Last-Minute PR Tips For A Successful CES

If you spent New Year’s Day on an early flight to Las Vegas, odds are you’re part of a public relations team headed for CES, the mecca of consumer electronics and tech trade shows. Your main objective? Draw attention to your client’s company via new product or acquisition announcement, stunt or other media grabber. No matter if you’re a veteran or a virgin, here are some tips to ensure you get at least some of the 7,000+ attending journalists to pay attention to your client.

Make life easy for reporters at CES. A recent study shows that journalists receive more than 600 queries from PR firms. Standing out from the crowd should be as easy as knowing reporters’ beats and giving them story fodder they can use. But CES attendees also look to creature comforts as a potential draw. Start by acknowledging how tough their job is onsite and go out of your way to make things easy. Be flexible with times and locations and have information available and accessible including flash drives of press materials and images. Allow time for lots of demos, if appropriate and make key company spokespeople available at a moment’s notice.

Master the message. Your story will be more likely to stand out in the vast CES ocean of tech talk if you cut the jargon, strip out tired buzzwords, and focus on the human factor when pitching it to media and analysts. A new wearable device that lets you access help in an uneasy situation is more compelling than “an industry-leading solution that leverages disruptive technology.”

Know that you can still interest reporters once the show has started. Contrary to what some in PR believe – that you must have all your appointments booked in advance – reporters never finalize a schedule, there’s always room for adds if your invite is compelling enough. Savvy CES teams continually take the temperature of the show and the news climate in general to glean opportunities that can lead to increased interest in a client’s product or story. Keep your ear to the ground and leverage what’s going on in the world and your industry, to increase potential coverage.

You can even pitch media once CES has ended. Think about it, many tech journos started receiving CES pitches in July! Ultimately the show itself hits, with endless inquiries from companies on-site. Then, it’s all over. Suddenly it’s quiet in tech land. Next week, you might consider taking advantage of the drought with a timely, feature-oriented pitch after all the hard news product launches. And the timing could be perfect.

Remember the reporters who aren’t at CES. Some journalists avoid the entire extravaganza, for a number of reasons. Many say they can get all they need from the press releases issued before and during the show. Others say the jam-packed nature of the proceedings prevents anyone from getting a really substantive story. And still others claim much of what is unveiled is unremarkable. Intrepid PR teams will track down these non-attendees and pursue coverage with those who are relevant. Mashable has also traditionally provided a handy list of reporters who actually aren’t in Las Vegas this week.

Get some onsite industry education. If by some miracle, you find yourself with downtime, try to attend relevant workshops or breakout sessions that can be helpful to you and your clients. One we think holds tremendous potential is the “Family Tech in the Age of Wearables” panel discussion featuring our client Wearsafe’s co-founder David Benoit. There are countless others and it pays to get to know the producers of these events for future invitations. You never know when they might have a speaker cancel and your client can ride in and save the day. CES is filled with unexpected opportunities, so smart PRs can make the most of it.

Better Brand PR: How To Work With A Third-Party Spokesperson

Brand spokesperson. It’s a time-honored PR strategy, and for good reason. The right spokesperson can add depth to your message, help tell a story, and confer appealing attributes that the brand may lack or need to amplify.

But borrowing expertise, or sheer glamour, from a third party always carries risks. Just ask Samsung, which suffered embarrassment when director Michael Bay walked off the stage after a teleprompter snafu during the unveiling of a new curved-screen TV at CES. But while the problem there may have been one of preparation over temperament, the most common challenge is typically the choice of spokesperson.

Here are some tips to mitigate risk and maximize the upside of a third-party spokesperson.

Make it credible. If you’re going to link your brand to an external person, there needs to be a credible tie to him or her. The equity of each “brand” needs to mesh so that they are congruent in imagery and “personality.” Market research and “Q” ratings are helpful, but in the case of a celebrity, the reason for the choice should be intuitive not just to marketers and PR people, but to your sister-in-law.

Consider an expert over a celebrity. A celebrity isn’t right for all situations, of course. A credible subject-matter expert may represent your client’s interests with greater authenticity when it comes to earned media interviews. They can also offer an easier and more cost-effective working relationship and are often more motivated to do a better job delivering messages in interviews.

