A high-impact PR program can be a technology company’s greatest asset – provided it’s well conceived and skillfully executed. In today’s frothy tech market, where the venture dollars are flowing and 32 new unicorns were created last year, PR can be a strategic weapon. Good will and strong community relations are also in demand as Silicon Valley is blamed for a host of problems, from data privacy threats to income inequality.
Still, the decision to hire a PR agency can be a controversial one for a cash-strapped startup. Mark Cuban famously advised against it for most early-stage companies, and for some it’s simply premature. Yet even if the PR program is executed internally, public relations and influencer marketing can help put a tech company on the map. For a more mature technology business, they can help build a competitive advantage. Here’s how any tech company can benefit from the right PR campaign.
The typical B2B technology customer is an educated buyer who may research his purchase for weeks or months. Business software, for example, usually has a lengthy selling cycle and comes at a significant cost. If you make the wrong choice, there’s pain in switching. The earned media that results from targeted journalist relations and professional reviews can help attract educated customers and deepen their knowledge. Good content can overcome the tech “language barrier” that confuses prospects or clouds the relevant issues. Most valuable of all, inclusion in an analyst report can build brand consideration for months or years.
Today’s tech categories are hotly competitive. Most buyers and business partners are selective about their relationships – and any purchase truly is a commitment. Visibility from earned media coverage and social sharing can differentiate a brand by aligning it with exciting ideas or communicating corporate values. This is particularly important for early-stage businesses that don’t have lengthy track records.For products, the implied third-party endorsement can work hard to elevate a solution within a sea of sameness.
The right PR plan means a new brand can grow a reputation as a major player – or an up-and-comer — in a given category. That kind of visibility offers credibility and relevance to complement other marketing functions, as well as a solid foundation for growth. Most importantly, high-profile business coverage can help validate an emerging market and reinforce the stature of the startups who are leading change. Remember, even huge names in once-new categories like Uber and Lyft relied on good PR about their growth plans for recognition.
Customers trust reviews and profiles from third parties, and such content often influences brand preference and product choice. Savvy business customers rely on earned media visibility and in-depth research from analyst reports, for example, before making a purchase decision. B2C customers also rely on articles and reviews, particularly the word-of-mouth experience that is shared on social platforms like LinkedIn or Instagram. Influencer marketing, another element of most B2B PR campaigns, can confer authority by association or endorsement. Even simple bylined articles and thought pieces can go a long way to inform customers and are typically more credible than other forms of marketing content.
A great PR program can also drive demand and user acquisition – with some caveats. The kind of customer interest that comes from earned media and contributed or shared content isn’t as reliable as email marketing or sales promotion as a generator of website traffic. Yet a glowing profile or positive review is fully capable of moving a customer through the funnel.
I often tell clients that when it comes to earned media aspect of public relations, we trade a certain amount of control for credibility. Great PR, contributed content, and expert recommendations work to validate and build a reputation over time. When a problem occurs or a crisis situation hits, a stellar reputation and solid relationships are like money in the bank.