Fifth in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event.
by Julie Livingston, director, business development and accounts, Child’s Play Communications
That crazy mix of anticipation, excitement, and adrenaline occurs each year for me, as I walk into the Javits Center on opening day of Toy Fair. There is so much to do in advance of the show, not to mention managing the intensity of the four-day event and post-show follow up.
If you have already reached out to the media and bloggers to schedule appointments to meet and give them a heads up on your new products, that’s a good thing. There is a chance that some reporters may spend times “walking the floor,” but with staff cutbacks at many media companies, their time is often limited. It is more likely for reporters to come to Toy Fair with predetermined ideas of what they want to see; they may also narrow their search for specific products that exemplify a particular toy trend (or trends) they are covering, such as tech or connected toys.
As a Toy Fair exhibitor, what is the best way to handle the media on site at the show? This is often the biggest challenge for exhibitors who are preoccupied with retailer meetings and managing a handful of product samples. This post includes tips and advice on how to work with the media that attend the event.
If you have preset appointments, tell your exhibit booth administrator and designate another colleague as a backup, in case you are unavailable. If your backup is someone unaccustomed to dealing with the press, provide an overview of the media outlet and leave any press materials for them, as well as your business card and mobile number. Given the hectic nature of Toy Fair, it is not unusual for appointments to show up early or late, which may throw a curve ball into your day. However you handle it, make sure the reporter is taken care of properly and professionally.
Being in the frenzy of Toy Fair can make it frustrating when a media representative drops in without an appointment. This can be a good thing, if handled properly. Although your first priority must be to work with retail buyers, try to be accommodating. Do your best to find a staff member to help or see if they can come back at a more convenient time (although note that once the reporter leaves your booth, they may not return).
Blogs are a type of niche media outlet, and the ones with strong followings are highly influential at driving purchases, especially the mom blogs. Bloggers should be treated with the same respect as a journalist.
That said, not everyone at your exhibit booth will be well-versed on what a blog is and how a product feature can contribute to sales. According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, a blog is a website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer. Toy Fair exhibitors will be interested in bloggers, mainly “mom” bloggers who write product reviews. In order to gain access to Toy Fair, bloggers must show their credentials, and provide examples of recent blog posts they have written. That said, it is perfectly acceptable for you to request to see a few sample blog posts before you invite them in. Importantly, if you have an internet connection, go online and look at the blog to check out its quality, tone, and regularity of posts.
If a media outlet requests product samples during the show for photography or broadcast, this can present a unique set of challenges, since only a few prototypes may be available. Following are suggestions:
Give priority to top tier media outlets. Track when the samples leave your possession and note the expected return time. Take down all contact information so the reporter can be reached by mobile phone, and get a signature to make the loan official.
Top tier media outlets will expect an exclusive. However, if a singular product is your top item, and you have no choice but to give it to all outlets, make sure that the story or broadcast segment has a different theme, such as price/value, new technology, licensing, toy anniversary, etc.
Photography Display Components
Send along any critical display components that will help position your toy well in photography or live broadcast, as many media outlets do not have these readily available. This may include a doll stand or clear Lucite platforms to prop up an item (especially important for soft toys or when displaying multiple items of different sizes and shapes). Also, send along electrical or masking tape to hold batteries in place.
In some cases, especially with prototypes or electronic toys, it may be necessary to send a toy demonstrator or “wrangler” on set with your product. A toy wrangler is an industry expert who is well-versed in how a toy operates. Over the course of my time in the industry, these individuals have been invaluable, especially with regard to electronic toys, which can be complicated to activate and have a short delay in broadcast segments. If your toy doesn’t “perform” live, chances are it won’t translate into real visibility, so a wrangler may be a worthwhile investment.
Special thanks to Reyne Rice, toy trends expert, for her contributions.
Coming next week: How to keep the momentum going after Toy Fair
About Julie Livingston
A strategic communications expert, Julie Livingston has spent the past decade immersed in the toy and youth entertainment sectors. Before joining Child’s Play Communications, specialists in reaching moms, she was senior director of public relations for the Toy Industry Association, and earlier served as director, corporate communications for Scholastic, Inc, the global children’s publishing, education, and media company.
To read Tip 1, click here.
To read Tip 2, click here.
To read Tip 3, click here.
To read Tip 4, click here.
This post was originally written by Julie Livingston and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.