Every year, I look forward to attending AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Expo. For three jam-packed days, I soak up the latest U.S. Army developments, trends, concerns and interests – surrounded by more than 32,000 (!) attendees from nearly 100 countries. It’s a time for learning, inspiration and connection with clients and the press. Plus, you can’t miss out on all the tech demos! This year’s event was no exception, with nearly 700 exhibiting companies, thousands of GovCon executives and over 250 registered media.

There’s something about the controlled frenzy of it all that leaves me in awe of the media. The reporters know exactly how to navigate the crowds, the schedules and competing demands for their time and attention. And, they collectively post or print 300+ articles! How do they do it? More importantly, how can PR folks and government contractors make a reporter’s job easier? After all, we all want the same thing – well-written, timely articles on the best of industry news.

To find out, this year Boscobel conducted the first online survey of reporters to learn what reporters really want. We heard from 27 aerospace, defense and government media professionals and here are the top three best practices for connecting with reporters at AUSA – or any trade show. (NOTE: For even more tips, read our new white paper on this topic, “How to Win with GovCon reporters at Trade Shows”).

#1 Target Your Reporters

“Getting press releases for products/news irrelevant for your publication is irritating.”

Each government industry reporter has their own news beat – areas of focus that they specialize in and write about. They are knowledgeable in that space. They build and maintain connections that help to keep them current on what’s happening now in their respective beats.

Government contractor press professionals know this but all too often they send all press releases, regardless of topic, to the entire registered press list.

To build valuable relationships with the media (and avoid alienating those you care about the most), be sure you are targeting (only) those reporters who write about news like yours.

#2 Reach Out Early – Very Early

“Everyone wants to get their story out during AUSA. It’s insanely competitive for you and hectic for us. Please talk to us beforehand!”

The majority (63%) of the media we heard from attended all three days of AUSA 2019. While it’s tempting to think that they’re there just to meet with government contractors to hear about company, product or service developments, interviews are just one reason reporters go. They, too, want to attend educational sessions and roundtables to hear about Army priorities. They’re also interested in connecting with their own network, to strengthen relationships with industry thought leaders and fellow reporters.

Which means, time is tight during the event. As a group, reporters want to plan ahead for the AUSA articles they’ll write. When asked when they would like to receive media pitches from government contractors, 56% said four (or more) weeks before the show starts. International reporters preferred an even longer lead time. I’ve heard this from reporters for years, in our discussions, but this was the first time we actually got hard stats from them. This fact alone, was worth all the time we put into doing this research.

To get your news in front of your favorite reporters, reach out early. If you wait until the week before or week of the event, you’ll be too late. They’re already booked.

#3 Be Sure Your News is Newsworthy

“Don’t try to sell me a garbage story. If you have no news, you have no news.”

While it’s tempting to issue a press release when your company exhibits at AUSA, not all news warrants a press release. This is a big point. It’s one of the things we find ourselves talking to clients about year after year – and not just around trade events.

Reporters want to know about new products, big contract wins, successful pilots and other significant milestones. Small contract wins, basic product enhancements and local industry awards are not “hard news” to most reporters. They’re certainly cause to celebrate as a company, but not appropriate for a distributed press release or media interview.

To build and preserve media relationships, limit your press releases to hard news. Use social media, a blog post or email to customers to promote other milestones to your community.

Bottom line: media relations is about media relationships. These are built on mutual trust and value. We delight in seeing media, government and government contractor relationships founded on an enthusiastic exchange of ideas, trends and perceptions of industry developments, especially without the expectation that the reporter will write an article every time because they won’t. It’s true for AUSA – and for ongoing media relationships throughout the year.