Another major event for tech PR professionals will now be online-only: On July 28, the Consumer Technology Association announced that CES 2021 will be an all-digital experience. Organizers say they’re still planning to offer major keynotes, a product showcase, and opportunities for networking, but the grand Las Vegas showcase that typically attracts nearly 200,000 attendees each year won’t be happening in-person.
It’s just the latest example of a tech event that made all-digital in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while it’s a bummer that we’ll be missing out on the glitz and glamour of the Vegas show floor (what about the buffet?!?), this doesn’t have to derail your 2021 comms plans. If anything, it’s a new opportunity to rethink how you’re getting the most value out of those plans. You can still make the most out of a virtual event by planning PR, social media and content activities to promote a launch, grab headlines, or otherwise make an impact at CES 2021.
Here’s what we recommend.
Catch you on Zoom
Just because you can’t meet with a reporter in-person doesn’t mean media relations are off the table. In fact, virtual events can expand your media opportunities beyond what would be typically possible at a traditional conference.
Reporters are on the hunt for new and exciting breakthroughs in tech, only this time they don’t have to deal with costly travel expenses, limited hotel availability or getting around the sprawling show footprint. The new virtual convenience has a sticky appeal, with the potential for more and more reporters to prefer and attend future online events as they find the virtual conference schedules more to their liking than rushing from one convention hall to the next.
The bonus for PR pros is that we’re no longer limited to engaging reporters who are “attending” CES this year; there are more reporters on the table to pitch because there are now fewer obstacles for journalists who may be interested in CES but otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t attend in-person. You may need to get creative with virtual demos to make the same impact, but at the end of the day, it’s still a chance for connection.
Try hosting a virtual press event with a few select reporters on Zoom, or suggest a video conference to maintain the feel of an in-person connection. If you had other booth experiences and giveaways planned, try out a virtual swag bag that includes the contents of a press kit while adding in a little personality. Some ideas we’ve seen on this front: a themed playlist from the founder, and exclusive C-level video content filmed from a home office.
This will all require a little more creative thinking than before, but there are potentially even more opportunities than ever to have an impact on media at CES.
Taking it to the Tweets
Social media is already a virtual medium. And it’s always been a great way to bridge the online and offline experiences. When an event like CES goes fully virtual, social media becomes even more essential to reach audiences and create unique experiences for them.
Social can reach far beyond just those registered to attend the event. Here are three ways to maximize social media impact for a virtual event.
- Video demos. If people can’t come to your booth, bring your booth to them. Video demos should be more than your standard marketing materials though. Make it an intuitive, personalized experience; something that feels like you’re speaking directly to someone who would normally be at your booth asking questions and interacting with your booth staff.
- Live video. Your experts who are committed to speaking on panels are already prepped and ready to talk in front of the audience. Have them live after those sessions to share key takeaways from discussions in a new, more direct format. Creating more face-to-face interactions between your spokespeople and your audience can be as simple as just holding a phone or camera to your face on a livestream.
- Engage. Empower and encourage your team to interact and engage with others online during the event. Your brand wasn’t going to be walking around and networking – companies aren’t people. But you have a bench of people who want to make those connections – and now you have even more who can join in; chatting online isn’t cost-prohibitive like sending people on-site, so you now have a greater pool of experts to draw from.
Feed the Funnel
Content is another great way to make a buzz before and after the show.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be physically present to create great event content – it can be easily done remotely. Here’s a few quick ideas:
- Live blog key CES roundtables from home, including commentary from your key spokespeople
- Launch a daily webinar or podcast series during CES week, bringing on interesting partners or customers, and hijack the event hashtags to spread the word
- Create a big piece of industry research and put sponsored budget behind it to target people following the conversation around the event
- Invest in a sponsored content push with a media publication in your industry before, during, or after the event. Not only can you make a big splash during CES week, but you could also schedule follow-on content after the show to further stretch your impact and reach
If you have the budget for promotion, CES is still offering sponsorships for its virtual show. And the nice thing about a digital event is that it will be easier for attendees to click directly from a sponsored placement through to your website.
In other words, CES 2021 might be an even better lead generator than usual for the savvy marketer, and you’ll need great content to attract attendees to your site. So why not plan a major content campaign that launches that week?
Necessity is the mother of invention, and we’ve seen a lot of creative marketing ideas borne out of this difficult time. Virtual events may be the norm for now, but they’ll also offer long-term lessons you can apply the next time we’re all able to safely nosh on the smoked salmon at the MGM Grand.