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ILLO: MARK FISHER

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Green Exhibiting
I want to communicate my company's Green exhibit-marketing efforts to trade show attendees. How can we subtly inform them without sounding like Green washers?

Going Green can be doubly beneficial, putting a smile on Mother Nature's face and encouraging eco-conscious customers to throw their business your way. However, there's a fine line between nonchalantly informing the public about your environmental efforts and heavily promoting them to the point that your company and products get lost in the process - or worse yet, you dilute your brand. Thus, look for subtle, rather than in-your-face, ways to inform people about your Green exhibit-marketing tactics.

Here, then, are four easy ways to communicate your eco-friendly choices to attendees and the press.

 Let your booth design do the talking. Rather than preaching your Green sermon to trade show attendees, use your booth design to coax them into initiating a conversation or noting your efforts for themselves. That is, if possible, use eco-friendly materials that they equate with environmental responsibility, such as cork, bamboo, eco-aluminum, eco-mesh graphics, and perhaps a natural color palette. Then look for ways to pique attendees' curiosity.

For example, if you're using a cork floor, create a sticker in the shape of a dialogue bubble with the words "I'm cork - a natural, renewable, and eco-friendly resource." Then stick it to an aisle-side section of your floor where passersby will notice it, and hopefully inquire about your efforts.

Also, consider adding a striking Green element - perhaps a giant overhead mobile made of recycled components - as a conversation starter. When attendees ask about the element, booth staffers can easily segue into a conversation regarding your company's eco-conscious efforts and eventually move into a more product-centric chat.

 Implement social media. Skip the Green messages plastered all over your exhibit graphics - where product and company messages should take center stage - and instead post information about your company's Green tactics on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. These social-media outlets are a great way to regularly and informally tell customers and prospects about your environmental efforts.

Written with a sort of "here's what we're up to" slant, your posts and updates can advise attendees about everything from your Green exhibit design to your efforts to decrease shipping weights and thereby reduce your company's transportation-related fuel consumption.

To really capture attendees' attention, post a photo of your exhibit - either a pre-show rendering or an image of your booth at the show - along with callouts highlighting its eco-friendly aspects. In today's highly visual world, a picture really is worth a thousand words, and often garners more attention than text alone.

 Target the press. Don't toot your own horn about your Green efforts; encourage the press to honk it for you. Media outlets are always looking for a unique angle at trade shows or events. And a press release touting your Green initiatives - as opposed to just your products - can help set your release and your company apart from the masses.

So create a press release detailing your efforts to go Green, and carefully target it to key industry publications, bloggers, analysts, local TV news programs, etc. Point out what makes your booth Green and how your efforts stack up to traditional exhibitry. If the show has a daily publication, inquire with its publishers to see if they might want to pick up a story about your eco-friendly exhibit.

When news of your environmental strategy comes through the press as opposed to directly from you, it sounds far less like Green washing. What's more, if the press picks up your story, your Green message will extend far beyond the confines of your booth, and likely live on long after the trade show.

 Incorporate Green information into booth activities.
Look for ways to incorporate news of your Green efforts into your existing exhibit activities. For example, if you have a scheduled presentation in your booth, work a few words about your Green tactics into the script. If attendees take a quiz as part of a game, include a couple of multiple-choice questions about your eco-friendly exhibit.

You don't have to create an entire marketing campaign around your earth-conscious initiatives. But by peppering mention of them into existing program components, attendees will surely get the message.

The aforementioned strategies don't necessitate revamping your entire exhibit-marketing program; in fact, they require minimal planning and effort. Integrating these ideas into your program can help you publicize the fact that you're environmentally conscious without stealing the spotlight from your products or services.

- Jeffrey Blackwell, president, The Rogers Co., Mentor, OH

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