As an automotive industry PR person, a few key events mark a year’s progression even more so than the seasons; the major U.S.-based international auto shows, key races like the Daytona and Indy 500s, major Concours events and for those involved in the automotive aftermarket, the SEMA Show.
The reason for these events being the ones that keep us up at night are the expectations that go along with each. Expectations from clients, media and consumers can be simply overwhelming. The “arms-race” of activation has seen more and more elaborate displays of financial virility that many times can overwhelm the product showcased.
In very recent times, we have seen vehicles suspended from ceilings, diamond encrusted booth-space, elevated viewing platforms featuring five-star chefs and five course menus. Each of these often take the focus off of the reason the guests are in attendance and also put a substantial hit to anyone’s event/marketing budget.
While I have not had the opportunity to work on an over-the-top activation like these, there have been instances where efficiencies were required and other activation alternatives have been searched out. In fact, each time I attend an event of this scale, I have to wonder if the money spent was worth it.
A few years ago, we started hosting off-site events to compliment some of our clients’ activation at major trade and motorsports events to add another touchpoint to our game plan to further ensure our messages were received. All of which were well received by both customers and media. It really allowed for a great relationship building opportunity and for the PR team, a number of in-depth, feature story ideas throughout the year. The off-site event provided the laid back atmosphere and time needed to have a deeper conversation to really understand what the media was looking for.
In the past two years we have moved away from any activation on the show floor itself due to the cost implications, relying solely on the off-site activation to engage the various stakeholders at the show… and it is has worked tremendously. Hosting an event during the show, in a convenient location has removed the stress and unrealistic expectations from the planning process and allowed us to more clearly focus on the qualitative results rather than the quantitative ones required to achieve the desired ROI due to the lower cost of activation.
This year, at the NYIAS, I was fortunate to be invited to another company’s off-site event (who had no actual presence at the show). I was finally on the receiving end of an auto manufacturer’s unveil at one of their NYC show rooms. In the process I was able to realize all of the theories we had been living by for the past few years only substantiated by the feedback we had received. It was all finally validated. Watching the event unfold and what seemed like the tremendous success it provided via the media in attendance, dedicated audience, lack of competitors and assumed budget savings reminded me of the key points to keep in mind throughout planning your own off-site event.
- Keep in mind why you are staying away from the shows whether it cost savings, simplicity or need for privacy
- Make it easy for your key audience members, especially in getting to and from the event
- Leverage your assets to their fullest in the process, it’s a night for you, show off if you can
- Remember that as a PR person, it is still a press event, you are always on the record, the media expect take-aways and there does need to be some storyline, news-value or relevant tie to entice attendance
Keep those simple items in mind, and you may be well on your way to a cost-effective and memorable show activation like you never thought was possible.