No Press Pass

Sept. 24, 2009

One of the staples of trade magazine publishing is attending relevant trade shows and conferences. Health Management Technology, for example, sends staff to numerous events each year, such as the 81st AHIMA National Convention this month and the RSNA 2009: 95th Scientific Assembly in November. (Oops, we’re not attending that one. More on that later.)

Having attended more than 100 such events, I can attest to the value such attendance provides. Magazine staffs get a chance to meet with exhibitors to discuss new products and industry trends, hear leading experts at seminars, chat with end-users and gather information for publication or for reference purposes.

One of the staples of trade magazine publishing is attending relevant trade shows and conferences. Health Management Technology, for example, sends staff to numerous events each year, such as the 81st AHIMA National Convention this month and the RSNA 2009: 95th Scientific Assembly in November. (Oops, we’re not attending that one. More on that later.)

Having attended more than 100 such events, I can attest to the value such attendance provides. Magazine staffs get a chance to meet with exhibitors to discuss new products and industry trends, hear leading experts at seminars, chat with end-users and gather information for publication or for reference purposes.

In order to attract as many media people as possible to these events, meeting organizers generally provide complimentary access to the shows for accredited media. In order to keep us on site, we usually have access to computer-equipped press rooms and complimentary meals. Those are nice, but relatively minor perks for the hard work involved.

Most events also have media sponsors. HMT, for example, is a media sponsor for several recently held or upcoming events – the Medical Device Connectivity Conference, the Health IT Insight, CTIA Wireless, the Medication Treatment and Compliance Forum, and the 9th Fall Health IT Summit. Media sponsors basically help market the event. In exchange, the show provides us a little marketing. Seems to work out well for both parties. In some cases, there might be 50 or more media sponsors. Sounds like a great way to get the word out.

Not all shows, however, are open to such arrangements. Among those organizations that do not play the media sponsor game are AHIMA, MGMA, AHIP and RSNA. RSNA now has gone even further in limiting media access to its annual confab.

The association has a new rule for credentialing media. If a magazine does not publish something specifically about the show after attending, it will not be allowed media access the following year. In other words, the event is dictating what the media will write about.

Never mind that an article about the event that appears a month later is of little use for the magazine’s readers. Never mind that exhibitors clamor for time with journalists. Never mind that it is always a bad idea to try to strong-arm the media. If the publication doesn’t print something about the show after the fact, it is not welcome the following year.

So, Health Management Technology will not be attending the RSNA event this year, and probably not next year, unless the policy is changed. We didn’t write about the show last year after attending and, for the first time in my career, I was denied press access to a trade show. At least, I guess, the event succeeded in getting us to write something about it.
Does negative publicity count?

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