Katie Finn, Babel

Quickfire MWC questions – Katie, and making a success of MWC

In the run-up to what is arguably one of the biggest tech trade shows on earth, MWC, we’ve set Alan Partridge (Ben Cole) on our telecoms sector wizards. With razor-sharp wit and panache, he is finding out what they think about the show, and what their top tips are for a healthy and successful outing.

This time, Ben speaks with Katie Finn, an Associate Director at Babel, who is more experienced than many when it comes to MWC. He asks Katie about her experiences of the show and where to go for the best tapas, and finds out why proper planning can produce a near-perfect performance…

How many MWCs have you done now, Katie?

This will be my seventh year – I first attended MWC when it was back at the old Fira, and it’s been interesting to see how much the show has evolved in the past few years (although I definitely miss its old central location!).

So, you’re almost part of the furniture – albeit more modern and trendy furniture than veterans Ian and Matt! What would you say is special about MWC?

It’s great to see the industry coming together – the show provides a really good opportunity to catch up with clients and journalists alike, from all corners of the world. Plus, I’m a big fan of tapas and Spanish wine, so MWC is also great from a culinary standpoint.

It’s definitely interesting how MWC has evolved over the years, right? I’ve also heard that you have a bit of extra insider goss about the show?

MWC has definitely broadened its remit over the past few years, mirroring some of the trends we’re seeing in the telecoms industry. With the emergence of the IoT, operators have diversified their offerings and moved into a wide range of new verticals, which is undoubtedly reflected in the event’s agenda. Covering everything from connected cows to connected cars, it’s become so much more than just a mobile show, despite its name.

In terms of insider knowledge, after extensive research I can say with 100% certainty that La Terrassa del DO does the best tapas in Barcelona. There’s also a great bar across the road from the Fira where you can go for a drink while you wait for the taxi queues to subside. Oh, and it’s totally worth leaving the venue to grab lunch from the big shopping mall outside – you’ll save money and your taste buds will thank you.

Gotcha, so you don’t chance “the burg”  – very wise; Declan learnt that the hard way. Moving on from the food then, and toward the more professional realm: in your opinion what makes a successful MWC PR campaign?

In my experience, a successful MWC campaign hinges on a number of factors. Firstly, planning and preparation are key. At Babel, prep starts in the summer before the show, with the drafting of speaker submissions, which also provides a good opportunity to work with our clients on initial messaging and discuss prospective news announcements for the event.

Secondly, it’s important to time media and analyst outreach well, and engage with influencers to find out when the optimal time to pitch them is. We know from our own experience, and regular conversations with our contacts, that journalists don’t start looking at schedules until January, but for analysts it’s worth getting in touch in December. Catching the right people, at the right time, with the right content, is critical to a successful MWC campaign.

A lot of companies want to push out news during the event, but given there are thousands of brands vying for attention, they can risk getting lost in the noise. Instead, putting out a strong story in early February can provide a great means of driving visibility ahead of the event, and can incentivise influencers to meet you at the show.

Gaining attention without news at MWC is undoubtedly still possible – we work with clients to develop messaging that is designed to both demonstrate their USPs, and align with key industry trends, providing a topical hook for media that supports their business objectives. We’re also well-practiced at identifying other proactive means of driving the news agenda – whether that’s through hosting an industry roundtable on a key theme ahead of the event, or leveraging data to create a compelling story.

In the briefings themselves, staying away from an overly promotional approach helps to ensure a successful discussion that meets journalists’ objectives, and amplifies your chances of coverage. To help get the most out of briefings, we strongly recommend spokespeople undertake media training in advance, as this provides a great opportunity to hone messages and prepare for any tricky questions that could come your way.

Lastly, thought leadership both around and during the event can also play an instrumental role in a successful MWC campaign. Targeted coverage in the run-up to the event helps boost visibility of your brand ahead of MWC and motivates people to stop by your booth at the event. A well-timed issues jump/news hijack during the event itself can do wonders. For one client we issued a comment on Apple’s introduction of eSIM technology during MWC Americas, which not only gained widespread coverage in key telecoms trades, it also helped to drive traffic to their booth, with a number of prospects stopping by at the show.

Finally, what is the highlight of your MWC career thus far?

Securing speakerships for clients at MWC has been a definite highlight.  It’s undoubtedly competitive, but the payoff is huge – following one client’s appearance on a panel, they were approached by five major companies, including NETFLIX, and saw a spike in media and analyst engagement.

If anyone out there is looking to participate in a future show, I’d definitely recommend getting in touch – we’re always up for a chat!

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