Conventions/conferences are events that challenge a man’s (and woman’s) stamina.

They push you to the limits of creativity and performance.

Companies spend hundreds of thousands, no millions to attend them annually just to reach, educate, inform, persuade other companies and the media.

Two recent events are typical – Black Hat Technical Security Conference and NAB (National Association of Broadcasters).

Both in Las Vegas.

Both at the same time.

“We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.” – Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Warner Bros – 1948)
Richard Gray’s Power Company

Both had the attendees you’d expect:

* Black Hat – NSA, FBI, Homeland Security, cybersecurity folks from around the globe
* NAB – broadcasters, movie producers, stations, indies, event videographers

Media were at both and naturally PR people were there pushing coverage for their companies’ better ideas, better products.

The organizers of both used the popular idiom of having “green” press rooms.

No big deal for media covering Black Hat.

Folks at this show talk in whispers, text, IM, email, use, delete…everything. There was also a lot of use of “location, location” connection apps (made popular at South By Southwest – SXSW).

Couldn’t you just call ‘em…you’re using your smartphone?

NAB had media, publicists, undercurrent that not having paper press kits was a bad thing.

From our perspective being green is nice as long as it:

* doesn’t get in the way of our job:
* is less effective
* doesn’t get in the hands of the media
* is less efficient
* costs more money

So you have to ask yourself?

Is your quality diminished with online materials?

Is your reach, “influence” less with online kits?

Is your value – to the company, media – less tangible with an electronic kit?

Move Becomes Trend
Forward thinking CEA (Consumer Electronics Assn) was (we believe) the first to eliminate paper in the pressroom several years ago recommending an online press service VPO (Virtual Press Office).

The big boys at NAB – Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, others – have done it right for years.

They have a special show press area set up in their online press room and media folks – whether they’re at the show or not – can grab the news they want to use.

The majority of PR people don’t have that “gotta visit” web site luxury. They have to work really hard to get attention for their companies.

That means you have two choices – take advantage of a virtual press shopping mall or having your own news store and hoping for traffic.

Some companies still have a few paper kits in the booth for diehards who have strong backs.

They still hold press events and give out shotskies.

They still have press meetings.

They still get coverage.

Many other events are following the major US events lead.

Others are pushing/encouraging companies to embrace the benefits of the web you know…power, speed, reach.

Some stick with the past out of habit.

Some waffle. Walter Huston/Howard looks at them and says, “I know what gold does to men’s souls.”

But with press kits is the treasure in the picks and shovels the PR adventurers carry to the show or in the results, the coverage they unearth?

Of course, coverage should have started weeks, months before the show but that seldom happens because:

* things really aren’t ready – products and/or press materials
* someone wants to keep the “news” a big surprise so they scoop the competition

Early announcement/coverage is a tough sell…get over it!

That’s just one of the reasons event publicity puts a lot of pressure on the publicist.

Or as Huston/Howard explained it, “Hey you fellas, how ’bout some beans? You want some beans? Goin’ through some mighty rough country tomorrow, you’d better have some beans.”

Management expects magnificent coverage and the company’s announcement are competing with everyone else for mindshare.

For some stacks of kits are proof they did their job.

After that…it’s all media’s fault!!!

Paper or Plastic?
Always hate it when the grocery clerk asks us that.

It sounds like we have to make a choice between chopping down trees or helping release plastic molecules that had been trapped in the ground (credit to George Carlin).

Paper or electronic kits seem easier because:

* there are always last minute release changes or added releases so they can be posted and no one will ever know it wasn’t “already in the plan”
* the company is easier identify than going to the press kit room and seeing packages of stuff from firms in the pigeon holes and wondering – you’re on an equal footing with the big guy
* publicists don’t have to lug boxes to the show, onsite media people don’t have to throw away barrels of paper as they dig out the gems they want, will use
* online provides detailed metrics as to who accessed, which announcement(s) they viewed to show which subjects were of most importance to the media
* onsite media folks can sit in the press room and flip through all the kits while having refreshments and cut/paste their news or files for later reference
* not every media person who wants to cover the show’s news can afford the time/expense to attend but with a few well placed mouse clicks…they’re digging for gold every day

Some folks vote for a press kit compromise – CD or flash drive.

Noble gesture but…

* ask a media person how many CDs or flash drives make it home and are opened to see the treasures inside?
* does the face of the CD or imprint on the drive help them recall what was really digitally hidden on/in the device?

Most media folks just never have the time to organize all of the stuff they got at the show because they’ve got deadlines, commitments.

The generally poorly labeled discs sit in piles for a few months and are discarded.

Not the flash drives.

They’re given to friends, associates, the kids to use for storing their stuff so the kit’s “folder” enjoys a second life.

The online show kit means:

* no begging for release approvals a week before the show so kits can be produced
* no rushing to print, stuff, overnight ship kits to the tradeshow floor
* no late night visits to the event city’s local quickprint place to redo a couple of releases and restuff the kit on your hotel room bed
* media folks actually believe that the company (and PR people) are super professional, super organized

The real key is that event publicity starts with news materials for a reason. You know:

* new products, new services, and new applications
* thorough background, including presentations/white papers when necessary

It is not about copies of releases from the past three months, data sheets/sales literature.

Quality news, not press kit heft.

Of course release writing is work.

Good news release writing – is even harder work and should be drilled into the publicist before he/she sends his/her first text message…first IM…first tweet.

Releases aren’t short stories or the great American novel.

They’re just good news items…live with it!

News writing that has to:

* get past the company approval committee
* convince the media it should be of interest to them
* convince the media it should be of interest to their audience

That’s about the time Bogart/Dobbs says, “Nobody puts one over on Fred C. Dobbs.”

If you’re only interested on the media at the show and feel they are dying to schlep your paper kits then slip them into their bags. They’ll love the extra weight for the week. They’ll thank you for letting them pay for even more baggage on their flight home.

Or you can leverage the web and use the online press service and let:

* media folks at the event relax in the press room and zip through the kits/releases pulling, filing so they can leave them in folders for use later
* folks at the show focus on hitting the “big” news events knowing they still have access to your news in their down time or when they’re back home
* people who couldn’t afford the time/expense to attend the show grab the news of interest to them and edit/use it or file for future articles

A virtual press service at shows isn’t a revolutionary, bleeding edge, dangerous idea.

It’s the way things are going for PR people who don’t weigh their value/their worth in cut lumber and pounds.

Imagine something that is green and actually faster, easier to use, better media reach, actually costs less.

As Tim Holt/Curtin pointed out, “You know, the worst ain’t so bad when it finally happens. Not half as bad as you figure it’ll be before it’s happened.”

This web thing may just be real !!