builders’ Show (IBS), and the Winter Furniture, Décor and Gift Market – all hosted in Las Vegas, Sin City became a home-away-from-home for many of our team members last month.
Tim recently posted about how LCWA helped our client First Alert cut through the clutter at CES to make its mark on the discriminating tech journalists covering that event. With the other two shows now behind us, I’m pleased to report similar successes for our clients Trex and Fashion Bed Group.
Of course, success never comes without its challenges. In fact, garnering attention from media at industry trade shows has become increasingly difficult. Where outlets used to send droves of representatives to walk the shows, they now send skeleton crews and, in some cases, an individual editor or reporter to cover the thousands of companies and brands that exhibit at these massive events.
Achieving perennial success for our clients requires fresh, creative thinking, strategic persistence, and the ability to learn and grow from each event. With the latter in mind, following are three takeaways from our experiences so far this year:
Timing is everything.
A great deal of PR success around trade shows has to do with timing. The tricky part is that timing is not a one-size-fits-all concept when it comes to media. Every editor, reporter and producer has a different schedule and set of deadlines. It’s our job to navigate those varying timelines in a way that comes across as helpful without being harassing.
For Fashion Bed Group, an “early bird” approach proved effective in generating buzz for the brand in the weeks leading up to the Las Vegas Furniture Market. By monitoring and maximizing every coverage opportunity, and getting materials and images into the hands of media well in advance of the show, LCWA was able to secure 18 Market-related placements for the brand before the show opened. In addition to garnering media attention, this pre-show exposure drove increased showroom attendance and business leads.
Still, getting out early is not enough – especially during peak trade show season when many editors are covering multiple events back-to-back and even simultaneously. This year, a majority of our media appointments for Trex were secured in the last few days leading up to IBS. We even booked a few while on-site from the Trex booth!
Relationships rule.
One of the benefits of working with a PR firm that specializes in a particular industry is access to a network of media contacts that has been built and nurtured over time. By leveraging our strong relationships with media in the home and building arena, LCWA was able to garner show-related coverage for Fashion Bed Group in every one of the company’s priority trades. Additionally, despite having very little “news” to share, our team delivered a record-number of media to the Trex booth during IBS, hosting representatives from 35 different outlets, including a mix of consumer and trade media ranging from HGTV Magazine and the DIY Network to Qualified Remodeler and Plastics News.
Fresh ideas trump food and freebies.
Freebies and refreshments have become so commonplace at trade show booths that they no longer attract attention or differentiate. To help Trex deliver a truly meaningful and memorable experience for this year’s IBS attendees, we thought beyond trinkets and truffles and unveiled the “Trexperts.” Paul Lafrance and Kate Campbell, the dynamic duo from HGTV’s popular “Decked Out” series, generated buzz and drove traffic to the Trex booth throughout the show. Instead of a standard meet-and-greet format, we coordinated a “Showfies” sweepstakes. Booth visitors were encouraged to take selfies with the stars and upload them to social media for the chance to win a variety of Trex prizes. This fun and interactive approach resulted in a lively, continuous stream of fans and visitors to the Trex booth while also boosting Trex’s social media presence during the show through posts, “likes” and shares.
LCWA also arranged for the “Trexperts” to join a representative from Houzz for an in-booth presentation and panel discussion on outdoor living trends that attracted an audience of 150+ attendees and reinforced Trex as an industry authority.

While trade show season is well underway, the fun is far from over. Next up is one of our favorite events of the year – the International Home and Housewares Show coming up March 5-8 right here in Chicago. We’ll be there. Will you?