Every year, in September or October, the global team of APEX Media gathers somewhere in the world for the Airline Passenger Experience Association’s EXPO. Our job is to cover and report on the news of some 300 exhibitors through an output of three print dailies, a slew of online articles, social media engagement, and this year we added video, too.
Setting up a pop-up newsroom in Portland (2015), Singapore (2016) or Long Beach (this year) for just five days is a huge production. It involves working with a local printer, hiring an event photographer and arranging accommodations for 12+ people – our colleagues and contributors who fly in from London, Vancouver, Portland, Irvine, CA, Santiago, the Danish village of Juelsminde, Toronto and Montreal – many whom we see just once a year at this event.
To ensure we’re all on the same page about roles and responsibilities, we hold conference calls and exchange e-mails and messages for months ahead of the event. We also have headquarters for the nitty gritty coordination – a humble spreadsheet that lives on the cloud: Cells, rows and columns make for flexible modules that can be arranged into almost everything, from a list of exhibitor contacts, a tracking sheet for incoming articles, a flat plan to position editorial and ad pages, to a schedule for press briefings and appointments.
As for editorial planning, we reach out to exhibitors well in advance for press releases to get a sense of the news to come. Realistically, these don’t arrive until the week before, if we’re lucky, and more likely, in the wee hours of the morning before the news breaks. But this is expected. Exhibitors are scrambling to the very last minute to finalize deals in hopes of having an announcement to make at the show. This year, we received news tips from two companies, which we thought would be cover stories, but the announcements were ultimately redacted to the point they were hardly worth printing anymore. No amount of planning can prepare us for these setbacks, but having a team that knows how to bounce back from them can.
While the managing editor is occupied with deciding the editorial line-up, the rest of the team is mining press releases for nuggets of news, trimming and/or fleshing out articles so they fit the page, fact checking, proofreading layouts for unforgivable errors, keeping up the delivery of our daily newsletter, maintaining a “likeable” social media presence, building relationships with our advertisers, and cranking out video interviews to expand our media coverage into new territory.
Every member of the APEX Media team has their respective role, but everyone is helping everyone, all the time. At no point does anyone cross their arms, sit back and chill after they’ve completed their tasks. There’s a mutual sense of responsibility that our work is not done until the files are sent to the printer. And even then, our production manager and art director are doing a press check, while the rest of us are at networking parties – both jobs requiring us to work well into the middle of the night.
What’s also fascinating is even though many say print is dying, exhibitors are always asking whether they’ll make the print daily, and are ecstatic when they see a picture of themselves on the cover, for example. Print may be the old toy, but paired with the immediacy of seeing your news published the day after, for this very niche audience, works. While the print daily doesn’t have the circulation of a newspaper, what the APEX Association has in its hands at the end of each EXPO is a yearbook, an archive, to remember what happened.
EXPO is by far the most intensive event that APEX Media covers. It’s also where our team bonds the most. The long hours we spend in proximity to one another in a windowless conference room, seeing each other at our prime and then disheveled, wound-up and then loose, has allowed us to get to know each other in ways day-to-day interactions at the office don’t. (How else would I have learned that “Estamos Liztaylor” is slang for “Estamos listo” from my Chilean colleague who cried the expression after we completed the first print daily, or that our sales director and photographer are amazing piano players?) In many ways, this crazy event is also a five-day team building boot camp that pushes us to work even better together.