The Art of (Media Relations) War: Guerrilla media ops at CES

January 26, 2015
katie at CES

This post was written by Denise DiMeglio, Vice President

The secret to CES success is a good battle plan. Walking the aisles and aisles of companies established and brand new, exciting and confusing, weird and jaw dropping, you can instantly tell who’s ready to walk away with media momentum and who will return back home empty handed.

Often, the differentiating factor is how they work the floor. With thousands of attendees, and a small city of booths, it’s a battle royal for reporters’ attention. In this guerrilla-style hand-to-hand combat for media, a few pointers from Sun Tzu and his classic “The Art of War” can offer the edge we need to secure top-tier coverage.

Here’s the PR insider’s guide on how to work the floor at CES:

Use the terrain to your advantage.CES 2015 was the largest show yet, with more than 2.2 million square feet of exhibit space. That’s a lot of ground to cover, especially when most companies — excluding Samsung, Panasonic, Nikon, and some other tech behemoths – only have a couple hundred square feet of exhibit space. Unless you’re one of these giants, you likely won’t have a premier location. So, if you want media attention, your PR reps better put on their walking shoes and get moving. Here are some key ways to get started:

  • Patrol the expo entrance. Media arriving at the hall could easily be overwhelmed by the hundreds of booths. Help them decide where to start.
  • Find the crowds. A group of people huddled around a booth often indicates a demo or something cool is taking place, and news crews can usually be found front and center.
  • Scout out the press room. While interrupting a reporter trying to meet her deadline would be a major faux pas, it’s a great spot to grab media who are eager to find the subject of their next story.
  • Become allies. Do any neighboring booths have products in common with yours? Attract media with a trend instead of a single product.
  • Know what’s new. This year CES introduced Tech West, a mecca for up-and-coming tech companies in the areas of fitness and health, wearables, food tech, 3D printing, robotics, pet tech, and more. CNET staked out the area with its own booth where exhibitors could pitch their products via tablet to earn a “First Look” video session on CNET.com.

“If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t hold true at CES, and in particular among the lesser-known and emerging companies stationed in Tech West. Our team scored some major interviews and media coverage by walking the floor, grabbing media by the hand, and guiding them back to our clients’ booths.

Gregory FCA Account Coordinator Katie Lamb
models our client’s product on the show floor.

Creative forces. Finding and convincing media to talk to your client might seem easy, but there were more than 170,000 attendees at CES this year! To stand out and be seen amidst all that noise, companies went beyond the typical in-booth display and demo. IO Hawk chased after media with its segway/motorized skateboards, BleachBright offered free teeth-whitening, PowerDot showed how attendees could supplement their nightly workouts with mobile-app controlled muscle stimulation, and we walked the floor show wearing our client’s red-light hair growth helmet.

Adaptability. As PR folks, most of us are more comfortable behind the curtain than in front of it.  We do the groundwork, and then allow our clients to pose for the camera, nail the interview, and get the glory. The thrill for us is in the chase and the catch, getting that reporter, photographer, or videographer to say yes.

At CES, though, all bets are off. The competition is too high to work comfortably out of sight. Sure, nearly 3,600 media attended CES, but more than 3,600 exhibitors, and often their publicists, are there vying for their attention. If a reporter doesn’t have 15 minutes to traverse the expo hall to get to your booth (and often, they don’t), the PR rep might have to be the one on camera — it’s either an interview now or not at all. If you’re not willing to embrace this boots-on-the-ground approach, you limit your chances of coverage.

CES coverage is still coming out, and with it, our placement lists for clients are growing.

Press releases, product launches, social media, and other traditional PR tactics need to be a part of any event strategy. But if your PR reps weren’t with you at CES 2015, or worse, they were there but didn’t put these guerrilla principles into action, you missed a major opportunity. At CES the most elite tech journalists in the world ask to be wowed. Were you, and your PR firm, there to answer the call?

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