High-Lights: Our Tech PR POV

How to Breakthrough Competitor News During the Conference Season

With the summer conference season in full swing, and fall events like Fortune MPW, Microsoft Ignite and AWS re:Invent rapidly approaching, it’s likely you’ve already established a solid strategy for the “known knowns” – your client is sitting on a panel, you’ve agreed upon meeting and coverage goals, you can recite each executive’s media wishlist with the same, serene reverence of Arya’s hit list.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Now for the known unknowns. Over the past few weeks, you’ve intensely monitored (stalked) Twitter to identify press attendees, fine-tuned messaging for speaking opportunities and mapped out showroom meeting locations with the navigational precision of Magellan. You might think your event strategy is bulletproof, but it’s critical to account for one of the biggest factors outside of our control: news that’s not your own.

The announcement a competitor teased turns out to be a major partnership. One of the big sponsors unveils a new product during the opening keynote. We all expect this to happen, but, depending on the nature and breadth of any given announcement – it can be enough to turn your white-hot media plan lukewarm. Often, we’re lucky enough to have some idea of what the “news” will be ahead of time and can prepare accordingly, but we know that’s not always the case. 

Here are some strategies to anticipate and breakthrough the biggest news of the season, and even use it to your advantage.

Their News, Your Gain

When Apple announced Apple TV+ back in March, an endless number of companies, across industries, weighed in with their own analysis of the steaming market and OTT landscape at large. When speculations arose around Microsoft’s plans to reveal its cloud gaming platform at E3, you know press attendees were well armed with the latest data on the future of gaming and streaming in the cloud.

Barring any roadblocks around customer or partner relationships, there is an enormous opportunity to take advantage of competitor or “other” news by weaving it into executive messaging. This could be for their own speaking opportunity or for meetings with reporters onsite – either in the form of strategic thought leadership or owned data that offer a unique or alternate perspective on the launch or announcement. Try as you might, reporters won’t look your way if you’re spinning cartwheels, especially if they came to see somersaults. Talk about the somersaults. Lean into news cycle and leverage your own expertise to speak strategically about the news at hand.

Use Your Content, Make it Social

We recently shared digital integration strategies to help break through the noise at trade shows. The fact is, social media continues to play a significant role at conferences — whether it’s elevating brand presence through paid Twitter campaigns, or drawing foot traffic to booths for product demos via geo-targeting. The good news is that the same approach can be applied when it comes to cutting through competitor news.

Ideally, you’ve been amplifying your social strategy outside of and well ahead of any event. As a result, you’ve likely identified key competitor announcements that are coming down the pipeline and expected to launch at said conference. From there, be sure to gather internal content like data or analysis from executives attending the event, and prepare tweets ahead of time using relevant conference hashtags. If not a direct competitor, you could also use hashtags another company is using around their announcement — if ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

This approach could potentially result in getting interest from a reporter following the announcement, looking for supporting stats or industry perspective to add color to their story.

Take Advantage of Onsite Presence 

Even if another product launch or announcement overshadows your own news at an event, the fact is you can still leverage your onsite presence to connect with reporters and key stakeholders. For instance, maybe you weren’t able to get a reporter you’ve been chasing for months on the phone, but you could strike up a conversation while waiting in line for coffee or exiting a session. Here again, you can point to the topics that are top of mind — like a competitor’s announcement — to offer your own thoughts and perspective on the news and ask them what stories they’re planning following the event. Easier said than done, but conferences offer a singular opportunity to hustle to make the connections and secure the interviews that are critical to hitting your goals. At least, until the next one.

As you are busy preparing for the fall conference season and want a gut check on your plans, feel free to reach out – hi@highwirepr.com.