The secrets behind press conferences, product reveals and trade show marketing

February 24, 2015

By Raschanda Hall, Director of Global Media Relations, Business Wire

Trade shows are all about product reveals, updates and, engaging media.  And by engagement I mean, “come ye media and tell the world of the things you have learned today.”  All meant to guide consumers into the conversion funnel, from awareness to action, faster and farther.  The Chicago Auto Show is no different.

Chicago Auto ShowMany exhibiting auto manufacturers will host exciting and sometimes theatrical and humorous press conferences geared toward glamming up the reveals and editorial coverage.

A successful press conference and product reveal is virtually a Hollywood production, and with sticker prices nearing $500,000, what you’ll hear from the communicators responsible for pulling off these events is that you have to nail the basics.

Birthing an automobile:
Preparation and planning are fundamental tenets of public relations. As the dust settles on one show, exhibitors are looking ahead at ideas for next year. According to Curt McAllister, Midwest public relations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, “This is a little bit of Hollywood. Typically a press conference reveal [the birth of an automobile as he called it] may last all of 20-25 minutes and will probably range between half a million to a million dollars to produce. It’s the closest thing we get to Hollywood here in the auto industry. A lot of preparation is involved.  There is constant communication with our media to let them know we are going to do something big in that city so that they can save a spot on their schedules, and we can ensure a really good attendance.”

Authentic messages and messengers:
“Focus on what’s changed, what’s new, and why you did it,” says Andy Love, the head of car product marketing for Chrysler Group.  “Explain things in an easy-to-understand way.  If you have a new safety feature, help the audience relate with a story.  Explain how things matter and fulfill a need.  If it’s a high-end technology show, how it is easy to use and how it applies to their lives.”

Wendy Orthman is the Manager of the Midwest Region for Chrysler Group Communications.  She works with Chrysler

2015 Dodge Viper GTC

2015 Dodge Viper GTC

executives to get them ready to present on the big stage by first having them present at smaller shows.  “We want our executives at these shows. You want to make sure the speakers you choose have a high enough title that they attract the media. Their quotes bring authenticity and have significance and weight.  The sweet spot is when you have someone with title that can speak with knowledge and be impactful to the media.”

James Zahn, the pop culture and lifestyle blogger better known as The Rock Father, has seen his fair share of press conferences. “Excitement and Enthusiasm. It’s all about the two E’s. Don’t make us [journalists and bloggers] feel like you’re giving us the company line.  If a speaker sounds passionate about the business or product, that makes it more fun for us.”

Show up differently:

SpongeBob Inspired Toyotal Sienna

SpongeBob Inspired Toyotal Sienna

There is a lot of competition for news at these tradeshows and many of your competitors are also holding press conferences. You want to think of how you can show up differently.  Nissan of North America flipped the order of their press conference reveals. “A lot of other guys, they would do a slow build up and reveal the vehicle at the end. We do the opposite,” says Joe Gallant, Manager of Shows & Exhibits at Nissan.  “We keep the speeches short and we reveal the vehicle almost right away.”

The showbiz side of your product reveal means nothing if it doesn’t further your message. “There are very extravagant and flamboyant ways to pull a drape off a car. But don’t get over your budget, and be realistic. Make sure the message and the product is at the heart of it.  If you get so caught up in the smoke and mirrors you’re going to lose your audience,” warns McAllister.

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Don’t Eclipse Your News During the Lunar New Year – Why Sending News to China During the Spring Festival is a Bad Idea

February 18, 2015

Bio Pic 2

By Matt Allinson, Media Relations Manager – International Markets

China’s Lunar New Year is nigh (February 19), but the travel frenzy known as Chunyun (a 40-day period surrounding the Spring Festival) is well underway. It is a migration unlike any other, with an estimated 2.8 billion passenger trips undertaken between February 4 and March 15. Millions upon millions of people will be hurrying home to reunite with family and enjoy the holiday. It is said to be the largest annual migration in the world.


Chunyun travel in progress

With so many people concentrating on getting from one place to another, it stands to reason that not a lot of business gets done in the People’s Republic of China during this time of celebration. It also stands to reason that sending out a news release around the holiday is not a wise move – unless, of course, you’d rather people not see your news.

Shaun Bowers Interfax ChinaI had the opportunity to speak more about this with Shaun Bowers (pictured left), the Managing Director of Interfax News Services in China. He was kind enough to answer some questions I had, as well as some questions that are often put to me.

