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At the beginning of every year, big announcements are made at trade shows like the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) now under way in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) going on in Detroit.

They give big brands an opportunity to show the world what they have to offer in the coming year.

While the shows provide companies with the opportunity to meet directly with consumers and industry partners, one of the most significant reasons for being there is to gain the attention of the flood of media in attendance and try to secure coverage in their home market. Every major brand hosts a news conference or keynote address, and a series of briefings on the show floor.

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What seems to be changing, though, is not only the number of influencers attending, but the breadth of influencers beyond typical industry experts.

On Monday afternoon, I was at a news conference at the CES for a major consumer electronics company and, although the room was twice as big as the year before, there was standing room only and lineups down the hall to get in. There was also growth in the number of bloggers there, as there should be. They not only bring a different reach but an entirely new market of potential consumers.

At NAIAS this year, Ford Canada invited 150 bloggers to Detroit to attend the show. Far from your typical auto media, these bloggers covered everything from fashion to lifestyle news and the latest technology trends. The benefit to companies in this approach is that the bloggers cover the show from a point of view that their audiences will enjoy and generate buzz in circles that don't usually hear much about the auto industry.

They're also creating fresh new social media content for Ford and can help cut through the industry jargon that typically fills new product press releases or announcements.

From a PR perspective, companies need to staff these events differently, and look for more creative storytelling opportunities that aren't so focused on their traditional audiences.

I am seeing bloggers focusing on interesting consumer applications embedded in a piece of hardware as a lead focus versus the feeds and speeds of the new device. Companies need to better communicate the overall consumer benefit and provide real life scenarios that will resonate with readers or viewers of the coverage coming out of these shows.

Many small businesses may not have secured booth space at either CES or NAIAS, but may have a small booth at another industry show. Either way, the lessons are the same.

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1. Don't underestimate the power of bloggers. Ensure you treat them with the same respect and prominence you would mainstream reporters. Read their work and make sure you are positioning your new products or service in a way that would resonate with and benefit their readers.

2. Provide new forms of support. At this year's CES, a lot of companies hired "blogger buddies" to work the show floor. These individuals are typically public relations people armed with still and video cameras ready to help bloggers with their news report or photos while they are working on their blog post. Sometimes the help is as simple as holding the camera as the blogger reports on a company's product or service so they can instantly share that with their network at home. Bloggers have limited resources and are often paying for their trip on their own, so whatever a company can do to help them create and share great content will be highly appreciated.

3. Be prepared to be working with twice the volume of media influencers as you did the year before. Bloggers are an incredible way to reach your customers, and ensuring you have the resources and space to accommodate them in addition to traditional reporters will be important as you build those long-term relationships.

The PR industry is changing and our circle of influencers is broadening, providing us with new opportunities to reach more consumers. A few posts from influential bloggers can easily be shared across numerous social media channels and written from different points of view.

This gives your brand the opportunity to break out of its comfort zone and into other influential communities. If you make sure you're prepared for this, the payoff can be huge.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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About the Author
Social and Earned Media Columnist

A combination of entrepreneurial spirit and timing led Mia Pearson to co-found North Strategic, a communications agency built on the belief that social needs to be integrated into everything you do. A serial entrepreneur, Ms. More

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