Swyft has years of experience helping small, mid and large-size B2B technology companies get more bang for their invested buck at trade shows. Because of that, we decided it was time we started sharing some of our ‘insider’ knowledge in hopes of helping aspiring brands win more attention for their new products and services at these highly-prized industry events.
For this post we are looking at HIMSS, the largest healthtech event of its kind in the U.S. For those not in the know, HIMSS stands for Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. It was founded as a global, cause-based non-profit focused on improving healthcare for all through better information and technology.
HIMSS takes place each year in Orlando, Florida in early March and brings together over 45,000 healthcare IT professionals, clinicians, and executives from around the world. For a product or software services supplier to the healthcare sector, HIMSS is a must-attend event.
Below are some of the PR tips we have found successful for healthcare innovators seeking to win attention from media and prospects alike:
Start Early: start planning nine months out from HIMSS. Why? HIMSS organizers open up a ‘Call for Proposals’ for general education sessions as early as June, a good six-seven months in advance of the conference. Getting one of your company’s IT experts into a general education session is great for brand awareness and establishing thought leadership in a competitive industry like healthcare IT.
Another reason to start early? Media outlets attending HIMSS start booking interviews as far out as three months. That means your company should have enough of its core messaging ready at least four months in advance of the conference start date.
Plan meticulously: HIMSS is the single largest marketing investment some healthtech companies make, amounting to a solid 6-figure investment. Translation? It pays to start a marketing and communications plan early in order to maximize ROI at the event. Swyft recommends you assemble your key stakeholders in the same room, or at least on the same video conference call, to begin defining the key messages, mapping out upcoming product launches or software releases, and fleshing out a timeline for completing the trade show PR plan.
The trade show PR plan should be a living document that is kept up-to-date with guidance provided by key stakeholders in product marketing, the executive team, sales, 3rd parties like PR firms and exhibit design firms, etc. Perhaps most important of all, the plan should include media objectives to hold your PR firm and marcom team accountable to achieving measurable results. One example of this might be for a company to secure substantive media coverage (i.e., more than a mere mention) in 10 tier-one trade outlets and another 5 in tier-two outlets, along with 50 social shares on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Research: do extensive research on media outlets that have either attended, or at least covered, HIMSS in the past to ensure you add them to your media pitch list. Be sure you understand what the area of interest is of each journalist and whether your company’s news announcements are an appropriate fit for the related media outlet’s audience. In other words, if you want to announce a new cloud-based offering targeting radiological services in hospitals then you should look for media outlets that focus on hospital technology and healthcare technology in general (think Becker’s Health IT and CIO Report).
Shareable industry insights: one thing we found helpful is to have ‘snackable’ content that can be shared with media professionals in order to provide them with a unique perspective or insight into a particular challenge faced by a segment of the healthcare industry. This could come in the form of an annual survey that provides fresh insights or a rehash of existing data that are assembled in a presentable format. Either way, the hope is that one or more media outlets may end up using your content in some form or fashion and give your company its proper credit. For any healthtech company wanting to be seen as a market leader in an emerging technology niche, a survey can help anchor its thought leadership strategy and provide plenty of media pick-ups over time.
Integrated approach: a PR campaign should be integrated with the company’s overall trade show marketing strategy, especially with its social media activities. Media coverage can and should be shared liberally on the company’s main social networks. An article could be posted not only on a company’s LinkedIn profile but also on some of its executives’ profiles in hopes of creating even more buzz for the company. The same goes for Twitter. Company news should be limited to a company’s Facebook page.
Integrating PR with a company’s other marketing activities is also helpful. For instance, the company can use its blog to post thought leadership pieces of possible interest to media outlets. A company could also pen a paid contributed article that runs in a tier one healthtech trade news outlet in order to dovetail its paid with its earned media activities.
Media event: while it’s never easy getting busy journalists to show up for an event during a conference (we know, we’ve tried), it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort. Say you didn’t secure as many in-person booth visits from the media at last year’s HIMSS, and this year you want to double the number of interviews. You could arrange a happy hour at the booth exclusively for media. A common rule-of-thumb with journalists? They love free food and drinks. You could always take it a step further by hosting a gathering at a suite in the conference hotel or at a nice off-site restaurant. We recommend designing an attractive invitation (both digital and print) to share with the media. Anything to make your invite stand out from the other invites that the media get will go a long way. In short, the event approach could lead to profitable relationship building with some highly respected media professionals.
Persistent, not pesky: it definitely pays to be dogged when pursuing the media, so if you don’t hear back from some on your media hit list then keep at it. Just remember to stay professional when reaching out to the hard-to-reach ones and don’t take their silence personally. Quite often they are simply inundated with work and will get back to you when they have a chance, especially ones from industry publications. Journalists in national media outlets like WSJ or Forbes almost never respond. Why? They receive hundreds of pitches weekly and don’t have enough time to respond and still do their job.
Convenience: your job is to make a journalist’s job of writing about your company as easy as possible. You can do that by making all supporting materials easy to find, access, and use. For instance, if your company is launching a new SaaS cybersecurity dashboard to monitor patient data, then be sure to have professionally-produced product sheets featuring visuals of the product, easy-to-read product facts, customer testimonials, and more. Include any related press materials like press releases, executive bios and pictures, product pictures, company description, etc. All of this should be available on a secure cloud-based drive (e.g., Box, Dropbox, etc.) or be handed out as a thumb drive (company-branded!) so that busy journalists can return to the content at their convenience.
Reporting: don’t forget to pull together results for the show and do a recap presentation with the key stakeholders involved in planning and attending HIMSS. Doing so will help you get better at planning and executing your future event media relations with the ultimate goal of winning more share of media from the competition. Include all stats you can think of, such as the number of media outlets pitched, number of interviews scheduled and held, number of articles published versus mentions, total traffic generated by media coverage (tricky to do, but roughly doable with the right website monitoring tools), number of potential views represented by the publications, social media mentions from media, etc.
Invest in PR!: healthtech companies must take PR seriously enough that they invest in it properly in order to achieve the goals and objectives set for the company at the outset. To do that, a company needs a strong PR advocate on the executive team in order to sway them on two key points: 1) understand that the reach and influence of media still matters for brand awareness and demand gen, and 2) appreciate that PR has economic value in its own right and as part of an integrated marketing strategy. Without a sufficient investment at HIMSS, given how crowded and noisy the annual conference is, the hopes a company has for more brand awareness and booth traffic at the influential event could be put at peril. After all, getting timely articles placed in tier-one healthtech and business publications catering to the right audience will yield benefits that for many months after the conference ends.
Want more information on trade show marketing and media outreach?
Check out our guide entitled Your Roadmap to B2B Trade Show Success and see our insider-tips on how to turn your next trade show into a roaring success.