2009 is rapidly approaching, and as a 10 year veteran of CES I’ve seen it from many different angles. I’ve been there as a tiny underfunded startup using a hotel room to do all demos and I’ve taken center stage in a multi-million dollar booth. I’ve attended as press and I’ve pitched the press. From virtually every perspective, CES is an exhilarating and exhausting process. I love it. With the massive surge in blogger registrations at this year’s show, I’ve also noticed more than usual complaints about the pitching process, so as someone who sits on both sides of the fence, I thought I’d share some observations and suggestions.
Have you seen the press & blogger list at CES? It’s pretty unbelievably large, with 3398 identified members of the media, and there’s no way to get off the list, even if you aren’t coming to the show anymore. So these 3398 people are all getting pitched by the 2700 exhibitors. This means we have a ton of noise, with virtually no signal.
Any half-decent marketer’s first task with the list was culling it. Got a mobile gadget? Get rid of the home AV bloggers and media. Got a speaker? You can ignore the auto guys. Unfortunately it seems that most companies didn’t do such a great job pruning. For my personal blog, I was surprised to get contacted by PR reps with products that were way out of my typical coverage area. It may seem like a lot of work, but internally we managed to pare down the list by 90% in less than a day, and it was time very well spent.
If slicing up the media list is a science, then writing the outreach pitch is absolutely an art. My favorite pitches to receive are (1) short, (2) funny/entertaining, (3) direct & to the point, and (4) contain all the information I need to act on (especially including links!). Considering the hundreds of emails the typical CES media person is receiving, the more the pitch can stand out from the crowd yet still convey the necessary info, the better. The worst pitches I’ve received don’t include URLs for more information, try to be too coy or clever, try to make mountains out of molehills (if you sell CD storage cases, you simply don’t have EXCITING NEWS AT CES this year), or otherwise complicate the process.
I don’t have as much of a clear rule here. There are times when the follow-up is useful, warranted, and welcome. Others it’s annoying and borderline harassing. My recommendation to all is no more than one follow-up email, and no phone calls unless the individual has made it clear they *want* phone calls. Don’t send 5 reminders, because nobody likes a pest. I do appreciate those who send a quick extra note with their contact info and a reminder of where at CES their booth/demo is, and leave it in my hands to make the decision.
There’s no better way to screw it all up than meeting the blogger/journalist in person, and then asking them some question that utterly reveals you have no idea who they are. I don’t care how you handle it, make a cheat sheet, print something out in the morning, but if you’ve taken the time to ask me to see your demo, you can take the time to be *remotely* familiar with my blog. I don’t expect you to have ready today’s post, but you should know something about me or my style or my content. At the same time, I think bloggers who schedule appointments for demos/briefings should also take the time to read the materials/website for the company/products they plan to see – it’s a two-way street.
Following up after the show is your job, not that of the blogger. If you promised someone a review unit, it’s on your to-do list, not theirs. Also, you should make a point of reading their coverage of the show prior to the follow-up. If they didn’t write about you during the show, don’t be hurt or offended, and by no means should you close the door. Similarly, if you are a blogger and your brief mention of a company hit your “CES recap” post but doesn’t make their Press page, that shouldn’t be unexpected. For both sides to keep in mind: not every demo deserves a blog post from every blogger.
CES is a wacky time of the year for a couple of hundred thousand people. Many of us haven’t slept much since the Thanksgiving Break (or longer for our international visitors). I’d call it controlled chaos, but that implies one can control such a wild beast. That said, it somehow works. Those 96 hours are a magical time of year for me personally, and while I’m already tired of both receiving and giving pitches, I’m still getting revved up for the show. See you in Vegas!