To Invite or Not Invite the Press

When a 200,000-gallon tank erected for wakeboarding performances for the Atlanta Boat show suddenly collapsed, flooding the Georgia World Congress Center, the media was there to capture every moment.  Thankfully, no injuries were reported and there was minimal damage.  One could assume that such an incident might have been the shows unraveling, but the opposite happened, due in part to the swift actions of a capable Show Manager.  

Instead of sinking the show, the mishap created a press frenzy with reporters clamoring to provide live footage of the aftermath and cleanup.  What could have sunk the event, it actually turned out to be the best exposure a show could ask for.  

Had the Atlanta Boat Show not turned out so positively, it might have been evidence for the argument that “no press is better than bad press”.  After all, such a situation would be difficult for even a seasoned Show Manager to navigate.  But from the story above, we have learned that that is not always the case.  Fear of bad publicity is not completely without basis, however, most things can be spun in your favor under the proper direction of a qualified Manager.  

So what is a Show Manager to do?  

You could discourage the press or you can be savvy and get ahead of the press game and influence the story in your favor by inviting the press and giving them the scoop they desire (and the benefits to your show).  It’s more advantageous to invite the press with open arms and intentionality, than to shroud the event in a lack of transparency.  

Don’t let the mistakes of a few shows keep you from taking advantage of the best the press has to offer.

Hot off the Press

The press is your friend, not your adversary.  If your show has little to no publicity, the chances of your show being a dud are extraordinarily high.  The press isn’t secretly rooting for you to fail; they have invested the time and means into getting good stories and they know that your show is a great resource for new leads and information.  

Build Your Media

Who exactly is your press?  Anyone who writes or speaks for an audience and will disseminate information of your show to a specific group of people.  This includes radio, television, web (yes, bloggers count), print (newspapers, magazines) and influencers.  Traditionally, if your show is open to the public, or government related, the press is always invited.  

If your event is private, then the media will need press badges to attend.  A press badge grants specific privileges to the journalist and usually needs to be requested in advance of the event.  Journalistic privileges include exclusive interviews with keynote speakers, influential attendees, and exclusive sneak-peaks.  It is not typical of the press to attend a corporate trade show.  However, regardless of the type of event, if a celebrity shows up to your event, expect the press to follow.  

The Benefits

Having the press at your trade show is beneficial to you and your exhibitors.  But what does it mean to invite the press?  In short, you need to be intentional when you invite the press.  It’s important because they (the press) need to know why they should attend and what might be in it for them.  

Imagine your next show is focused on face and body and you have invited beauty and fashion bloggers, key industry influencers, and pertinent magazine journalists to attend.  

Let them know that they have the following to gain from covering your event:

  • The scoop on upcoming trends in the industry.
  • Access to key industry leaders.
  • Exclusive interviews with important attendees.
  • New industry research.
  • Booth space in exchange for attendance and exposure.
  • Invite with the promise of booth or publication space on the floor to conduct interviews.


What you can get in return:

The press has connections.  They can partner with industry influencers who have connections within the city and the industry itself.  This veritable media powerhouse will work in tandem with each other to give you the best exposure possible.

The buy-in of the aforementioned industry influencers is help that you can capitalize on.  Both regional and national influencers can take your exposure to the next level.

You can negotiate for getting a year’s worth of exposure before your event.  Also negotiate the following:  How many times they mention your show, what social handles and hashtags they use, ticket sales, as well as pre-show promotions.

Take A Chance

With the emergence of online journalism, bloggers, and various purveyors of influence, it seems inevitable that even the smaller events will have some form of publicity.  You can’t prevent an attendee from using their smartphone to record and photograph the slightest of discrepancies to later post online.  Your best strategy is to embrace the press while not stressing about worst-case scenarios and just take a chance.  The odds are most definitely in your favor.