10 Tech Buzzwords PR Folk Should Avoid In 2021

Unique, disruptive, innovative. From Silicon Valley to New York’s own “Silicon Alley,” PR people tend to use these tech buzzwords in press releases and marketing materials. They wind up in pitch decks, tech journalists’ inboxes, and in business meetings. We’ve all used them at one point or another — but shame on us. 

Tech culture is well-known for its overuse of buzzwords. And, although buzzwords can serve as convenient shorthand for complex thoughts, it’s not long before these terms become tired and worn out. They can even become obnoxious. 

Here are 10 of the most eye roll- inducing tech buzzwords and marketing speak that PR folk should try to avoid in 2021.

Disruptive – In a technology PR context, disruption is not only overused, but misused. The problem? Few of these technologies or products are actually disruptive. And, the truth is, a company can be extremely successful without being disruptive. The word is used to imply success, but that implication is often incorrect.

Big Data –  Big Data is overused because it’s so often used to describe any kind of data. Technically it refers to a set of data so large that traditional technology is unable to analyze it. Data about shoppers’ click actions on a large retailer’s website (think Amazon or Alibaba) would be a good example. The abuse of this term in business meetings, pitches, and press releases has turned it into nothing more than a cliche. As the words are coming out of one’s mouth, the receiver has already begun to daydream that they’re somewhere more interesting. 

Artificial Intelligence – The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) is thrown around quite a bit. It’s important to note that AI is a broad term that refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The word may also apply to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving. With that said, however, AI has suffered from being overextended and overmarketed. It should be used only when AI is truly a key feature of a product or service, not to refer to a little automation. 

Groundbreaking – Much like “disruptive,” the word is tired and often inaccurate. Very few products or technologies are truly groundbreaking. And, that’s because not many actually create a new market where none existed. Some of the technologies that have earned the right to be considered groundbreaking include the telephone, personal computers, electric cars, and… you get the picture. 

World’s leading – Straight up hogwash. This is a buzz phrase that tries to imply something but actually says nothing. It’s as puffy a term as one can get.

Innovative – Innovative is one of the most overused terms in PR, marketing and business. Its overexposure has probably caught more attention than actual innovative technologies themselves. Plus, as a negative result of our overuse of the term, there’s been a loss of understanding when we say that more innovation is needed in a particular field or industry. Actions have consequences, people. 

Ecosystem – The word “ecosystem” actually has a pretty rich meaning. It is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked through nutrient cycles and energy flows. However, thanks to its constant use as a buzzword in tech marketing, PR and business, it has lost all meaning. 

Next-generation – This phrase is used to describe a product that has been developed using the latest technology and will probably replace an existing product due to its technological leap forward. Yet, again, overuse has made it confusing. Most of us are now unsure when something is actually next-generation, or if it’s just the current generation trying to be cool. 

Actionable Insights – This is often thrown out in discussions about Big Data, but it doesn’t add much clarity. It refers to data that a company can then use to take concrete action, usually to identify causes of problems and their solutions. Yet there must be a better way to communicate what a company is doing with data and analytics. These words imply that lots of data is useless, and considering that businesses pour millions of dollars into data collection and analysis, it seems a poor choice of words at the very least. 

Leverage – Did you know that the term leverage actually has technical definitions in science as well as finance? You can use it in everyday speech and people will understand that you’re not actually referring to mechanical advantage, of course. But, the word is now becoming so common as a synonym for “use” that it has lost its true meaning. Let’s breathe life back into the word before we totally kill it off with our overuse and misuse. It can be your good deed for 2021. Instead, opt for a simpler word or phrase, like “use,” “learn from,” or “take advantage of.” 

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Buzzwords appear in all work sectors, but there’s something about tech PR and marketing that seems to make them more common. Let’s work together to come up with fresher, more powerful and more precise language that will actually be more meaningful when communicating about our clients.

How (And Why) PR Pros Should Use TikTok

There’s a new social media app taking the world by storm. It’s called TikTok. Ever heard of it? 

Seriously, TikTok has been on the PR radar for a long time, and most recently it made news for different reasons. Media interest peaked over the weekend with reports that a deal involving TikTok, Oracle and Wal-Mart would avert a ban of the app in the U.S. The agreement is still tentative, but it’s meant to resolve the simmering controversy about the app as a potential security risk.

