Bloggers and Trade Shows: The Inside Scoop

Today I'm headed to the International Home + Housewares Show. It's a hot ticket and I'm delighted to be attending as a blogger and member of the media. Err, make that a guest of the trade. Confused? I was after learning about my change in badge status.

Did you catch this article last week at ShePosts about the Toy Fair tightening reigns on press credentials? Clearly I'm not the only blogger unclear on the ins, outs and expectations of trade shows. That said, I pride myself on always learning, and now I can share an insider's view.

With less than two weeks to go before the massive trade expo (we're talking 13 miles of aisles at Chicago's McCormick Place) Debbie Teschke, Public Relations & Marketing Communications Manager of the International Housewares Show, generously shared a few thoughts with me via an email interview.

I appreciate Debbie taking a few minutes to share her views, especially during such a busy time. It's always enlightening to get glimpse of the blogging world from those who like to work with us, but are not part of the community. That said, I've already asked her if we can talk later this month, so I can share some insights from my mom's eye view of the online social space.

And I hope you'll add your two cents in the comment section.

I'm breaking up this dense text with images from some of the exhibitors I've been tweeting or emailing in recent weeks. I have no material relationship with these firms nor am I angling for freebies. Remember, I don't even own a house right now.

Kim Moldofsky: Typically trade shows have several types of badges and designations for different attendees. How do you typically classify bloggers and why?

Debbie Teschke: Because of the increase in Internet media, including bloggers and Internet-only based publications, we added an "Internet Media" registration classification. Bloggers and editors/reporters who write/blog/video strictly for the Internet have this badge type. We feel it helps the exhibitors better identify the news media that visit them at the Show.

KM: As the number of bloggers has exploded, how has this affected your show?

DT: It has increased the exposure of our exhibitors to the consumer and it also has increased the number of people requesting media badges for the Show. To handle the increase of bloggers and Internet media attending the Show, we have added an additional person to our Show PR Team and now have two dedicated team members who work with the bloggers and Internet media before and during the Show. They provide them with Show information and background and assist with any stories or lifestyle trends or products they are interested in.

KM: Do you vet bloggers? Tell me a bit about that process.

DT: Yes, when a blogger registers for a News Media badge or contacts me about registering for the Show we research them first before approving them as news media. Two members of our Show PR team will vet them for me.

They check out their website to determine number of readers/website visitors, how often they post items, topics they write about, whether their focus is relevant to the housewares industry and if they fit our media criteria.

If they are on Twitter and/or Facebook, they will check how many followers and/or fans they have and their scope. If we determine that the blogger has relevance to the Show, we will approve his or her registration.

A blogger that is searching just for sponsors, advertisers or paying partners for their website is not considered news media for our Show. Our News Media badges are for editorial media only; we do not allow publishers, sales representatives or account managers to have News Media badges.

We try to police it as best possible, and if we hear of someone who was trying to sell something to an exhibitor while wearing a media badge, they will not be allowed to register as News Media for future International Home + Housewares Shows. For example, last year I allowed an Internet editor a Media badge. After the Show, an exhibitor emailed me to say this woman was more interested in selling her advertising than writing about her products. This year we changed her to a Trade Guest when she registered as News Media.

Trade Guests are allowed free access to the entire Show. However, Trade Guests are not allowed to take photographs on the Show floor. Only attendees with News Media and Internet Media badges with a white photographer ribbon attached may take photos on the Show floor and should ask the exhibitor’s permission first.

KM: Bloggers are members of the media and yet they are not the same as journalists. What do you expect of bloggers? Are there unwritten rules or are these expectations communicated?

DT: Bloggers want to be considered media, yet some don’t want to follow the same rules as editorial journalists. For example, some bloggers just want to review products on their blogs and solicit companies for products to review. They then keep the products or ask for samples to "giveaway" to their readers.

Newspaper or magazine reporters who review products do so either after purchasing the products themselves or returning the products to the company after they have been reviewed. They don’t keep them.

Also journalists don't ask a company to pay their way to attend a trade show, nor would they accept any offers from companies offering to do so. And many journalists cannot even accept a free meal from a company.

The Show is not open to the public and we allow a blogger entrance to help consumers know about the new products. I know that many bloggers are stay-at-home moms who want to write about their shared experiences or are people with an interest in something and want to write about it for the pleasure of writing and do it in their free time, not as a full-time job. And some do it as a part of their job. If a blogger wants to come to the International Home + Housewares Show as news media, we expect that they will view the Show as a marketplace of new product introductions and the place where retailers come to find the products they will sell to their customers to meet their lifestyle needs.

Walking the Show floor, you can feel like a kid in a candy store, but it is not a place to come ask for as much free product you can.

We expect a blogger to write about the products, mentioning their favorites and even ones they don’t like, just as a reporter might. Or talk about the trends they see in various products. But we do not expect them to walk the Show floor asking exhibitors for product samples on the pretext that they will "review" them. They also should not brag to their readers and other blogger friends about all the freebies they received and then proceed to tell them that they need to go to the Show next year to get what they can. (Note from KM: They have had issues with this in the past.)

KM: How have you seen bloggers make a positive impact on the show? I definitely noticed an uptick in chatter last year once some mombloggers were invited to attend the show!

DT: Yes, bloggers can have a positive effect on the Show and the industry. Bloggers who write about the trends and the industry help the suppliers and retailers because they can help create awareness and a demand/desire for a product. They also offer consumers insight into a marketplace not open to them. The bloggers who were brought to the Show by an exhibitor created chatter for that company and an awareness of the Show.

(KM: Here are examples of content I created as a result of 2010 Housewares Show.)

KM: What advice to you have for bloggers who want to attend a trade show?

DT: Read the Show's rules on attendance, including any codes of conduct. (We have a Code of Conduct for exhibitors and for attendees). In walking the Show floor and visiting booths, be respectful of the exhibitors. Their primary reason for being at the show is to do business with their customers.

Believe it or not, some do not want to interact with the media and aren't interested in publicity.

Do not ask exhibitors for products. And if they offer to give you a product, whether for review or just to be nice, be judicious in what you accept. Wearing a media badge and toting bags full of product around the Show floor can give the impression that you aren't there to cover the show for your blog or website, but to acquire as much product as possible.


Edited to add: I'm thrilled to see that there have been so many Facebook likes and retweets of this post. Because it's struck such a nerve, I'm going to continue the conversation at this week's Office Hour chat; click for details. The call will take place Thursday, 3/10 at 1:00 PM Central.

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