James N. Klapthor

Reporting: IFT Provides Everything But the Byline
The Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting + FOOD EXPO® is supported by a significant amount of media relations effort from IFT’s Dept. of Science and Communications. And rightfully so: as the world’s largest annual forum for the exchange of food-science, food-business, and food-regulation knowledge, months’ worth of planning, promotion, and preparation is dedicated to the event, much of it executed over one week’s time. Immediately thereafter, weeks of monitoring, quantifying, and qualifying success or failure are conducted and analyzed. From the media relations perspective, all indications are that the 2004 event in Las Vegas was a hit.

A great burden of any event the size of IFT’s Annual Meeting + Food Expo is to be everywhere, all the time. With overlapping technical sessions, show floor hours, and special pavilion programming all taking place concurrently, getting information provided in one area to journalists absorbing data being released elsewhere can at times be impossible.

In an attempt to solve even slightly this conundrum, IFT media relations booked freelance reporters experienced in covering food, nutrition, and health issues to cover this year’s technical sessions and exciting Food Expo pavilion programming. In turn, that coverage was repackaged and redistributed into media-friendly format for dissemination directly from the show’s newsroom, even as the show progressed around it (the original articles were subsequently published in the September issue of Food Technology).

This “breaking news” system enabled media outlets nationwide to monitor the meeting from afar in their daily search for newsworthy items of interest to their audiences. Furthermore, it supported pre-event promotional messages that the meeting’s participants regularly supply a clearinghouse of scientific knowledge during the length of the program. And among other attributes, it reinforced among food science journalists that IFT and its Annual Meeting + Food Expo can be a convenient source of timely food science information pertinent to today’s news audiences.

Turning three morning technical sessions into feature-length coverage, rewriting them into news-release format, and delivering them nationwide before resuming the whole process later in the afternoon—and the next day, and the day after that—was a task that required the diligence of many. Good thing the technical sessions covered regularly delivered content that was worthy of reporting and attractive to news editors.

Coverage from roughly a half dozen technical sessions was distributed nationally every day of the meeting, approximately 20 articles in all. Of those, no fewer than 13 articles were separately published or aired in 47 news outlets nationwide, a solid rate of return. Those outlets included National Public Radio, United Press International newswire, the Tampa Tribune, and others.

Additionally, to date, approximately three dozen separate news articles directly associated with the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo have been published or aired since July. News outlets attracted to the event and the information shared there included the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and CanWest newswires (Canada’s largest newspaper chain), and network television affiliates nationwide.

A quick review of coverage by professional journalists among the registered press corps at the meeting shows that, in many instances, they were interested in and covered many of the same technical sessions that IFT’s journalists covered.

Scripps Howard news service covered an obesity technical session, publishing its article on July 15 (so did IFT). The San Antonio Express-News covered a session addressing the low-carb craze and published an article on July 16 (so did IFT). ABC-TV affiliates in Texas and North Carolina both featured coverage of the new “millennial” youths in a technical session on consumer trends; their source for the information was IFT reporters assigned to the specific session.

As with any new system, there are adjustments that can be made in time for the 2005 event in New Orleans to, hopefully, improve the efficiency of IFT’s coverage and distribution of technical sessions information. In the meantime, the information generated during the 2004 program in Las Vegas will be utilized in pre-promotion of the 2005 event to demonstrate the exhaustive amounts of important food-related knowledge that’s accessible during all IFT Annual Meetings + Food Expos.

by JAMES N. KLAPTHOR
Media Relations Manager
[email protected]