TikTok’s users, however, don’t seem concerned. The app has surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, with 1.65 billion downloads to date, more than 30 million active monthly users in the U.S., and more than 500 million active users worldwide. TikTok is currently the sixth largest social network in the world. 

What started out as a Snapchat-like platform for younger generations of social media influencers and general users for sharing video snippets has grown into an essential platform for marketing and advertising. Whether a brand’s focus is fitness, fashion, food, or anything else, TikTok can connect it to a highly desirable and sometimes elusive audience. 

Why TikTok? 

New and creative social channels should be key elements for consideration in any PR plan, especially for brands aiming to reach a younger audience. TikTok is essential for this demo, as 60% of U.S. users are between the ages of 16 and 24. The app is intrinsic to its users’ lives;  the average Tik Tok visitor opens the app more than eight times per day, spending about 46 minutes on it daily.  

One of the most appealing aspects of TikTok, especially for those younger users, is that everyone is a creator. It’s open to all formats, and there are no distinct guidelines or rules on how the app should be used. Creativity is the only rule. Videos range from singing and dancing, to comedy, reaction videos and challenges. On the flip side, users can find more serious content, with videos focused on topics like politics, climate change, and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Depending on individual users’ personalized recommendations, TikTok plays videos instantly upon the app’s opening, immediately drawing viewers in. This is TikTok’s most central feature – its AI-driven algorithm that shows videos based on user preferences. This same feature helps guarantee that a brand’s videos will reach its target audience – an important distinction TikTok has over other social media platforms. 

TikTok is a powerful brand marketing platform

TikTok makes it easier than ever to promote a brand – reaching the right people in the right ways. Over the last year, it introduced self-serve advertising platforms, including branded hashtags, video ads, branded lenses and much more. Based on a company’s wants and needs, there are a variety of formats to choose from. 

Branded hashtags drive discovery

Branded hashtags encourage users to create videos with a certain hashtag, often accompanied by a specific song or dance move. Videos with branded hashtags are not only available in a user’s normal feed, but also in the Trending section of the Discover tab, making these videos widely viewable. In fact, with TikTok, users rely heavily on hashtags to navigate the app. It’s “For You” discovery page engages far more than Instagram’s “Discover” page, for example.

Pepsi’s #SwagStepChallenge, a great example of a branded hashtag campaign, spread like wildfire on TikTok, as well as on Twitter and Youtube. The challenge became the fastest hashtag challenge using a branded effect to reach one million video creations globally and a whopping 95.5 billion views through user generated content (UGC) on the platform.

Video ads for the win

Video ads are understandably the most common format for ad and marketing purposes on TikTok, with brand takeovers, in-feed videos and top-view videos being popular. Brand takeovers are pop-up ads that typically last 3-5 seconds. They can be videos, GIFs, or images that include links to a landing page. TikTok only allows one brand to take over a category per day, but it guarantees five million impressions, a promise that may well be worth the investment for many. Additionally, brands get immediate attention, as the ads display upon opening the app. 

Branded lenses jump on trends

With branded lenses, brands partner with TikTok to create 2D and 3D lenses for users to “try on” and share. Branded lenses also let companies land in the Trending section of the Discover tab for ten days. According to Prowly, about 64% of TikTok users have tried facial filters and lenses, making it another valuable option for marketers. 

Influencer partnerships spice it up

For any marketer wanting to incorporate TikTok into a brand PR strategy, TikTok influencers are essential. As on other platforms, TikTok influencer marketing ads partner brands with creators to generate and share sponsored content. When the partnership is authentic and the creators are given freedom, these partnerships can be highly successful. 

For example, David Dobrik, one of the most popular social media influencers, with more than 22 million TikTok followers, partnered with Chipotle for its Lid Flip Challenge, a Cinco de Mayo campaign to promote the chain’s free delivery for digital orders. Chipotle discovered that Gen Zers order delivery more than any other segment, making them the perfect audience. To participate in the challenge, users only needed a phone and a Chipotle burrito bowl. 

According to AdAge, in just the first six days of the Lid Flip Challenge with David Dobrik, 111,000 videos were submitted and the promotion garnered a record-breaking digital sales day for the chain, driving app downloads and delivery among the key Gen Z audience.

But Can It Work for B2B?

B2B companies might be hesitant about TikTok because it’s so consumer-oriented, but they shouldn’t count it out. Companies wanting to reach business customers have the same end goal of reaching and forming lasting relationships with their target audiences. So, for B2B companies, how can TikTok help? 

