One of our favorite assignments at Blue Wagon is staffing a media room at a client’s trade show or conference. The energy, the hustle-and-bustle, the people – it all makes for a fun, sometimes frantic, few days that inevitably tests our stamina, brainpower, and people skills.
It is an interesting role to play. You are there essentially serving two masters – your client and the on-site journalists. The key to success: PREPARATION! (Plus, comfortable shoes and copious amounts of coffee.)
Here’s a few tips from our playbook:
- Be sure your credentialing process is carefully thought-out and meticulously documented. Know how your client feels about limiting an outlet’s on-site presence – in number and/or in job title. For instance, is it okay to grant a “publisher” credentials or only journalists with a documented record of writing on your topic/issue? How many journalists can attend from each outlet? Brace for pushback on your rules and limitations. Stand firm.
- Know the current COVID-19 protocols. This is the world we live in for the moment, so we can’t stress enough how important it is to be up-to-date on the latest public health guidelines and those your client may choose to enforce. Are masks required for your staff and journalists while in the media room? Will in-person interviews be permitted, or is this a situation where a “virtual press conference” is required? Are there other unique restrictions journalists need to be made aware before being credentialed and/or arriving on site?
- Stock up. Take everything you could possibly need on-site and then some. First aid supplies, office supplies – for you and the journalists – and, of course, a candy stash. (We cannot emphasize this last point enough.)
- Get the lay of the land. Learn your way around the convention center; know the schedule of events; be prepared to answer questions and give directions.
- Make their job easy. Journalists are on site to work, to cover your client’s event. If it’s feasible, offer breakfast and lunch, snacks, coffee, etc. so they don’t have to leave the venue or worry about their own survival due to hunger. If it’s not feasible, have a list of suggestions on hand for nearby restaurants with delivery and take-out options, and/or times and locations of meals that will be served outside of the media room.
- Know the passwords. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is impossible to overstate how frustrated journalists will get if the wireless or printer password is not easily accessible to them. Consider printing signs and taping them to the tables in the room or creating a handout.
- Learn to walk a tightrope. Not literally, of course. Journalists can be demanding, especially if there is a tight deadline. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” You don’t work for that reporter. You work for your client. Conversely, if a journalist makes what you think is a reasonable request, and your client turns it down, make your opinion known. You don’t want to find yourself being held at fault if an event receives unfavorable coverage because your client wouldn’t cooperate.
- Take care of yourself. A trade show or conference is an intense few days, with long hours. Be sure you eat and get plenty of rest. Ensure your staffing is robust, so everyone can take breaks, go outside, and stagger start/end times.
The Blue Wagon team has been privileged to staff press rooms at scientific conferences, trade association meetings, and sports tournaments since 2004. Need some experienced help with yours? Give us a call.