For VMworld, Strategic PR Planning is a Must-Have

By: The Metis Data Center Team
As almost every IT and data center professional knows, August means one thing: VMworld. Put on by industry giant VMware, the weeklong conference celebrates the latest advances in virtualization technology and the data center. With more than 350 sessions, 275 exhibitors and 21,000 attendees, it's easy for vendors, the media and attendees to get overwhelmed and miss some of the news. The same thing happens to businesses that coordinate their latest product release announcements with the start of the conference. While VMworld features intense media focus, the sheer number of companies seeking exposure easily exceeds the capacity of reporters to cover them all. As a result, many worthy products get lost among the din. Here are a few tips on how to rise above the noise:
1 – Start planning early. Implementing long-range, detailed outreach plans and a social media execution strategy are successful strategies to stand out among other companies at the show. For instance, while the company focuses on finalizing the product, the PR team builds and implements a coordinated media, analyst and social media plan that includes scheduling briefings; drafting press releases; creating buzz via Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms; submitting for awards and securing news coverage.
2 – Prep your team for meetings that may not happen. The PR team prepares company spokespeople, makes certain that proper messaging is shared with the public, and ensures that the generated coverage is positive. However, a journalist's schedule can change on a dime and meetings run late (we'll get to that one below), so stay flexible and change your schedule if needed. It's important to note that you should try your hardest not to cancel last minute with a reporter, because you may lose your meeting and never get it back.
3 – Skip the press kit or any papers. This is timeless advice but one that always bears repeating because so many companies are still so focused on printed handouts. Media are inundated with materials and most of them end up in the trash. Have digital copies or a handy USB drive to provide to your media contacts.
4 – Mix it up. Skip the boring PPT or demo presentation. Walk around the event with your media contacts. Provide commentary on the coolest booth, giveaways, hyped technologies, customer interactions, anything beyond the normal search-and-replace product briefing. Come prepared to every meeting with some key takeaways from the conference. What's the hottest new product you are seeing (and no, it shouldn't be yours, unless, well, it is the hottest new product at VMworld, which has happened to our clients before).
5 – Keep your meetings short. There is no reason to have a meeting last longer than 30-45 minutes unless your media contact has expressed incredible interest in sticking around for that long. When talking with journalists and analysts, keep your meetings between 15 and 20 minutes, tops. Get to the point – fast. Your contacts will love you all the more for not wasting their time and recognizing the cacophony of the trade show week. Most importantly, they will remember you more for putting their priorities first.
When you want your business and products to rise above the noise of large industry conferences like VMworld, an experienced PR team and long-range planning are the keys to success. Last year, our data center practice secured more than 50 media briefings for clients attending VMworld and generated more than 30 pieces of coverage, a Best of Show award in the disaster recovery category and a finalist award for Best of Show in the private cloud management technologies category. This success came from in-depth planning for the show and coordinated efforts with our clients, and we're gearing up to do it all over again this summer.
VMworld will always have an abundance of news and a shortage of reporters to broadcast it all, but by employing an experienced PR team and a comprehensive conference strategy, businesses can ensure that their news gets the coverage it deserves.
What successful PR tactics has your company used at VMworld?

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