- Richard M. Williams
A Dive into CES Media Madness
by Doug Mohney
With CES 2022 is less
than two weeks away by my PR clock, it’s high stress time for media covering the event. Reporters who have been and/or will be in Las Vegas for the event are already being inundated with email requests for booth visits, suite (rarely sweet) meetings off the exhibit floors, and pre-briefings under embargo. By the time the exhibit floor opens on Januar
y 5, two days of in-person press events will have already taken place, making a booth or off-floor suite visit by a media person something that should be treasured.
PR people need to understand the challenges press are facing and try to support those they want to meet with as much as they can by pitching early, providing easy access to resources before, during, and after the event – Don’t forget photos!
The Pre-Show Shuffle
The first PR email pitches for CES started trickling in at the end of November and steadily increase to the volume of a broken water main by the middle of December. Most reporters end up with full meeting schedules by late December, so companies pit
ching last minute requests become
problematic, especially in the usual Christmas to New Year’s Day chaos we typically all endure.
Relatively new this year due to the on-going pandemic are more offers of virtual calls and pre-briefings, but some firms have shot themselves in the foot by providing no clue as to what they want to communicate – only “we’d like to talk to you” without offering more information under embargo.
CES before CES
Most people believe CES officially starts on the day the show floor opens, but not so for the press. On-site Vegas media work begins at CES Unveiled, CTA’s new product/new vendor showcase held on Monday, January 3 this year. The event is a media-only tabletop event at Mandalay Bay Convention Center and gives reporters a first look at some of the newer companies and gizmos being rolled out at the show. A few PR agencies organize smaller in-suite hotel briefings prior to CES Unveiled, providing more intimate time with company executives and a quieter demonstration area than the Unveiled ballroom space.
The hard work for CES media starts on the official Press Day, January 4. Press conferences start at 8 AM local time and run through 5 PM. In past years, reporters would line up for 30 minutes or earlier to get a seat into presentations by Bosch, Intel, LG, Panasonic, Qualcomm, and other name brands, with the occasional overflow seating where people would watch via large screen display.
After a day packed with press conferences, reporters have a couple of hours to filter through the hundreds of fresh emails announcing new products, generally announcing Company XYZ’s booth presence, and occasionally requesting an in-person meeting (The last usually met with an “Are you kidding me?” as the most polite response).
For many, it is time to ignore the new email glute and write a story or two on deadline before heading off to PEPCOM’s Digital Experience evening media tabletop event at the Mirage Hotel. Organizers expect more than 140 brands at this year’s event, substantially less than the 300 to 400 exhibitors pre-COVID. The reporter rolls into their room at 8 PM or later to process/delete email that arrived since Digital Experience and maybe file another story or two, depending on the graces of their editors.
A public service announcement for early January
Trying to announce tech-related news in the middle of the CES storm or shortly thereafter is challenging, unless you have a good hook to rise above the noise. Finally, exhibits open
Reporters should be forgiven if they aren’t at 100 percent when the exhibit floors open on January 5. Complicating planning matters for scheduling briefings are the three major exhibit areas – the Las Vegas Convention Center, which has th
ree halls full plus space at the WestGate; the Venetian Expo (formerly the Sands); and ARIA – and off-floor suite meetings.
Seasoned CES attendees try to schedule exhibit meetings based on location. For instance, I focus on the Las Vegas Convention Center on the first day and spend my time at the Venetian on the
second day, because it takes an hour or more to move between the three major exhibit areas, between standing in line for the bus, sitting on the bus as it moves through congested Vegas traffic, and walking from the bus to where you need to go.
Off-floor suite meetings, held in a hotel room, tend to be love/hate events. You get a more intimate and less-noisy look at a company’s product and some quality time with its executives, but travel time to and from the suite effectively adds close to 30 minutes to an hour of travel time moving off the show floor ----- where all the goodies and everyone else you want to meet are – and getting back.
At the end of the first exhibit hall day, media can go to ShowStoppers in the evening, another large tabletop event held at the Wynn. Or simply go back to their hotel rooms to file stories and soak their feet in preparation for up to three more days of walking and meetings.
Once CES is over and all the exhibits are taken down, the work isn’t done. Companies follow up with more emails thanking you for meeting – some even if you didn’t show up or schedule one – ask if you have everything you need, when you’re going to publish about your meeting, occasionally complain about coverage or the lack thereof, and even go so far as to complement the stories you’ve written.