Waiting for the IPO Window to Open? What to do While You Wait.

Now is a good time for tech companies to build out their comms programs in advance of an offering

2015 saw a slow down in IPOs, with IPO guru Renaissance Capital reporting that the number of companies completing an IPO in 2015 dropped 40 percent from 2014. The tech sector in particular took a big hit.

Despite the weakness, there were some tech IPOs in 2015, including Atlassian, FitBit and security SaaS company Mimecast (NASDAQ: MIME). Highwire was privileged to provide IPO communications support for Mimecast’s November 2015 offering, including managing global media relations, developing messaging and positioning as well as helping media train the company’s CEO in preparation for the day.

Mimecast IPO

 

Will 2016 see a resurgence of tech IPOs? At this point, it’s hard to tell. Many experts are saying “Don’t Hold Your Breath for a 2016 Tech IPO Boom”. For some startups, that could actually be a blessing in disguise.

Why would a slowdown in IPOs be a good thing for tech companies? Because IPO preparation should start far in advance of a possible filing, and that’s too often not the case. In fact, once a company is actively involved in the IPO process, it’s probably too late to launch a heavy media relations campaign due to the quiet period restrictions.

So if you are one of those tech companies waiting in the wings for the IPO window to open again, what can you do to prepare?

Get out there and tell your story.

Develop a clear and compelling way to communicate and then develop strong relationships with your beat reporters at the major media. As in all relationships, it should be a two-way street where you serve as a resource for the media when they need you. As a result, when listing day finally does come, they’ll be much more likely to cover you and much more educated on your value proposition. This is even more important for those B2B tech companies that don’t have the high levels of awareness that consumer companies command.

No one knows when the IPO window will open again, but in the meantime, there’s plenty tech companies can do with their comms programs to prepare.

What do you think 2016 will bring for the tech IPO market? Share your thoughts below.

 

5 Tips for Surviving CES (Or Any Tradeshow or Conference)

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place each year in Las Vegas immediately following the Times Square ball drop. (All right–it’s several days later but feels sooner.) It kicks off the new year and heralds the beginning of the busy tradeshow and conference season. CES brings together 170,000 global consumer electronics industry insiders – not only companies but also retailers, distributors, manufacturers, service providers, buyers, suppliers and shippers. Even the U.S. Postal Service was there, offering a giant Tetris video competition to attendees.

CES 2016 showcased  many cool new products ranging from autonomous cars to virtual reality goggles to robot pals and  coding caterpillars. But I’m not going to highlight these when many of my favorite news outlets do it much more succinctly (see here, here and here but come back here after!).

Instead, I’m offering a survival guide to what we public relations professionals like to refer to as our Super Bowl, if the Super Bowl lasted for a week and had terrible Wi-Fi. CES is full of high highs, low lows, long days/nights and gratuitous eating and drinking. How am I qualified to give you these tips, you might ask? Well, I’ve just survived another CES and have multiple other tradeshows under my belt to draw from. So, read on!

CES Survival Guide Tip #1: Pack (stylish) sneakers

CES is spread over two convention centers and countless hotels along Vegas’ famous strip. Exhibit space covers 2.2 MILLION SQUARE MILES and if you’re on the hunt for press contacts or edible food, comfortable shoes are your greatest ally. This year, I walked an average of 5 miles a day, which was great for my fitness but not for my feet.

Most tradeshows’ hours extend far beyond the showfloor times, so you’ll need footwear that lasts longer than your iPhone battery, which brings me to my next tip…

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Wear what you need to wear to stay comfortable.

CES Survival Guide Tip #2: Bring USB battery packs

You know that sinking feeling you get when your battery percentage dips into the red zone and you’re simultaneously texting a client, calling a reporter and flagging down a cameraman? Ain’t nobody got time for low juice, so get savvy by packing USB battery packs. Charge them as often as possible back in your hotel room, stick a few in your bag and save your anxiety for ensuring your client hits all his talking points.

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Avoid this terrifying possibility. (Image: Gizmodo)

CES Survival Guide Tip #3: Give yourself at least 30-to-60 minutes as a travel buffer

Don’t let Google Maps fool you into thinking that the Sands Convention Center is a short 10-minute walk from The Mirage hotel. Vegas was designed to confuse its denizens. You get from Point A to Point B by winding through The Venetian’s blinging slot machines, ritzy Grand Canal Shoppes, jumping over said “canal,” passing three Cookie Monsters and two Elmos and asking three hostesses, “How do I get out of here?!”

Also don’t believe that the Las Vegas Convention Center is a 15-minute drive from anywhere. Traffic is terrible and it will take you at least twice as long. Try to take the shuttle, the monorail or your own two feet everywhere and give yourself a solid travel buffer.

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Always expect back-to-back traffic

CES Survival Guide Tip #4: Hydrate!

Obvious, right? Well, when you’re juggling multiple clients, tracking down reporters, managing interviews, scanning for coverage, handling booth conversations and then networking at Lavo (highly recommended, by the way), you sometimes forget to drink water. This is a mistake. Vegas is an unforgiving desert and she will punish you for not taking the time to hydrate.

