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4 PR Lessons Learned from CES
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is an annual trek in utopian dorkdom. The latest gadgets and technology widgets new to the market will astound and amaze. The people standing around will do the same — not because they appear like they are waiting for a Star Trek convention, but rather because they all look the same. Each consumer is wide-eyed, knobby-kneed, and salivating a little.

What's interesting is that those "consumers" are executives and brand managers, exhibitors, and staff. Why? Media. It is the golden calf for every brand represented. 

According to the International CES website, "85 percent of CES exhibitors cite media coverage as one of the most important reasons for attending the show." Of course it is because money. If you have any plans to traverse the sea of humanity at CES in Sin City, you should know as PR practitioners what to expect. Moreover, you should know what to take away from the event and share with your clients.

If you have technology clients who have expressed a wish for attendance and a show booth at CES while sitting gently on Santa's lap, these lessons are for you (and them, but you get the idea): 

1. Standing Out Means Standing Tall. I don't mean wearing your polka-dotted boxers on the outside of your snug Affliction jeans, but you need to set your client apart from the competition. All booths are not created equal, and outside of a trip to the local casino to enhance the budget, you have to think about what the media want — stories, interviews, engaged people, thought leaders. And if they are going to stand out and get someone's attention, they probably should know to whom they are speaking (as should you). Think about the stories going up and down the aisles. Business to consumer, financial to technology. The stories abound as long as you understand the opportunities do not. Treat every time you perchance on a deskside at CES as the last. Make them all count. 

2. Invest a Little. This is the nerd Super Bowl of sorts, and as you would expect, people attending the event love to walk back to the hotel with a memorable token. In other words, tchotchkes work. Despite the fact that everyone in the crowd will be walking around with a bag stuffed like Halloween at a Kardashian's house, your gift should be something that will be noticeable the second all the toys are emptied out on the double-sized bed. That swag needs to do more than be a vehicle of product placement. It should be useful, addictive, and something to share with everyone back at the office. Brand loyalty works at CES. Consider it like the Pied Piper...only with knee-high black socks and sandals. 

3. Prepare the Peeps. The media that attend CES know what they are talking about and why they want the story. If it's retail, the story is consumer-focused, so differentiation on price and bargain is key. If it's technology, know the competition and how your bells and whistles blow them away. Another thing: Reporters at CES are writing, recording, or blogging several stories daily. Interviews are not known for softballs at CES. People want details and facts to help them create the story. You should know this and prepare your client accordingly. The better your client's response, the more well-read it will appear by that journalists' thousands or millions of acolytes. 

4. Pay to Party. The Oscars. The Grammys. The Super Bowl. Nothing compares to the jovial atmosphere and the gaggle of white people clapping on 1 and 3 like a party at CES. There are a bajillion of them, and as the PR rep, you should know them all. Consider all invitations to "get-togethers," "after-parties," and "events," because being seen there could mean being heard elsewhere. You're in Vegas, so good times. The casinos can wait. What happens at these parties never stays at CES. It's the magic of rubbernecking, elbow rubbing, and bottle emptying. From social media to selfies, there are ample opportunities to get friendly with many people. 

If you didn't go this year, you want to go next year. Like a scout, be prepared, kids. Bring a Mophie, a message, and plenty of mints. Feel free to share, too. Just saying. 


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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