The Dog Days Nearly Over
Summers in our business are usually quiet. This year you could have put the industry in an anechoic chamber and shut the door and not notice that anything had happened.
But those days are nearly at an end. Come the beginning of September the trade shows and conferences start rolling again, and all the news releases associated with them will pour into our e-mail inboxes.
It has always been a mystery why this happens. Most marketing departments seem to think that they absolutely have to have a certain number of releases primed and ready to go for day one - and no earlier - of a trade show. With X number of exhibitors releasing N number of announcements you actually end up with NO coverage. Someone explain noise levels to them, please?
When you go to a trade show as a journalist you are engulfed with information overload. The releases, the press conferences, the keynotes all deposit information; but there is no chance of even a fraction of the stuff making it into ink, or bits, or bytes (or electrons?)
Trade shows aren't for journalists anyway. (At the last NAB - in Las Vegas in April 2007 - there seemed to be no motion of bodies in the press room; they all were just hanging around, it seemed, for the next catering cart to turn up.) These shows are supposed to be for connecting sellers with buyers.
In the print press - and this is a horrible, dirty, secret - we were expected to turn up at a show, visit the potential advertisers...and then the space rep would show up immediately after. Very subtle, umh? The only way that we can really get technical information - and that is the business we are in at this publication - is to sit down with the people who are deeply involved in designing and moving the parts. I, personally, can only do that with those people on the other side of a table, in the many conference rooms I have been in.
No, news releases should be put on the wire well before the trade show. You're telling the competition what you are about, sure - but your product is probably already shipping to your alpha customers anyway, right? What those early releases do is inform the other 80% of your customers what to come looking for when they arrive at the show floor.
Think of it like a travel guide; you book your vacation well in advance if you are like most people (something positive to look forward to in the dreary winter months) and then you visit your favorite bookstore and pick up a guide. Those guides all look different. Some specialize in telling you the best value places; others almost take you on a walking tour of the places you are going to; yet others only look upscale; or how to backpack your way around, spending only ten dollars a day, perhaps.
And those are what you want to get into the minds of your customers well before they turn up at your booth. That you are going to be there; that you are doing something of interest to them; that you will have the right people for them to talk to about not only the new products but also, hopefully, the general direction you intend to take in that market. You should be prepared to listen to the customers' problems in the market -- everyone has them -- without persuading you to decide on a product direction that gives you only one customer…
Use the last of the dog days to prepare for the payoff of the Fall. Think ahead, rather than satisfying numbers. In the same vein, when your CEO promises the market (i.e., the investors) that you will, absolutely, have X number of new products in each financial quarter, don't allow him or her to tell that the best way to let the world know about them is to have X number of press releases go out before midnight on the last day of the quarter.
That's just setting yourself up for the dog days to "eat" your homework.