This is my MOST SECRET TIP, and I’m giving it up because CES makes you do crazy things: ask your hotel for a humidifier when you check in. It’s free and it will save your nose, throat, skin, you name it.

This guy has the right idea!

This guy has the right idea!

CES Survival Guide Tip #5: Don’t wear black cocktail dresses

This is for the ladies. Regardless how cute that black dress is, don’t wear it. You will be mistaken for a hostess and asked to fetch a drink order when you’re trying to schmooze.

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This dress is cute, but try it in a different color from black.

In all seriousness, I really enjoy CES. It’s a tremendously fascinating and fruitful event and an important place for consumer companies to launch new concepts and products, meet face-to-face with top-tier press and kick off the new year.  I’m proud of the work that Highwire PR has done at CES and other conferences (like HIMSS–which is in Vegas this year!–and RSA) in the past few years and look forward to preparing for 2017, which will start around…June.

Happy tradeshowing!

Do you have any CES or tradeshow survival tips to share? Put them in the comments or share with us on social!

Making a Social Media Splash at a Conference (When You’re Not the One Attending)

CalebAs we kickoff 2016, many of our clients here at Highwire are already thinking about the major industry events of the year. Our consumer teams have just finished up an exciting Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the digital health practice is preparing for Healthcare and Information Management Society conference (HIMSS) and the security practice is already starting preparations for about the biggest security conference of the year—RSA.

With social media now such an integral part of the corporate identity, it has become an increasingly important tool for making an impact at a trade conference. However, often times those running these social channels aren’t actually ATTENDING the show.

So, how can you make a social splash at a conference when you aren’t physically present?

Before the conference

Do your research

Before anyone steps foot on the conference floor, there is a good amount of groundwork to be done ahead of time to ensure on-site time is well spent. For instance, as the social media manager, your first responsibility is to identify any hashtags that are tied to the show. If you are attending RSA, you’ll want to know which hashtag will be the most popular—will it be #RSA2016 #RSAConf or #2016RSA? Are different target audiences using a particular  one? Make sure you keep an eye out for any shifts  in hashtag usage throughout the show. To do this, there are great social media tools like Hashtagify that can help you monitor for what is trending.

In order to make the show a success, you’ll also need ambassadors on the ground feeding you information and images. Find out which of your team members will be on the conference floor and who will be attending which sessions and connect with them ahead of time. Ask that they send you content throughout the conference—photos, videos, interesting conversation topics—that will help you stay in the conversation although you aren’t physically there. Be sure you have their direct contact information, and give them yours! Remember that these team members are likely busy running around the expo floor, so don’t be afraid to remind them to send you content throughout the event.

If your team is looking to connect with media who are attending the conference, you’ll want to investigate who will be there before the conference starts. Additionally, be sure to follow them on Twitter and other relevant social channels. This will make it easier for you to monitor Twitter and other feeds to see if a reporter is focusing on an area of mutual interest, attending one of your talks, or is looking for commentary from vendors.

Tease out your participation

Make sure you let your followers know that you plan to be at the show, and let them know where they can find you. Share your booth number and the dates and times of any talks your executives may be giving. Are you planning to give away any swag? Hosting a contest? Share this with your followers in a timely manner so that they know what to expect. If you have a regularly scheduled email newsletter that goes out to customers and prospects, make sure to include a mention of your participation in the editions preceding the event.

Social media can also help you make an impact beyond traditional PR and gain you new followers. Find out from your team what your key target verticals are and do some research to see if any potential customers may be at the show. If your sales team is looking to make a connection you can help by engaging with potential customers over social media. Be sure to check the list of conference sponsors before the show begins and connect with your team to see if there is anyone on their target list that you can start to monitor.

BlackHatClientsDuring the conference

Monitor for any changing trends. Keep a close eye on the conference hashtags and make sure you adjust your social posts according to what is trending. For example, perhaps #BlackHat2015 started out with the most traction, but by the end of the conference conversations may have switched to #BHUSA. Your social content should also make that switch.

Keep your eyes peeled for any breaking news or especially popular conference hashtags. If Twitter is suddenly talking about the researcher who hacked into a satellite, a keynote talk by Alec Baldwin or the Stagefright exploit that rocked Android phones, you don’t want to miss out on chiming in. .

It’s important to engage in social media conversations, not just push out promotional messages. Work with your team on the ground to share interesting topics or their opinions about interesting talks, and connect with reporters who are looking for commentary on any new stories. If your company is giving away free gear, promote to attendees using social media to encourage them to come talk to your team.

Since you are not at the show, staying in close communication with those who are on the ground is extremely important. Be sure to ask the team early and often for photos, quotes and videos that can be shared across your social channels. Visuals can add variety and extra personality to your feed. Remember, don’t be afraid to share photos of your team having fun! Photos of employees sharing a drink, talking with other influencers, or speaking on a stage at industry events frequently outperform your typical corporate content.

Social sharing shouldn’t stop at the official corporate channels either. Encourage members of the team to share, retweet and repost your content! With each share, the life of your content—and its reach—is extended.

