I’m writing this blog during the hottest summer on record, and like you, I’m dreaming of cooler weather, football season, the holidays and….
….NRF! The first email for NRF ’24 hit my inbox Aug. 8, and my first reaction was “whaaaat!?” But after 30+ years in retail tech PR, the timing makes sense. After all, now is the time to begin planning your NRF communications strategy, and we’re already starting to work with clients on this.
PR success at NRF can put a vendor in the spotlight and support the sales pipeline in a big way.
As a retail technology vendor, what can you do now to get ready for the Big Show? Here are five brief recommendations for PR success at retail’s most important event.
1. Include PR in your planning
The checklist for NRF is a long one, from booth planning to event logistics, products, sales meetings, marketing support, customer dinners, after-hours events and much more. Don’t treat PR as an afterthought!
Start planning your NRF PR messaging and strategy now, including overarching themes, analysts to brief, potential customer announcements, new products, press announcement schedule, spokespersons (including training, if needed), media and analyst meetings during the show, on-site PR support and more.
2. Brief analysts now
Industry analysts are in high-demand during NRF. Their schedules are incredibly packed, and their paying clients are understandably first priority for in-person briefings.
Because of this, we advise clients to begin briefing key analysts and other influencers in the months leading up to NRF. Schedules are more open in the fall, and it’s an excellent time to update analysts on your company’s product roadmap, customer success and other developments. During these briefings, you can also lay the groundwork for a short meeting or product demo at NRF.
Looking for best practices? Our blog on analyst relations provides valuable insights.
3. Map out your press release strategy
Don’t save all your announcements for the show! Most vendors spend months planning their NRF announcements — why pack all your news into a three-day period? You’ll see more success by making announcements before, during and after the show.
Your company can help build momentum prior to NRF by announcing significant customer wins and other news, helping you get the attention of prospects and media prior to the show. But hold some announcements in reserve. Newsworthy announcements during NRF can create buzz, help drive booth traffic, and land your company on the post-show “best of NRF” lists.
Don’t forget to have hard copies of news releases available to share with media. Some editors receive hundreds of PR emails daily at NRF, so it’s easy for your news to get lost. After the show is a good time for announcements, too; editors’ inboxes are less crowded, your competitors won’t be making so many announcements and your news will have room to breathe.
What if you don’t have announcements? You can still highlight recent data reports, predictions and industry trends that you’re seeing. Your company’s perspectives may shed light on some of the big issues in retail and technology. Don’t hesitate to share them, and be sure to make ongoing PR a key part of your marketing strategy throughout 2024.
4. Plan your media and analyst outreach
Timeframes for media, analyst and influencer outreach can vary widely. In general, start your analyst outreach early, as some analysts will book their NRF calendars several months in advance. Keep in mind, too, that these will be relatively short meetings, which is why it’s important to do in-depth briefings in the fall.
We typically start media outreach for our clients when the first NRF media list is available, usually mid-to-late November. Keep in mind, editors, analysts and other influencers will be attending NRF keynotes and other general sessions, so their availability to meet with vendors may be limited.
5. Show kindness and respect
A mentor of mine once said to treat editors like your best customers. And if there’s one time each year when editors and analysts especially deserve extra consideration, it’s during NRF.
Offer them a comfortable place to sit (their feet will be aching!), bottled water or other refreshments, and realize they may be exhausted from packed schedules and talking to dozens of vendors. Find out in advance what they’d like to focus on during the meeting and be sure to address their expectations. If an editor is accompanied by a sales rep, be sure to give them equal time, too. Be concise, realizing that you may only have 20 minutes before they head to the next meeting.
Bonus tip: prepare to enjoy free beer!
Our Ketner Group team has gained a lot of insight about NRF during the 20+ years we’ve been attending, and it’s always fun to share advice about retail’s biggest event. The checklist above is by no means exhaustive, but it will help get you off to a good start. And as always, contact us if you’d like to talk about PR planning for NRF.
Here’s one last tip: when I asked Dan Ochwat, our senior content specialist and former retail editor, what always got his attention at NRF, his answer was simple: “free beer!” So if you’re looking for the icing on the cake from NRF PR (or the frost on the mug), that may be just the answer.
And with that, let’s all raise a glass to a successful NRF in 2024. Cheers!