“MWC is not the destination, it’s a stopping point on your journey”
Forbes, RCR Wireless, Comms Business and IDC share their thoughts on the telecoms trade show during Babel’s MWC panel event.
It’s that time of year again.
MWC Barcelona is one of the most significant weeks in the telecoms calendar, drawing over 100,000 attendees each year. Babel has supported clients at the show since its inception, with over 50 years of combined MWC experience across the team. We’ve seen how instrumental a successful show can be in raising companies’ profiles and driving leads, but as MWC has grown and changed, we’ve also seen how the challenge of cutting through the noise has become increasingly difficult.
Which brings us to our annual MWC panel event, which this year featured journalists from Forbes, RCR Wireless and Comms Business, as well as a leading IDC analyst. The discussion centred on answering precisely that challenge – how do brands cut through the noise at MWC?
If one message came through loud and clear from the panel, it’s that while MWC is important, it’s not a one-off opportunity to get your message across. Or, as James Blackman, Editor of IoT Insights and a regular journalist for RCR Wireless put it “MWC is not the destination, it’s a stopping point on your journey.”
Our own Katie Finn, a Fira-floor veteran herself, pointed out on the panel that the pre-event ramp-up is often more important than the show itself: “it’s your launchpad”. The value of knowing your message, getting to grips with it early and being able to add value to wider discussions is the key to maximising success from MWC, and was a clear theme of the morning session at London’s h Club.
The panel were in agreement that big chunks of “this is what we do” are far less interesting than “this is our message, and this is what we’re excited about”. It’s about succinctness. Ewan Spence, a seasoned telecoms journalist and contributor to Forbes told those in attendance that the media are fighting to cut through the noise and get to great stories, but brands need to do the same with their pitches: “we won’t read to the third paragraph of your email to get to the heart of the story when there’s so much going on, you need to be clear upfront, even in the subject line.”
Elliott Mulley-Goodbarne, a journalist with Comms Business added that being upfront and clear about what you’re able to say can often save the awkward first five or ten minutes of an interview, and allow the media to get straight into the meat of the story. That means they are much more willing to commit their time to meeting with someone at the show or arranging a phone briefing beforehand. Rosalind Craven, a telecoms analyst with IDC echoed those sentiments, and added that PR agencies can help brands “really focus their messaging to hit the ground running”.
Practicalities of preparation for MWC
However, once you’ve nailed your messaging, there is a whole other side to consider when trying to get that message across to the media, and our panel had plenty of practical tips. Chief among them – think about embargoes and exclusives!
The panel discussed how there is such little time to write stories while in the thick of things on the ground, so having news lined up and ready to go under embargo is invaluable. Elliott perhaps put it best when he stated “news doesn’t have to go out at 9am on the Monday!”
Often brands put out news during the show, which means their story can get lost in the shuffle and journalists consequently don’t cover a story because of a lack of time to turn an article around. Ewan added: “if you brief me ahead of time, I can write a story and then just press ‘publish’ in Barcelona, it takes me 10 seconds.”
Equally, James expressed the value of offering key targets exclusive stories. When a brand does have something worth saying, the temptation is to shout it from the rooftops to anyone and everyone, but offering a journalist an exclusive on your big news can often be a great way to ensure a significant feature-focus, rather than a throw-away blurb in a round-up article.
The theme of MWC being part of a year-round strategy was evident again here. Yet, each panellist had a different perspective on when they prefer to be pitched for briefings or offered news. For Ewan, “the best time to pitch me was yesterday, don’t leave it until the week before!” By contrast, James was at the other end of the spectrum, saying he often leaves his diary free until a couple of weeks before the show, as he has built up the relationships that allow him to speak to the right people and book interviews in. Rosalind and Elliott were somewhere in between, agreeing the second week of January is a good rule of thumb.
What was abundantly clear from this section of the discussion though, was that building relationships with your key media and analyst targets throughout the year is the key to success.
“Find the small wins”
A big part of the discussion focussed on addressing a bit of an elephant in the room – is it still worth going to MWC? In a word, yes. But it depends on your objectives. Rosalind stated that “if your goal is coverage, then it’s questionable whether its worth going, but there are definitely business opportunities still. There might not be as much value in having a big stand, but there is a lot to achieve without having your name in lights, just from having a presence at the show.”
Ewan compared the ideal MWC approach to that of British Cycling, encouraging those assembled to “find the small wins, and cash them in later throughout the year. If you think of the year as a clock, MWC is 2pm, there are still ten hours left in the day.”
He continued, that for media specifically, making a good impression and offering real value can pay off greatly down the line: “A meeting doesn’t mean you’ll get coverage the next day, but if you’ve given us something valuable, we’ll remember that a few months later when writing something.” Elliott agreed: “It’s worth going if you’re targeted. It’s as much about the networking. Don’t underestimate the value of buying someone a coffee.”
If you do secure a briefing at the show, the panel also had some helpful hints for making sure they run smoothly, and again, it came back to understanding your message. “The bigger brands can be quite passive, and ask ‘well what do you want us to tell you’” said Rosalind. James furthered that point, by explaining “It matters who is talking. They need to be able to tell a story and they need to have an opinion”. Here at Babel, we’re seeing a growing interest in our media training services, as spokespeople become aware of the need nail those crucial meetings. Media training is helpful, but at the end of the day, as James summarised: “We just want to talk to real people.”
The big trends for MWC 2020
The session rounded off with a discussion on the big trends for MWC and the rest of 2020. Rosalind raised a laugh by pointing out “this year was about 5G, 2018 was about 5G, 2020 will be as well. 5G is here, but yet it’s still coming.” What the panel are looking at next year, particularly with the new manufacturing hall in the Fira, is a focus on “the enterprise and industrial use cases of 5G” and “how we monetise 5G”.
Away from 5G, “all the bingo buzzwords” will still be prevalent according to Elliott, so expect more AI, AR, ML, VR, DX and so on, as well as a greater focus on the regulation of communications and social networks. This led nicely into another big topic for 2020; security and privacy. The panel expect the changing threat landscape, rise of DDoS attacks and SIM swap fraud to all be bigger themes next year. Finally, just as they’ve moved up the agenda of politicians and the public, the socio-economic benefits of connectivity and the environmental impact of technology are also expected to take greater precedent in 2020.
Whatever the news agenda focuses on for MWC2020, if you’re a brand attending the show, or looking to create campaigns around it, Babel can help. From strategy, planning and messaging to execution we can ask the detailed questions to get the programme right. Do get in contact to chat about your MWC communications challenges to see how we can help.
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