First in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event

By Julie Livingston, director, business development and accounts, Child’s Play Communications, New York City

Toy Fair is a month away, and for many toy and youth entertainment companies, the annual event is an important media platform that can help drive brand awareness and buzz for hot items throughout the year. With approximately one thousand media representatives from around the world in attendance, how will your company or brand garner the attention it deserves? Following are tips and information collected during the six years I served overseeing public relations for the Toy Industry Association and Toy Fair, as well as serving toy and youth entertainment industry clients as a PR professional.

1.     Prioritize your communications goals and objectives. For example, is it a new product line review you want the media to see? Or, do you have a hot item you want to hype to help drive holiday orders?  Do you have an announcement about a licensing agreement or strategic partnership? Identifying your primary goals and objectives will provide a framework for all related activities, including any responsibilities that you want other communications personnel or a public relations agency to handle.

Identifying key “driver” products will give you concise talking points to use with the media. Driver products are those items or product lines that you expect to be top performers over the next year. I recommend no more than five or six. These can be based on early retailer feedback and retailer availability, price, as well as media appeal.

2.     Start booking media appointments NOW. With Toy Fair just a month away, it’s wise to reach out to those reporters with whom you have met previously or those you want to start a relationship with. If your company is an official Toy Fair exhibitor, the Toy Industry Association will provide a media list from the 2011event free of charge by request. Although there may be changes to this list, many of the reporters attending the 2012 event will be the same.

Reach out to the press with a simple invitation—I suggest email first—and then follow up with a phone call. Your electronic invitation should be brief, and highlight your product/service news in bold fashion. Don’t forget to include your contact information, including email, office number, and cell phone number.

3.     Is your toy or youth entertainment product or service media-friendly? A range of journalists, from broadcast, print, and social media platforms, cover Toy Fair. However, not all toys and youth entertainment products are suitable across all media platforms. To gauge which toys are newsworthy, consider the following:

a)     Is the toy really “new”? This means is it dramatically different from any earlier version, or is this a line extension?

b)    Were the toy(s) accepted by target market retailers during the October Toy Fair? If retailers want it in their stores, then there’s a good chance that the media will want to feature it too. Media will usually only cover items that consumers have access to on shelf or via pre-sale online.

c)     If the toy is from a just-introduced line extension, it must be distinctive and notably different from the original product line.

d)    Is the toy demonstrable and can its special features be easily communicated in one sentence? If so, it may be a good fit for television. However, if it lacks “bells and whistles,” the product may not have enough camera-appeal.  Much will depend on the kind of story or feature that the individual reporter is working on.

e)     Is it an electronic toy? The majority of reporters who cover Toy Fair are interested in the newest tech toys, however, electronic toys can present certain challenges on broadcast. When demonstrating a tech toy, there is a slight delay in the activation of the “reveal”—which may include special sounds, lights, or action. Although the delay may range from 1-15 seconds, on television, that amount of time can feel like an eternity. Also, since many products shown at Toy Fair are in prototype format, to gauge retailer interest, or because they are early production samples, they may not function perfectly.

f)     Does your product fit into a bigger trend story such as board games, electronic or connected toys, preschool, girls’ toys, or boys’ toys? If so, cite this information to engage reporters.

4. How many product samples are enough? This is often the biggest dilemma for exhibitors as “hot” items may be in very limited supply. If you think you have a media-friendly product, you need at least three product samples with six as an ideal amount. This provides some flexibility in case items need to be transported to an outside location, or photo or broadcast studio.

Coming next week: What should be in your Toy Fair media tool kit?

About the author

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.

Special thanks to Reyne Rice, toy trend expert, for her contributions to this post.

This post was originally written by Julie Livingston and published by For more news, visit, 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.

To read Tip 2, click here.