The next Outdoor Retailer trade show(OR Show for short) is right around the corner. If you’ve never been, the OR Show is it’s the near trillion dollar outdoor industry’s version of CES or the New York Auto Show. It’s a business-to-business show where retailers preview potential products to carry in the future and features the biggest names in industries surrounding backpacking, adventure travel, trail running, climbing, mountain biking, outdoor wellness and more. The OR Show is typically a who’s who for the industry. Brands such as Yeti coolers, K2, The North Face, Oakley, GoPro, Sorel, Patagonia are usually there.
At the Outdoor Retailer January event, two of our clients took home more than 10 major media awards. Not bad, considering there were more than 1,000 brands in attendance.
In January, for the first time ever, the OR show combined with the snowboard and ski-focused Snow Sports Industry’s Snow Show. It was the equivalent of CES combining with Apples WWDC, or MacWorld if that was still in existence.
It was a crowded event for sure and competition for media was high.
The steps we took to win these awards on behalf of our clients will work for any brand looking for PR exposure, at the OR Show, CES, or throughout the year. You just need to follow them.
Those that know what our clients were offering may think it was fairly easy. Some of the products being highlighted were definitely innovative, but perspective here is important.
The playing field isn’t level in the PR world, especially when it comes to outdoor product launches. At this show we were competing against brands that fly journalists to overseas to go skiing and check out a new fabric. Or to Panama to experience the fit of a new sandal. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee media coverage, but it can definitely help give journalists a useful, in-depth understanding of what a brand has to offer.
While we’d have loved to fly some of our journalist friends to meet us to go snowboarding, a large-scale trip like that was not in the budget. In addition, while our clients did have truly-media worthy innovations to showcase, we were dealing with other issues and legacy baggage to overcome.
Our team has a pretty deep history in handling PR for outdoor brands, going back to one of us working with Burton Snowboards back in the late 90’s. And most of us are avid skiers and snowboarders. Because of this, for one client, our professional and personal authenticity in the industry had us wondering out loud if their product would actually work as promised. For another client, we knew that a rival of theirs had introduced a similar technology, which also won awards. And in that instance, we had heard rumors of another brand trying to do the same.
But collectively, we still crushed it. How? Here are five easy steps.
1. We planned ahead.
Sounds simple, but unfortunately, we’re often called to help promote something under such a tight deadline that we don’t think it will be of interest to the media. Of course, we can meet the client’s deadline in terms of materials creation and outreach, but PR this isn’t advertising and journalists need time (sometimes days, sometimes weeks) to consider story ideas.
The ability to plan ahead do this is a huge factor in helping your PR program achieve success and something we constantly remind our clients about. And thankfully, both of our brands at the show gave us plenty of time to get the wheels moving… one did so two years out. The ability to plan well in advance gives your PR team the chance to anticipate issues and roadblocks that could arise, and map out course corrections to help when they do occur.
2. Relationships matter in public relations, but not always how you think.
How often a PR person doesn’t call a reporter can matter just as much as how often they do.
We try to impress upon all our clients that journalists smothered by bad PR pitches every day. Hundreds of them, and there are websites, blogs, and social media accounts dedicated to them. Just ask a journalist if you want to see some. With that in mind, we never pitch what isn’t appropriate and are realistic in how we position something to the media.
We’ll never say saying something really is groundbreaking when it’s not. That way our journalist friends know that when we do make major media-worthy claims they know we’re not coming to them with a new shade of grey.
3. Timing is everything (point #1 above).
Because our clients gave us time to plan, we were able to give journalists the time they needed as well. Despite a popular belief some brand managers have, journalists aren’t sitting around waiting for PR people to contact them with story ideas.
Through creative mailings and other tactics, we gave journalists an early, albeit veiled, heads-up on what we’d be showing at the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show. When they received all the details, this allowed them to ask questions, and later, follow-up questions, with plenty of time to meet their deadlines before the big event.
4. We made it easy for the journalists to experience the product.
While flashy events and trips can really give a journalist a feel for the product being launched, those typically take a massive amount of time and budget to execute. Also, we needed to show the products in a tight window before the show, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Journalists are just like the rest of us, with vacations booked, families, and personal obligations to attend to. Even if we had the budget to produce an event that’d result in an award-winning case study, there were slim chances they’d even have the time to attend.
To make it easy for journalists to experience the products being launched, we went to them. For both clients, we executed separate three-city media tours, each taking less than 48 hours total, where we met at their offices, coffee shops, restaurants, and breweries, based on the preference of each media contact. Wherever they wanted to meet, we went to. The meetings were fairly quick, about an hour each, and our days typically ran from 7 am until two hours before evening flights out of town.
We followed up the meetings with product for the reporters to review on their own, along with technical details, answers to hard questions, images and more. We were able to plan for almost every question, which takes us to our final step.
5. We anticipated the hard questions and answered them in advance. This one was crucial.
Remember, media relations (aka PR) is not advertising. You can’t just put out your message and hope a reporter will take your word for granted.
PR doesn’t happen in a bubble. We knew what similar technologies had been announced in year’s past for our clients’ categories and we were candid in mentioning that during our meetings.
But we followed up with examples of why what we had to share was not just different, but better. And we were honest in terms of when these products weren’t appropriate, spelling out why you wouldn’t want to use them in certain situations. Journalists appreciated that. Sometimes you need a Jeep, sometimes you need a helicopter. Both can get you places, but neither is appropriate for all situations.
At the end, even with all this advanced work, there was no guarantee we’d be successful.
Media interest in what was being shown was very high. We had an uncomfortable amount of meetings booked during the show to ensure that journalists we couldn’t meet with during our three-city tours would get intimate previews and the attention they deserved.
And almost as soon as they show started, we knew that our hard work did pay off.
Journalists started coming by our clients’ booths early in the morning to drop off award after award. It was almost comical. We had multiple team members on site for the show, but it almost seemed that the journalists were waiting for someone’s back being turned so they could discretely drop off another award.
Collectively, this was a career high for many of us and an agency, a major coup. We exceeded client expectations, as well as those of the internal team here. Will we win 10+ awards at the next Outdoor Retailer trade show for these two clients? Probably not.
And we probably won’t try either.
But that’s the secret to great PR. While we won’t always have something groundbreaking to show, we’re actively planning ways to continue the post-launch momentum, keeping the awareness of our clients high with both the media and the end consumer.
When you have limited budget, or a pitch that isn’t on the same level as the next iPhone, that’s when a PR team’s skill can really shine through.
Want to connect with the Remedy Team? You can reach us at PRCheckup@RemedyPR.com.
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Remedy Public Relations is the leading lifestyle firm in San Diego for companies in the surf, snowboard, ski, motocross, finance, and consumer electronics industry. We know PR. We know social media. If your PR team is falling short, you may need a remedy!