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Why trade shows still have a role to play in successful manufacturing PR

As a company that specialises in traditional industries like manufacturing, we are often being asked by our clients whether or not trade shows are still worth all the time and money you have to put in when committing to exhibit. For a long time trade shows have attracted a lot of stigma for experiencing drops in visitor numbers, asking for too high an investment for a stand booking and for failing to promote themselves. With reports over the last few years that the UK economy has become even more challenging for businesses to operate in, trade show expenses are ones that have been cut from many company budgets.

However, the manufacturing industry is on the rise. Recent Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) figures for the first quarter of 2013 inched down to 50.8 from a downwardly revised 51.2 in December 2012. That was just short of forecasts for a reading of 51.0 but for a second month running was above the 50 level that separates growth from contraction.

We saw for ourselves last year renewed optimism for manufacturing trade shows in the UK after attending both MACH exhibition and the Advanced Engineering Show at the Birmingham NEC. Both reported record numbers of visitors from all over the world and proved that trade shows can still be effective. So what do we tell our clients when they ask us if the large overheads of trade show exhibiting are justified? We tell them that when exhibiting is a part of your overall PR and marketing strategy then it can be a cost that can easily be recovered through new business.


As Farnborough prepares for the Southern Manufacturing show this week and subcontracting manufacturers prepare for Subcon exhibition in June, how many of these exhibiting businesses have visitors already identified as firms they want to find out more about at these exhibitions? How many exhibitors are visitors not already of?

When running well placed PR and marketing around trade show appearances, businesses can let visitors know of their booked stands and encourage people to approach them during the exhibition. Many trade magazines run extensive features around trade shows a couple of months before the show begins and businesses can capitalise on these features by submitting well placed editorial. Of course, nobody wants to read a news story that says a business is exhibiting at a trade show if that is the only information it reveals and Editors will always spike self indulgent stories. Concentrate on why you are exhibiting and shout about these reasons. Are you using the exhibition to launch a brand new product and offer people demonstrations of how this product works? Are you looking to break into a new market and meet with companies that already operate in these circles of industry? There is a story behind every trade show appearance if you look beneath the surface and it is these stories that the press want to receive.

Of course, if you send out regular newsletters from your company and have good data lists then this is an outlet that you can use to simply say ‘visit us at an exhibition.’ You can have all the bias you want for direct marketing material as it does not need to be instantly newsworthy and unbalanced like press material does.

It’s not just a case of press material though. These days, many trade show exhibitions run their own Twitter accounts and have their own discussion groups on Linkedin. By feeding into these with your own company social media you can help raise awareness of your stand that you have booked at a trade show. Social media channels are often the first places people visit when looking for information on a trade show and content from these social media websites are well picked up by leading online search engines.

Enjoyed a successful trade show? Then visit it again in your PR and marketing planning and start telling your stories of trade show success. If you picked up a new contract at a trade show, that is something worth shouting about or even if you received a record high number of visitors to your stand, people should really know about it! It is stories like this that help convey a positive image of your company and the manufacturing industry as a whole.

The next time you book yourself a stand at a leading trade show, consider what PR and marketing you can do to help publicise your appearance there and make sure you are considering trade show appearances in all of your PR planning. After all, its better to let people know beforehand why you are exhibiting so they can make sure they come and see you than get lost in amongst the long list of exhibitors and remain an unknown company.

Bridge PR & Media Services has developed a unique starter PR package aimed at giving companies appearing at trade shows an opportunity to see for themselves how effective PR and marketing can be around a trade show exhibition at an affordable price. For more information on this package, call us on 02476 520 025 today.


Was Coventry watchmaking responsible for the UK engineering industry?

Had there been no watchmaking in Coventry it is likely that there would have been very little in the way of engineering industries at all.

You may consider the above to be a bold statement, but it can be argued that Coventry did not directly experience the influence of the industrial revolution because there was no nearby source of iron ore, no limestone and the coal was deep and had to sourced via mines rather than obtained by opencast methods. It was not until the development of the railway networks in the 1840’s and 1850’s that many town and cities like Coventry were able to readily obtain bulk supplies of iron and steel for use in manufacturing industries.

In the 1600’s a clockmaking and watchmaking industry grew up in Coventry and the reasons for this happening are unclear but it may have been due in part to it’s central position and it is known that a stagecoach run linked London, Coventry and Liverpool which became the three major centres of watchmaking in the UK. There may also have been a Huguenot influence as Coventry had long been a place where immigrants had settled and a number of surnames of French derivation do crop up in watchmaking families.

Coventry did reach a position that it was known to have made at least 50% of all watches being made in England during the 18th and 19th centuries although it is difficult to accurately quantify these figures because many Coventry watchmakers were making movements and even completed watches which were not marked and were sold into the trade.

In 1861 weaving and watchmaking were both in a deep slump, which was in part due to the American civil war, people were starving and soup kitchens were set up. Many people were leaving the city to emigrate and prominent citizens were deeply concerned that the local pool of skilled labour was being diminished. They therefore set up a company (The Coventry Machinists) to manufacture sewing machines and the watchmakers proved adept at this due to the similarity of the work in making gearwheels and assembling drive trains

A nephew of Singer, who was one of the directors of the Coventry Machinists, visited Paris and bought back with him a French “boneshaker” bicycle. this was a rather crude affair but the potential was recognised by James Starley who was a foreman at the company and he developed the machine to be the forerunner of the modern bicycle. It was not long before former watchmakers found themselves making bicycles; this even included former dial painters being employed to paint the fine lines and designs on the cycle frames. Other cycle manufacturers sprang up in Coventry and at one point it was considered to be the cycle manufacturing centre of Europe. The invention of the internal combustion engine soon led to the development of a motor cycle and then motor car industry and entrepreneurs and inventors followed the by now well-trodden path to Coventry.

The Coventry clock and watch industry did survive the 1861 slump and watchmaking continued until the outbreak of the second world war, when the major manufacturers turned their hands to the production of munitions and other military equipment, which was why Coventry was targeted by bombing raids.

The major manufacturer, Rotherhams and Sons was making parts for the automotive trade after the war but did re-commence the making of a range of clocks which were usually given as presentation pieces and this continued until the 1960’s. So there you have it, without watchmaking in Coventry, we could well have gone without engineering overall!

This blog post was written by Coventry Watch Museum. The Coventry Watch Museum Project consists of a group of people, many of whom were born and bred in Coventry, who are seeking to inform people about the history of watchmaking which was so important to the industrial development of the city. The Project is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity.

For more information about Coventry Watch Museum click here