Public relations is an intensely competitive industry. Jobs are more in demand than ever, as brands in every vertical and size have come to recognize the value of positive reputation and third-party endorsement. As it has grown, PR has become more specialized, which has affected recruiting. Filling PR agency positions is harder than in the past, when press relationships, networking ability, and writing chops were all that mattered.
Specialized agencies have specialized needs. Take my agency; we focus on tech PR, with a particular focus in B2B technology. Press relationships, strong networking, and content skills still matter, but they’re table stakes. Understanding and articulating strategy as it relates to tech and vertical trade media and currency in hot topics like artificial intelligence or blockchain — these qualifications are now equally critical for success. With that in mind, here are five questions that anyone interested in tech PR — especially B2B tech PR — should be able to address in a job interview.
Good questions for a tech PR interview
1. Where do you get your news?
This is a make-or-break question— at least for some of us here. If you’re being interviewed for a role that supports several ad tech clients, for example, you might be expected to rattle off several relevant publications like Adweek, AdAge, Digiday, and AdExchanger. If you’re expected to support clients that build B2B AI solutions, you might boost your cred if you get news from publications like Forbes, TechCrunch, Wall Street Journal, and CIO.
2. How would you support a product launch for [insert client]?
I like to ask candidates how they would support specific product launches from a media relations point of view for our B2B tech clients. Sometimes we get down in the weeds, discussing whether an embargoed or exclusive strategy might work, and though smart people can disagree, we’re usually looking for a realistic and informed approach. Would the New York Times care about an exclusive for a feature update from an AI-powered supply chain platform? Unless it’s a game-changing innovation, probably not. But VentureBeat or SupplyChainBrain might. Answers to these hypothetical strategy questions are very telling.
3. What are three interesting tech trends you keep reading about?
Successful tech PR pros routinely keep their ears to the ground, monitoring hot topics and trends for general intelligence and newsjacking opportunities. Being able to name several high tech trends — from AI to blockchain to voice and beyond — that are interesting or relevant can showcase your interest in the space and reveal an ability to identify new media engagement opportunities for clients. If you’re hired by a tech PR agency, you will eat, sleep, and speak these trends on day one, so you had better have some knowledge and interest in the sector.
4. Are you on Twitter?
This seems like a dumb question. Most in tech PR use Twitter religiously, either to catch breaking news in real time or to build relationships with key media. But that’s the point. I ask this question a lot and am always surprised by how few candidates can claim a true Twitter presence. For a tech PR expert, it’s this generation’s new RSS feed. If you tell me you don’t use it much, or, even worse, aren’t on it, I’m immediately skeptical.
5. What’s your crisis PR background?
In technology PR work, there is no shortage of land mines. I once worked on a well-known e-commerce platform that allowed you to design and sell personalized merchandise. At first glance, it seemed like a “safe” brand, unlikely to encounter reputation threats. But it turned out that a small group of designers were creating veiled racist apparel and selling it through the service. Problems erupt in this sector, often unexpectedly and with long-lasting impact. In B2B tech, the threats can be even worse, with data privacy and compliance issues potentially often lurking below the surface of the public conversation. One bad moment can lay waste to a brand reputation. For these reasons, I always ask about a candidate’s last client “crisis” and how they helped navigate it. If someone with several years’ experience can’t name anything significant, I may question their readiness for an account position.
These are several questions that, if answered adeptly, can help you land a coveted tech PR agency role. And, if you’re an agency, these questions can help you weed out weak candidates and compete for the best talent. As any industry becomes more competitive and specialized, asking the right questions will be essential to candidates and employees alike. See this earlier post for more on how to nail a dream PR job.« How To Make Small Talk With PR People | The Problem With Influencers »