Apr 23rd 2021

Three tips for an effective in-person Mobile World Congress 2021 strategy

Still planning on attending MWC? Here are three tips for how you can effectively plan and prepare for the show, despite all the uncertainty…

When Nokia, Ericsson, Oracle and Facebook all announced within about a fortnight of each other that they were pulling out of this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), it had many of us experiencing déjà vu. In February 2020, the retraction of a few of the big brands from the telco tradeshow had a rapid domino effect, which ultimately resulted in MWC20 being cancelled. It seemed that MWC21 was set for a similar destiny.

However, the dropouts haven’t snowballed at anywhere near the same rate as last year. Whilst anything could happen between now and the event, it is looking increasingly likely that it will happen in person, in June, albeit with a smaller pool of attendees and with a strong virtual element.

Most encouraging is the recent announcement from the GSMA and Ministry of the Interior of the Government of Spain, to allow all MWC21 Barcelona registrants – including exhibitors, attendees, sponsors, and partners – to enter Spain to attend the in-person event. The show has recently received some public support from big brands, including Verizon and Kaspersky. A number of Babel clients – including some giants of the sector – are also backing the show and are planning on attending.

If you’re also hoping to be in Barcelona in June, there are steps you can take to get the maximum return on investment in the show. The next blog in this series will be focused on how you can take advantage of the new virtual elements of the show, which will play a big role this year.

  1. Hone your business objectives early

The change in timing of MWC this year may give companies a slight psychological advantage for how they can plan their activities. Rather than coming out of the blocks at the start of 2021 with just two months to refine business objectives for MWC, companies attending the show in June have had many months to think about what they want to achieve and how the event fits into their annual objectives.

What solutions and hardware will you take to Barcelona? Will you be demoing existing product lines, upgrades, or unveiling something wholly new? Are your plans to present your ideas in person, or have you also developed a hybrid/virtual strategy for the event?

You should have already planned most of these things already, and if you haven’t you need to start today. It’s important to align your marketing plans with those of your sales team. What are the sales objectives for your business in Q2 and Q3, and how can you market your brand at MWC to align with those objectives? What does your product and sales pipeline look like, and what can you afford to announce at the show?

If you’re a large company you will no doubt have a huge marketing and events team that have been working on your MWC plans for a long time. If you’re a smaller company you won’t have that same resource, but you should focus on outlining new concepts and developing presentations geared towards attracting investment and driving brand visibility.

  1. Formulate strong opinions

The value of knowing your message, getting to grips with it early and being able to add value to wider industry discussions, is the key to maximising success from MWC. The industry this year is looking for reassurance and strong messages about how the sector can grow and thrive during this challenging time.

We often find that market challengers have the freedom to be more disruptive and more outspoken than the well-established brands. For bigger brands, it’s not enough to expect journalists to turn up with an agenda or topic they want to discuss. Asking a journalist, “what do you want to discuss?”, is an idle approach. You still need to generate compelling views on the industry if you want to generate coverage around the time of the show.

So, use MWC as a platform to speak with clarity about the challenges facing your customers and the industry at large, and how your company can solve those issues. Ensure that these messages are distinct from the competition, and incorporate some of the biggest trends and issues that journalists are writing about and analysts are reporting on.

In a recent virtual event we hosted with TelecomTV’s Ray Le Maistre, he shared some of the topics that are of interest to him this year in the run up to MWC. For example, he explained that he wants to see the industry demonstrate new use cases and solid examples of how the industry can differentiate on what 5G can deliver, versus what could be delivered by 4G and other technologies.

It’s important to have these discussions with journalists to understand what interests them and is likely to result in coverage for your company during MWC. Take the time to also do some desk research and analyse what target journalists are writing about, what analysts are writing reports about, and what is driving traffic to their websites. If journalists know that you have something to say that aligns with their agenda, they will be much more inclined to meet with your spokespeople at the show.

Working with a partner PR agency with an understanding of what journalists want to hear about and can created differentiated and compelling messaging, will help get your voice heard in the run-up to and during MWC this year.

  1. Build anticipation through early engagement

It’s very important to ramp up visibility for your brand ahead of MWC so that customers, prospects, the media and analysts are eager to meet with you at the show. Companies exhibiting should plan peaks of activity in the run up to the show so that you create credibility and a buzz around your brand.

Babel has worked with a number of its clients over the years to develop strong data-led narratives in the run up to MWC that could help journalists build out stories on key industry trends. For example, we worked with Amdocs to develop a research campaign focussed on the impact of 5G at major sports events, which generated an audience with Reuters at the show, and the BBC the week before.

The GSMA has forecast that approximately half the usual? number of visitors will be at MWC this year, though the number could be even smaller. With fewer opportunities to meet with the media at the show, you certainly should look to engage with top-tier business and international press as early as this month, to ensure relationships are established/built upon in good time for the show. You’ll face a lot of tough competition, so line up and lock in at-show briefings with analysts in early May, and then with the trade press as soon as they open up their diaries in early June.

Also find out which of your key target journalists and analysts won’t be attending the show this year, and try and set up a time to brief them on your news and company views close to the event. You may find that you have more luck setting up a briefing in the weeks before or directly after.

As part of a coordinated PR campaign, it’s important to? escalate visibility and your share of voice in the run up to the show. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to hear how Babel can help. Please keep an eye out for the follow-up blog on how you can make the best use of MWC’s virtual elements.


Paul Campbell
Paul Campbell DIRECTOR