Q: Can you describe the impact Spring Festival travel has on not only the news distribution business, but all business in China?

A: It (business) almost stops. Family is at the very center of Chinese culture and this is the time of the year that workers all across China return to their home province to visit family. Often, it is the only time they will see their family during the entire year.

Starting in January, factories will stop taking orders because of the holiday and will be rushing to fill orders they have in hand. The distance workers have to travel means journeys can take days, so often workers will start traveling two weeks early … and it’s not uncommon for a factory to close for an entire month. So for most businesses, it is a quiet period … unless you are a food vendor near a train station or a retail clothing store (it is traditional to buy new clothes for the Spring Festival).

Q: A question I have received in the past is: Don’t the Chinese have the most cell phones (per capita) in the world? Wouldn’t they still be absorbing news on their devices during the holiday?

A: Perhaps you should ask them if they sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table and read the news. The Spring Festival is a time for celebration – the whole of China is on holiday and people are focused on fun and seeing old friends.

Q: To which western holiday would you compare the Lunar New Year? Or is there such a comparison?

A: It’s hard to compare … for Europe it would be Christmas, and for the U.S. I would say it’s like Thanksgiving … at Thanksgiving, people will do anything to get home. The U.S. has 330 million people and I’m sure readers can relate to what a nightmare travel can be during Thanksgiving. Now imagine adding another 900 million people, and you get a sense of what it’s like.

Q: What have been your personal observations and experiences with the Lunar New Year? Any crazy travel stories?

A: My wife’s family is from Hong Kong so we don’t have to travel, but it’s quite normal for us to sit down to dinner with 67 immediate family members … some of whom have traveled from all corners of the world. There is a saying in Hong Kong: “Don’t go on holiday as everyone you know will be on holiday, so stay in Hong Kong and enjoy the peace and quiet.”


According to Shaun, it’s not that people in China don’t read news during the holiday; it’s just not a top priority. Chinese New Year is the one time of year when all workers can return home and, in essence, MUST return home. It is important for them to do so and it is expected that they will return with gifts for the whole family. And in the end, what’s more important: being present with family or reading up on news about listed companies?

Shaun’s advice, and mine, is to hold off on sending any news to China between the 18th and 24th of February.

And I will take this opportunity to remind you that it’s a best practice to always make sure the country to which you’re trying to send news is not on a holiday.  A quick check of,,, or any similar site can save you time, resources and headaches when sending news internationally.

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Applying 8 Modern Day Dating “Rules” to Public Relations

February 14, 2015

By Serena Ehrlich, Director, Social + Evolving Media, Business Wire Valentine’s Day approaches, we turned our thoughts to how news distribution actually resembles dating. In this piece from today’s PR Daily, Hannah Kelly from Business Wire Paris looks at eight modern dating “rules” and how they apply to news releases.

Click here to read Hannah’s 8 rules of dating and how they apply to PR in 2015:

The Sweet 16: Business Wire’s Most Read, Viewed and Shared Content of 2014

December 16, 2014

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Content

Are You Ready for PR in 2015?  

As 2014 winds down, we at Business Wire are taking one last look backwards.  After all, there were some huge changes in 2014 that disrupted the way news content was showcased, distributed and adopted.

As we look towards a PR-friendly new year, we wanted to share the articles, videos and blog posts that your communication colleagues turned to this year so we can help you launch successful communications program in 2015!

How to write a press release:

The real reasons why your press releases need to include images:

Understanding media relations:

The role of measurement in PR

How Business Wire generates success for large and small companies alike [CASE STUDIES]

What are we missing?  What tips or tools do you plan on implementing in 2015?  Let us know in the comment box below.

PR Pros Bridging Industry’s Divide with Social Media

April 25, 2014

In case you missed it, Business Wire’s editor Luke O’Neill  wrote an article in PR Daily that discusses the gap between social and PR . In the story Luke discusses how social media is part of the requirements for a PR professional including how traditional media consolidation and the rise of social media as a channel for news and commentary were the main forces merging the two sides.

Some of the key focus points include:

  • The best communication programs use both traditional PR and social messaging to ensure maximum reach and return on investment.
  • PR people should embrace the idea that different people from their organization are communicating interactively online.
  • Organizations have embraced social by inserting social sharing prompts within their news releases to initiate sharing from the release end.

    business-pros-bridgePlease give us your thoughts on the story. Does this change your view on the role of a public relations practitioner?



