I am not long back from a whistle stop visit to Las Vegas for CES 2019. Our company is also beginning to turn our thoughts to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which is now five weeks away.
What a change
More than 20 years ago when I first visited Mobile World Congress it was held in Cannes and was extremely small. You spent pleasant days lunching with journalists, hopping on and off luxury yachts and attending parties. The event is unrecognisable now from those days. 107,000 people are expected to attend this year. From a personal perspective the only lunching I will be doing will be a swiftly grabbed bocadillo and my partying days at events are long over.
To news or not to news?
Clients often see Mobile World Congress as an opportunity to announce something new, in the hope it will capture the attention of the 3,500 media that attend. From now on, a feeding frenzy of PR people will spend the next few weeks inappropriately cold calling journalists in the vain hope they will attend a briefing with their client in Barcelona. Journalist inboxes will become increasingly cluttered with invitations to meet the CEO of XYZ company at the event. Twitter will be full of journalists complaining about this and thousands of PRs will spend their entire time at the event quietly praying the journalist that confirmed the 3pm briefing (largely to get the PR off their back) turns up. Inevitably most will not.
I hate to burst the bubble, but Mobile World Congress can be a terrible place to announce news unless you are a huge company. You are competing with so much noise from companies so much bigger than you. All the big handset manufacturers will be making significant announcements, as will the event organiser, the GSMA. Competition for attention is massive. Journalists will be getting at least 100 press releases emailed to them every day and will have precious little time to do anything but delete them.
Media briefings? Pah!
It can also be a terrible place to do media briefings. A company’s booth at an exhibition is usually noisy and ill suited to a private conversation. Getting around the show is extremely difficult and meetings rarely start or end on time. It is a difficult environment to build a sustained relationship with the media.
Journalists are very often sponsored to attend the event by large mobile companies, meaning they feel obliged to spend time with them. This leaves little time to cover the rest of the show, keep up with breaking news and see relevant contacts. If they have any time left at all, they are likely to spend it with overseas companies they rarely get the chance to see.
So how do companies get good press attention at Mobile World Congress? The answer is targeted stories to relevant journalists, well in advance of the show that recognise the pressure they are under and relieve it by giving them something useful they can write before the event and publish when they are there.
Mobile World Congress has been the venue for some of the best media profile we have achieved for clients, but it has never been as a result of poorly targeted news announcements or on-site briefings.