Some marketers take a shotgun approach with press releases. These companies disseminate announcements via major wire services without forethought or direction, and then hope reporters will magically knock on their doors to write stories.

We called this the “Spray ‘N Pray” method, and it rarely works. Why? Because with media relations, reporters want more ― more context, more background information, and more targeted communications ― then a single, randomly distributed press release can provide.

Believe it or not, the same principle applies to social/digital PR, the dynamics of which become really apparent when supporting an important event such as a big tradeshow. To round out their tradeshow marketing efforts, companies will often include social media as a last-minute add-on, and scrape together a few tweets, Facebook wall posts, Flickr photo uploads, Google+ brand page updates, or LinkedIn company profile news flashes from the show floor.

The exhibitor randomly posts a few, untargeted updates here and there during the course of the show, with the hope that someone – anyone – important will see a tweet and miraculously take action. Frankly, some companies don’t even do this much, with all the business activity surrounding a major exhibition. In any case, we call this the “Post ‘N Pray” routine, and it usually falls flat.

It makes sense when you think about it. On a “regular” day, journalists are inundated with hundreds of press releases. And journalists are exposed to an even greater volume of social media content at a show. The more social media platforms the reporter is active on, the more content he or she has to sift through. Much of it is irrelevant, and the content level rises exponentially with the addition and maintenance of each profile.

Like every other working professional, a journalist has a ton of responsibilities and ground to cover. As a result, he may not be logged in to his social media profiles consistently, even if he or she uses a dashboard or aggregator, to see your company’s posts or tweets in real time. In the midst of this deluge of information, it’s quite likely the reporter may not (possibly never!) see your company’s social media updates without specific, targeted communications. It’s like taking a shot in the dark, and hoping you’ll hit the target.

Same thing with the potential customers/attendees you are trying to reach at a show. On a “regular” day, business professionals are inundated with more information and communications than they can possibly digest and respond to. And at a show, their time is spent attending meetings and navigating the show floor – which leaves few precious minutes to even check email – let alone LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Like traditional PR, a successful social PR campaign begins with a definitive strategy, clear objectives, deep knowledge of the company’s target audiences and how they like to receive information, and a collection of carefully designed tactical programs. This is particularly critical for an effective social media presence during an important event, especially when it comes to securing media and analyst briefings, generating media coverage, landing customer and partner meetings, increasing brand awareness, elevating industry visibility, and driving booth traffic. Social media outreach is critical for achieving these goals, and oftentimes, they cannot be attained without it.

Here are just a few examples of how Calysto team members have helped clients use social media effectively at tradeshows.

  • Do a pre-show teaser campaign, where you begin posting and/or tweeting four to six weeks in advance of the show, teasing users about your announcements and the products you will showcase at the event.
  • Run a contest via Facebook and Twitter, and then have the winners stop by your booth for their prizes.
  • Use social media to pitch briefings for a targeted group of individual journalists and analysts at the show. Make sure to follow those individuals and comment on their at-show activities and whereabouts.
  • Showcase your business partners by highlighting what they’re talking about at the show in posts/tweets – and ask your partners to do the same for you.
  • Set up a Foursquare venue for the booth, and give a prize to the mayor and everyone who checks in.

And here are some seemingly obvious social media tradeshow tips that are important not to overlook:

  • Make sure your company’s social media profiles are integrated into all booth signage, in-booth screens and monitors, sales and marketing collateral materials, press releases, press kit materials, etc.
  • Include the tradeshow’s official hashtags (as specified by the show organizer) in all tweets, retweets and @ mentions. If there isn’t an official hashtag, look to see what the most prevalent one is, and use that one. This ensures that individuals who search for that tradeshow’s hashtags will see your tweets.
  • Post press releases, media coverage, photos and video from the show on your social media outlets.

In today’s world public relations means more than just communicating with the influencers. Because an effective public relations strategy today targets not only influencers in the media and analyst world, but also uses a company’s content to speak directly to its customers, partners, investors and other target audiences to build those relationships as well.  So try to avoid the “Post ‘N Pray” approach as it is nearly always a miss.