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With Event Cancellations, PR Can Be Marketers’ Saving Grace

Published: April 3, 2020       Updated: April 21, 2024

4 min read

As the COVID-19 pandemic spurs more industry convention and trade show cancellations, marketers must be ready to turn on a dime—armed with a results-driven contingency plan. Especially in the B2B technology space, many companies spend a sizable amount of their annual marketing budgets on third-party trade shows and industry events. As a critical element of the marketing mix, cancellations and postponements of these events can be highly disruptive, no matter the reason.

When faced with the loss of event exposure, it’s more important than ever to shift focus to tactics that enable companies to make up for the visibility lost. When driving brand awareness is the primary objective, PR is often the best avenue to pursue to cost-effectively maximize results. This offers PR and marketing agencies a great opportunity to be a source of valuable information—to current clients, media and even companies simply looking for help in these uncertain times.

With more than 15 years of PR and marketing experience in the B2B technology space, Idea Grove is working double time to provide its clients sound guidance to navigate this highly unusual situation, which has thrown so many companies’ marketing strategies into disarray. For businesses needing to safeguard their brand presence, Idea Grove recommends making several strategic moves to ensure we all make it through this crisis unscathed.

Go Virtual—Not Invisible.

A lot of marketers see their event cancellations as a complete loss of promotional opportunities—from onsite media briefings to in-booth product demos. However, we’re all in the same shelter-in-place boat and working remotely is the new normal. Work with your PR team to relocate those media briefings to video conferences. Schedule webinars to showcase your product, service or solution launches. You can even expand beyond the onsite engagement you had initially planned by hosting virtual demos for analysts and potential customers. With a nimble PR execution strategy, you can easily turn what looks like a loss on the surface into a hidden gem of opportunity.

Seize Reporters’ Suddenly Open Schedules.

Your company isn’t the only party suffering from event cancellations. Reporters count on trade shows and conventions to get industry news they can use to create months of content. Just like your marketing plans, their editorial calendars just got thrown into chaos. In addition to moving your media briefings online, this is a great opportunity to nurture relationships with the journalists who had planned to attend your now-cancelled event—especially those you didn’t have the chance to connect with previously. Reporters who didn’t respond to your initial request for an onsite briefing will likely now be much more receptive, in light of their current situation. While competitors are lamenting about their (perceived) lost opportunities, your PR team will be waiting in the wings to steal the spotlight. You have news, and they need fresh content. Even if your outreach doesn’t result in immediate coverage, those media contacts will remember that you reached out to help during a trying time. 

This is the Time to be Proactive.

The simple truth is that many businesses will scale back or put some—if not all—of their PR efforts on hold with economic instability on the horizon. This trend actually presents the perfect opportunity to go on the offensive. Competitors are going quiet, so make yourself heard.

Be a Resource, but also Respectful.

While the time is right to dive into PR, it’s very important that you don’t come off as tone deaf and must approach media outreach carefully. As we all know, the news cycle has been dominated by COVID-19 for more than a month, but many journalists are—or will soon be—feeling COVID-19 fatigue. Headlines may be 95% pandemic-related right now, but that will change. It’s imperative that PR teams monitor their respective industries’ news, keep a pulse on what reporters are covering and be prepared to launch proactive media outreach as soon as reporters shift back to their pre-pandemic subject matter. Many trade publications are already looking for fresh industry-related content, from bylined articles to executive features. Don’t rest on your laurels and miss the opportunity to be the source they need.

History suggests that many businesses will tighten their belts in the coming months, and all too often PR is one of the first things to go. But our experience shows that this is far from the best approach. Events may be cancelled, meetings postponed and new business put on hold, but with the right PR team and a proactive strategy, your business can excel—even in this time of uncertainty.

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