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Cutting Clickbait – How to Write a Compelling Headline

March 31, 2014
Matt Bio Pic By Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor

Greg Rasa has worked at the Seattle Times for 27 years. Suffice it to say, he’s seen a lot of headlines. He’s also written a lot of them … thousands of them. At a recent talk he was giving on writing clickable headlines, I asked the long time news editor if he could recall the very first headline he ever wrote. “I can’t,” he said, “but I bet no one clicked on it.”

The headline is … arguably … more important now than it has ever been in the news and PR industries. Ads, paywalls, enticing paying customers, and attracting attention to important issues depend heavily on lassoing some incredibly short attention spans. People may last only a few seconds on your page or your story or your press release before fluttering away, but it behooves you to at least get them there.

But how do you write a compelling, clickable headline without always depending on the age-old use of yellow journalism/clickbait? Mr. Rasa, The Times’ news editor, offered up numerous solutions during his hour plus seminar, but these were some of my favorites.
headlines(click to enlarge)

USE ACTION VERBS – Honk, Fizzle, Careen, Blast, Chew, etc. … Action verbs are known attention grabbers.

  •          Have some fun with the English language (or whatever language you use).

FRONT LOAD BEST STUFF – Google crawls content from the top down, first to last, and that includes headlines.

  •          Use Google Trends to locate relevant keywords based on specific criteria.
  •          If you’re writing a press release, always get your company name into the headline when applicable.

BE CONVERSATIONAL – Write headlines like the way people talk … use natural words and syntax. An example:

Bad Headline = Jobs Report Pressures Obama Re-election Outlook

Would you ever say, “Hey, you’re pressuring my outlook?”

Good Headline = Lingering Joblessness an Election Problem for Obama

BE SPECIFIC AND CLEAR – Don’t be too general and/or vague. It’s OK to tease the reader a bit, but try to be as straightforward as possible.

Vague Headline = NYC Looks to Stop Spreading Bedbug Infestations

Specific Headline = Bedbugs: 1 in 15 New Yorkers Had Them Last Year

BEFORE YOU SEND, LOOK AGAIN – Take a moment to put yourself in the readers shoes.

  •          Does the headline you wrote make sense to someone who has no idea what the story is about?

More tidbits and thoughts on Mr. Rasa’s presentation can be found here and here. And if you ever get the opportunity to see Mr. Rasa speak, I cannot recommend doing so enough. Headlines are important … go learn a thing or two about them.

PR Trends for 2014 Focus of Business Wire Houston Event

March 28, 2014
By Cindy Cantu, Senior CSR, Business Wire Houston

All things social

This is the year of the empowered customer, according to Business Wire’s Director of Social & Evolving Media Serena Ehrlich. “It is up to YOU to create your brand differential and up to US to guide you through how to do it,” she told the audience at Business Wire Houston’s event, “All Things Social – Maximize Your PR in 2014” on March 26th.

Attendees from various industries including energy, biotechnology and pharmaceutical, as well as numerous media and marketing professionals, heard all about how social media is having a major impact on today’s press release. The old method of packing in keywords and hyperlinks in your press release to boost your Google ranking was made obsolete after Google launched its Hummingbird and Penguin updates, Ehrlich said.

Now, the focus is on a well-written, quality press release that can be shared via social media by you and other readers, plus will attract coverage from journalists and bloggers. One tip to consider is to add helpful links to your owned media (website, Twitter handle or blog, etc.)  at the end of every press release. Adding a ClickToTweet link, embedded with a Google URL Builder is also a good idea. If you do receive additional coverage from other media, it’s important to share those articles through your own social media channels too, she added.

Another sure-fire way to increase your readership and overall PR success is to add multimedia to your releases. Research shows releases with images or video receive three times more engagement and impressions than plain-text news on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, making multimedia no longer optional for today’s releases. Ehrlich said.


Serena Ehrlich explains “the year of the empowered customer” using social and multimedia.

One recent example of multimedia having a huge impact happened at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Surrounded by all of the giants in the technology industry, a relatively small company named mophie sparked major interest in their “space pack” product by simply adding a photo to their press release. They had one of the most popular releases among all CES exhibitors, Ehrlich said. Both release views and multimedia downloads surpassed 20K shortly after the release was issued.

Navigating through the current changes in the PR world can be daunting. Business Wire works hard to stay on top of the latest news and trends so it can share the information with its clients. Visit the Business Wire Newsroom and read the BusinessWired blog to be informed.


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