There are numerous other communication tools you can use in a public relations effort. Here are just a few suggestions:
  • A speech at a trade show.
  • A presentation at a local training institution or career development conference.
  • A brochure or flyer describing the work your company does.
  • A white paper describing the benefits of your company's work, posted on your website.
  • A newsletter or email newsletter describing your organization's activities and achievements, aimed at current and prospective users.
  • An advertisement placed in targeted magazines.
  • Special events such as open houses and "media information" days.
  • Regular tours of your facility.

The possibilities are limited only by your time, resources, and budget.

Don't Forget Emphasizing Core Messages

In all your public relations initiatives, don't lose sight of your core messages. These messages are the "essence" of your organization, defining your identity for users, the media, and the general public. Remember that the core messages should be woven into everything you do as a public relations representative. Consistency creates a bigger impact for your audience.

In the next chapter, we will look at how to use a trade show as a valuable tool for promoting your organization.

Working the Trade Show

Speaking engagements at appropriate industry functions will garner increased visibility and media coverage. One of the easiest ways to gain credibility is to participate as actively as possible in trade shows, industry gatherings, and seminars. You must choose these events carefully, distinguishing between those that are worthwhile and those too small to matter. Keep in mind, the larger the gathering, the more competitive the speaking application process.

Arranging Speaking Opportunities

Arranging possible speaking opportunities takes considerable effort and involves a long lead time. In most instances, you must be in contact with the conference organizers at least nine to ten months in advance of the show. You may even find that a sponsorship is required to be considered as a possible presenter.

First, do your research regarding relevant conferences that are being planned in your area in the months ahead. The website of the event organizer or of the conference itself is often a good place to start looking for information. Contact the organizers to find out their needs and application requirements for possible speakers.

Also, consider other venues in addition to trade shows focusing on Linux and open source. For example, you could offer your services as a speaker to human resources or computer training communities.

The key to successful participation is similar to pitching to the news media. You must understand your audience, you must have a compelling topic, and you must be ready and willing to impart your knowledge and experience of the industry. Most importantly, your presentation has to teach something to someone, and not just be a commercial for your organization. Give the audience the satisfaction of having really learned something from your presentation, and show organizers will want to have you as a presenter at their next show.

Getting Media Attention at Trade Shows

If you want publicity while exhibiting at a trade show, don't do what too many other organizations do. During the show, they wait patiently at their booth until they spot a reporter coming down the aisle. Then, if the reporter stops at its booth, the exhibitor moves in with the same tired pitch used on everybody else who walks by.

If this has been your approach in the past, now is the time to change. Waiting until the show begins is already too late to capture the news media's attention. You should now understand that establishing strong news media relationships weeks or even months in advance can pay off when the show begins.

Begin by finding out which news media will be covering the show. The best way to get that information is from the show's public relations department. Ask them if they can give you the names of print, broadcast, and online media they are targeting. This information is important to know, so that you don't pitch the same story ideas as the show organizers.

If you discover the organizers are pitching an idea that fits well with your organization's objectives, ask if they could include your business as an example in their pitch.

Check the editorial calendars of both the publications that will be covering the show and other publications that might have an interest. (A computer magazine, for example, is a prime target for a large event conference.) Many publications will issue a special report before or after the show takes place. The report may be a section within an issue or even an entire special edition. If you cannot glean this information from the calendar, you should call the publication and ask.

The special reports present ripe opportunities for media coverage. Pitch story ideas that may become part of the special report to your media contacts.

Prepare a compelling news release describing the most interesting thing that your organization will be doing at the show. Mention awards, impressive results, or endorsements, anything that will snag the media's attention. Include the line "For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:" as part of your contact information at the end.

In devising your strategy to get media coverage at the show, always position your organization as "part of the solution," not as a mere attendee.