The Consumer Electronics Show, hosted by the Consumer Technology Association, can inspire angst. From exhibitors hoping to attract attention to their booth, to journalists wishing their inboxes were slightly more manageable, CES inspires strong opinions. How is the discerning startup leader to make the most of a CES booth? Most importantly, how can that leader ensure his team stands out in media coverage of CES? Below are some key considerations.
First, and no doubt most important, make sure your product is ready and gets delivered to the media well before CES. It doesn’t need to be ready for general availability or for shipping to commence yet. However, a catchy press release or marketing message from a startup is not enough for media attention. Journalists need a good amount of lead time with the product to determine that it’s deserving of coverage.
This leads to a second key consideration. Prioritize media with “Best of CES” award programs and show-floor trend articles. Most of this coverage relies on the journalist having personal experience with the product. Many editors are reluctant to award such a prominent honor to a company merely based on an announcement.
Materials for Media
Finalize your press release and message for CES no less than one month before the show. The sooner you can reach out to members of the media attending CES, the more likely you are to receive dedicated attention. Earlier emails mean your pitch is more likely to land in a less-cluttered inbox. As well, you’re more likely to reach the journalist while their calendar holds fewer appointments.
As you ready your product, make sure your logistics team is ready to process orders. Alongside this, you must have a firm answer to when the company will ship the product. If there is any hesitation, journalists may steer clear of covering something they see as vaporware.
Consider holiday schedules when offering products and messaging to journalists who will cover the show. Oftentimes, updates to the registered members of the media attending CES get published during the holiday week. Be mindful that many journalists observe the holidays and take time off to be with their families. They won’t thank vendors who interrupt their holiday vacation. An approach that respects their time will help build a long-term relationship.
Take advantage of all possible opportunities offered by CTA, your pavilion’s producer, and any other sponsors or producers you’re working with. CTA offers members opportunities for media coverage and to promote your content throughout the show. Part of their official package includes broadcast coverage of the best products from the show in broadcast in Las Vegas. In addition, certain producers of pavilions, such as Living in Digital Times, work with media outlets to share previews of the show and new products.
Booth and Show Presence
Consider investing in a presence at CES Unveiled (January). CTA holds various Unveiled events at different times during the year. CES Unveiled on Sunday is held two days before the main show opens. This is a key event where journalists and media crews reconnoiter the vendors and select who they will feature in their coverage of CES. Broadcast outlets like CNET use the compressed booth format to take footage of products they’ll feature in coverage later in the week. Other events like Pepcom and Showstoppers have interested writers. However, fewer top-tier broadcast outlets attend these events. Unveiled holds the main media benefits for companies.
Make sure your booth and display are intuitive and accessible from all angles. You never know which direction a journalist may come from, even if your booth is next to the front entrance. If the booth has any type of “front” or “back” to the design, it may not be intuitive. Journalists and tours organized by groups like CNET, Mediacom, WIRED and others cover a lot of ground quickly. They need the product to be clear and obvious from the first moment they see your booth.
Be ready at your booth to give a journalist everything they need to write their story. Have a PR representative’s contact information, link to press materials on your website, and review units of your product ready to give to journalists. If limited product quantities are available, request the journalists’ contact information. Know the date when the journalist can expect their review unit. Once you do, follow through to ensure the review unit arrives. Take special note of any planned stories or deadlines the journalist is working on.
CES offers tremendous promise and some challenges for startups hoping to build credibility at the largest tech show in the United States. Keep these tips in mind as you plan for your future presence at the show. Planning ahead and accounting for journalists’ schedules and preferences can rival the importance of some aspects of planning and set-up for your booth. With these considerations in mind, you can help your startup stand out in media coverage of CES in the future.
Maura Lafferty is an influencer relations specialist, with a particular focus on media outreach over social channels. Maura has over 14 years’ experience in public relations, and relationships with media working in national, California, and Silicon Valley newsrooms.