After the conference

The booth may go down and the conference hashtags may be dormant, but your work as social media manager is not done. Be sure to share any potential leads you may have uncovered with your team. Most importantly, think about ways that you can extend the life of the great experiences, photos and quotes that you received during the event. Consider whether you may be able to craft a blog post surrounding key findings from the event or develop a series of visual quote cards with interesting takeaways to publish over time.

While it may seem daunting to be tasked with managing social media for an event you’re not attending, it is possible to do so successfully. All it takes is some pre-planning, and lots of team collaboration and communication.

How to Make Your Product Pop at Press Events

 

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Everything you wanted to know about running a successful tradeshow

For most, the majority of December is allocated towards quality time with friends and family. Except for those of us who work in consumer tech; for us, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year courtesy of the biggest consumer technology conference — CES.

The Consumer Electronics Show, which kicked off this week, features the latest and greatest in all things consumer tech. Once thought of as the only place to launch new products, several big-name companies have opted out of the conference in recent years in favor of a less crowded and expensive platform in which to announce their latest news (Here’s looking at you, Facebook and Apple). With that, many key media have announced their retirement from the CES stage as well, opting for more intimate press gatherings that focus on a select group of new products and participants.

Pepcom, ShowStoppers and the like allow companies to get in front of top tier media by organizing small mixers at startup-friendly prices. Although much more intimate than mega conferences like CES, it can still be tough to stand out in the crowd. That’s why the team here at Highwire suggests focusing on identifying creative ways to bring your booth to life in order to ensure you get the most value out of these shows.

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Develop Creative Ways to Stand Out

With a sea of booths on a showfloor, it’s important that you make sure your exhibits stand out and appeal to both journalists and consumers stopping by to check out your product. Consider doing something out of the box or unexpected to draw more people to your booth.

At CE Week this past summer, the Piper team rented a branded ice cream stand to raise awareness of the company and also treat attendees to an icy treat. Similarly, the Gyft team gave out branded cupcakes at Pepcom Holiday Spectacular, which was a great way for people to remember the company in the moment and later at home when they were enjoying their treat. In addition to food, show swag can also be a big draw to your booth at a press event.

Giveaways that relate back to your brand can be a big hit. For instance, at CES, Edyn gave away branded seed packets to tie into the garden theme of the product. At SXSW earlier this year, Piper sponsored an exclusive networking event and gave away a select number of passes on social media. Engaging the festival attendees created more brand awareness for Piper and allowed the company to garner a strong following at the event so they could learn when the next giveaway would take place.

 

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Engage Your Audience Through Interactive Demos

In addition to unique booth giveaways, companies should consider interactive demos to keep people at the booth and interested in the products. Take a cue from the Edyn team, who last year constructed an actual garden demo at CES complete with dirt, plants and their flagship Edyn Garden Sensor. The live demo provided a way for reporters to visualize the product and imagine how they would use it in their own gardens. At a recent Pepcom event, Gyft offered attendees the opportunity to sign up for Gyft on a giant tablet and send away a free gift card. Once people were able to walk through and try the app first-hand, they instantly saw how game-changing Gyft is and also got to keep a little something for themselves.

A great booth and creative giveaways don’t guarantee coverage, however, meaning that you’ll have to get out and mingle! Approaching strangers can be a nerve racking experience, especially when trying to sell a product. So nerve racking, in fact, that there are numerous books and classes focused on the art of pitching. As PR pros, we’re accustomed to pitching our products every day, albeit most often by email and/or phone. With the right preparation, however, anyone can tackle the aisles of Pepcom with pizzaz.

Practice Your Elevator Pitch

When on the show floor, you have less than 60 seconds to catch a reporter’s attention. Because of this, it is important that you are able to deliver a quick, digestible and on-message explanation of your product — on demand. Writing down, memorizing and practicing your elevator pitch in advance will help you come across clearly and articulately, while keeping you from any media mis-steps and showing reporters that you value and respect their time.

Have Your Product on Hand

A great elevator pitch can take you far, but when it comes to showing versus telling, a product demonstration will almost certainly take you one step closer to success. Having a product on hand, or nearby, is a great way to explain to journalists in real time how the product works to fulfill its dedicated use cases. If you can arrange for a live demonstration, like Piper coordinated at this year’s Emmy’s gifting suite, you’re almost guaranteed to seal the deal.

Location, Location, Location

Reeling the press in is a lot simpler if you’re in a location that drives a lot traffic, for example: a booth near the front entrance, a bar or food station.  Not only will you get a first look at who is attending, but you’ll be able to snag your favorite writer without having to hail him down from across the room. Who knows, you might also bond over your love for gin and tonics.

What has your experience been like at trade shows? Connect with us on social or share your comments below!

 

 

post co-authored by Rebecca Buttle Peri, Account Executive.

Rebecca Buttle Peri is an experienced public relations manager and media relations specialist with expertise in the rapidly evolving tech, mobile and entertainment spaces, having managed national and international campaigns for several enterprise and consumer tech accounts within a variety of sectors. Rebecca holds a BA in creative writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.