You cannot over-research. Once you have a workable list of candidates, find out everything you can about each of them: their background, credentials, experience, history and particularly any red flags that may be a clue to how a working relationship could fail. Everything is online now, so be thorough!

Spell everything out in the agreement. The odds are, whether the spokesperson is an athlete, author, or a physician, they have a healthy ego. This may be what helps make them a good choice, but take care in working with this type of individual. Do your due diligence, and make sure every detail is spelled out in your legal agreement, down to the specific number of brand mentions. Be sure that your personality is accompanied by a pro to everything they do.

Conduct a message training. It doesn’t matter how experienced your spokesperson is with public speaking or media interviews. S/he cannot possibly master brand messages without formal prep. Build in rehearsals and contingencies, particularly in the case of events and conferences. A dress rehearsal in the actual venue is ideal where possible, even in a forum where there’s a teleprompter, as Samsung’s experience shows.

Have a Plan B and C. Begin by discussing internally what to do in the event of mechanical or human malfunction and have scenarios in place. Consider appointing a company rep to act as back-up spokesperson in case of a last-minute change. At the venue, arrive early, spend time there, meet with the staff and have back-up auto-cue, laptops, thumb drives or whatever it will take – the show must go on!

If all else fails? Have a sense of humor and go with the flow. Unless you’re giving a life-or-death White House briefing, any smart PR or marketing person can make the requisite PR lemonade out of lemons. As a case in point, Samsung’s Joe Stinziano managed to gracefully close out his press briefing, and the whole episode may have even drawn more positive attention to the TV than it would have otherwise received.

Pre-CES PR Musings

CES 2012. Already. We’ve seen it all, haven’t we?  What can CES possibly show us?

I’ll tell you one thing it will show us: a 55-inch OLED TV from LG. I can’t even get my head around that; I remember seeing a 12-inch OLED several years ago and being knocked out, thinking, oh, it will be YEARS before this technology can translate to a larger scale. Silly me. And in case you’re in the market for a TV that will take the place of your entire living room wall, Mitsubishi is showing a 92-inch LCD that was announced back in June.

Besides the TVs, there will be notebooks, cell phones, cameras, home automation options and really bad convention-center food.  In other news…

This is your last year to catch Microsoft at CES, and your first year to catch the PMA show, now part of the Vegas-in-January action.

CityCenter is still new enough to feel novel  and the fountains at Bellagio are still novel enough to feel mandatory.

As always, there will be celebrities (Justin Bieber! Snooki!  Dennis Rodman! Chicago will perform!) and the usual crop of invite-only parties and events.

Sony is having a “wedding” – yes, a real event in a Vegas wedding chapel – to celebrate the marriage of home theater and the internet (though I think that those two have been hitched for a while now, if you’ve been paying attention.)

There will be no-longer-top-secret code words thrown around, like Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich.

I think the introductions that will matter to most of us will be the tablets, and the apps.  Next week should bring a bumper crop of both, with some exciting features like increased speed, sharper screens and more location-based options.  I’m looking for improved battery life and feature-packed video streaming devices, myself.  There will be a “Mobile Apps Showdown” Thursday afternoon in the North Hall, and I’ll go on record as saying that I’ll probably buy half of the 10 winners, along with most CES attendees.  They’ll come in handy while waiting in line at McCarran.

What Happens in Vegas….Seems Like Less Than Usual

The Consumer Electronics Show, one of the most well-attended and splashy tech conferences on earth, is decidedly more subdued this year.  You don’t have to read the news and blog accounts to feel the difference.  On the one hand, it’s easier to get a taxi, a restaurant reservation, or show tickets.  It also seems to have separated the serious attendees from the tire-kickers.  And, it’s easier to spot the innovations, including Microsoft’s Kodu, Sharp’s Blu-Ray  products, Mattel’s Mindflex game, lots of cool Web-based TV,  and an emphasis on clean and green tech. Most inspiring to us are the products created with sustainable development in mind…and improved display technologies that will tempt us all to upgrade our TVs.  The real impact of the economy, will probably not be felt until next year, since companies are making decisions about 2010 right about now.