Monday, August 29, 2011

Covering Your First Press Event

I recently had the opportunity to cover my first press event.  It was a fun and exciting experience and I now have a ton of material (which will be displayed over at Comics Bulletin -- check it out!) on a subject I'm passionate about.  I also learned, primarily through trial and error, a great deal about covering an event.

Want to Cover an Event?

If you write for a hobbyist site, or even your own blog that has regular followers, you should consider applying for a media pass for local conventions and other events.  Most hobbies and interests and conventions and shows and reporting on these will not only drive traffic to your site, but will also help you make connections in the community and maybe even score you some additional writing gigs.  Whether you are into gaming, quilting, dog grooming, or flower growing, you can find something interesting to report on.

Applying for a Press Pass

To apply for a press pass, which usually includes a free ticket to the shows and sometimes access to special guests or promotional items from vendors, check the website for the show you want to cover.  They may have a link specifically for press.  If not, contact the people charge (usually found under "contact us" or something similar).  Ask if press passes are available.  Smaller shows will be thrilled to get the coverage and will bend over backwards to accommodate you, while larger shows that attract plenty of press will have much stricter guidelines.  Be prepared to link back to your work to show that you are a knowledgeable resource on the topic of the show.

Vendor Communications

Once you are signed up as press or media, you may begin receiving emails from vendors who are hoping to schedule some time with you.  Take advantage of these! Scoring exclusive interviews with vendors and guests will provide your readers with information they can't get anywhere else.  Schedule your time carefully, making sure to weave the interviews in between any panels or demonstrations you are hoping to see.  Make sure to allow time for meals, getting lost and exploring the show.  Have good etiquette and show up on time for interview.

Heading to Your First Event

Ready?  Take a few deep breaths.  Everyone has a first time and nobody is going to point and laugh.  Remember, the vendors want to talk to you.  You are their best advertising!

Before you head out the door, check your supplies and make sure you have everything you need.  Your list should include:

  • A digital recorder so you can review your interviews later
  • A camera (but always ask permission before taking photos)
  • Your press pass, or your ID to pick it up
  • A notebook or small laptop so you can take notes or draft articles during any downtime
  • Extra pens
  • Business cards to trade with vendors so they can reach you later
  • A carefully plotted out itinerary

Prepare ahead of time for your scheduled interviews, and even any unscheduled ones you are hoping to score.  Check out the vendors' websites and test their product, if possible.  Avoid asking questions that are answered on the vendors' FAQ pages. If the vendors are selling a product that you are personally interested in, ask questions about product from a personal standpoint.  What do you, as a consumer, want to know about the product?  Chances are, if you have a question, so do your readers.

If the product isn't something you know much about, talk to family and friends who are familiar with it.  Ask them what they want to know.  Check in with your readers, and see what questions they have.  Social media can be a great resource for this.  Post the question on a site like Facebook and you'll get all sorts of interesting questions.  The key here is to have unique questions.  The vendors answer the same old questions all day, every day.  Grab their attention and you might just score a scoop.  


Shows and conventions are one of the best venues for networking available.  Bring plenty of business cards and pass them out like candy.  Vendors who like your style may follow up with you and give you the first details on upcoming specials and releases -- a huge boost for both your rep as a writer and keeping your readers informed on the things they really care about.

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