With any brand, it’s important to feel approachable. Stronger relationships can be formed when customers feel connected to your brand on a more personal level. TikTok users want the platform to stay a creative, authentic channel for human-to-human interaction. Do you have a CEO with a unique story? Maybe how he/she established the business, or maybe insights on building a strong culture at work? Sharing tips or short stories in visually appealing ways can engage viewers and make lasting impact. For example, marketer Adrian Brambila shares his success story on TikTok by explaining how he established himself as a marketing leader, and to date, his videos have generated more than 4.7 million likes. 

TikTok is overflowing with innovative, fresh ideas, so brands must be clever with their posts to be noticed. Even for brands thought of as “boring” that is doable. For example, just before the global shutdown in March, The Washington Post began sharing content on TikTok, but they weren’t posting videos of daily headlines. Rather, the outlet shared relatable videos on the daily struggles and adjustments of working from home, incorporating popular trends. They must be doing something right, because the content has generated more than 25.8 million likes. 

Staying relevant, influential and top-of-mind is important for all brands, whether B2B or B2C. Keeping up with content trends is one way of doing that, and some of the best, most buzzworthy ideas online are shared on TikTok. Viral TikTok videos make great templates for high-performing content on other platforms as well – Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 

With TikTok, B2B companies can connect and engage with more of their audience and show prospects the more creative and personal side of their business. B2B companies not leveraging the app may be missing out on opportunities. 

TikTok: making connections and driving lasting impacts 

TikTok is the first app of its kind. What separates it from other social media platforms is the creativity it affords users. It lets them be both creators and viewers, and exposes them to an endless stream of personalized content. More importantly, the sense of community on TikTok is what draws users in and keeps them coming back for more. It will continue to play a key role in the PR efforts of brands appealing to younger users. If you’re looking to engage with the elusive teen or young 20s demographic, chances are you will find them on TikTok.

Got Funding? Here’s How To Announce It

In B2B tech PR, an infusion of new capital is one of the best opportunities to drive quality media coverage at scale. This holds true whether you’re a startup or a more mature business. Funding announcements can offer instant credibility for a brand, validating the company’s strategy and vision.

Yet new funding rounds are a dime a dozen. According to CB Insights and PwC, there are between 5,000-6,000 VC deals per quarter in the U.S. alone. To maximize the news value and cut through the noise, you need the right funding announcement strategy.

Here’s how B2B tech companies can develop a standout funding PR strategy for their next round.

Be clear-eyed about your numbers

When a company lands new capital, sometimes they drink their own Kool-Aid as they assess the numbers.  They think that their round, regardless of size, should be covered far and wide. But that’s not how things work— not when there are dozens of notable deals pitched daily.

In funding PR, size matters. The bigger the round, the greater the opportunity. The deal size has a direct impact on the PR strategy and will shape the go-to-market approach. If you’ve raised less than $10 million, there will be significantly less interest versus a mega round of $100 million-plus. Key business outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Forbes generally wont touch anything under $20 million.

A few years ago, when there were more tech reporters covering funding, you could drive a lot of coverage for smaller rounds. Unfortunately, that time has passed, with opportunities undercut by the consolidation and downsizing in media, and less of a “rush to cover” mentality among journalists.

Exclusive or embargo?

Per my colleague Richard Etchison, an exclusive typically means “offering a key tidbit, news item, or interview to a single journalist with the understanding that he or she will be first. The story can then be released to other media after the exclusive runs.” An embargo, on the other hand, means reaching out to a group of media in advance about an announcement and sharing the news with them, with the stipulation being that their stories can only be published at a certain time.

This is where the size of a round comes into play. From my experience, smaller rounds — less than $25 million — should generally be pitched as exclusives, because larger media outlets are increasingly passing on embargoed funding news. There is an obvious desire by these outlets to break news exclusively. And they receive so many funding pitches, an embargoed story on a small round has little value to them.

Of course, there is nuance here depending on the type of business being pitched, the sexiness of the technology, venture capital versus private equity, the notoriety of the founders, and other factors. But as a rule of thumb, embargoes outreach is most realistic and effective when the rounds are over $50 million.

Have a good story to tell

Too many B2B tech companies think that the numbers will speak for them and funding alone will drive good stories. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Capital announcements often require multiple elements to make them worthwhile for both media and business visibility.

With that in mind, funding storytelling should go beyond “we are expanding our sales and customer support teams,” to include details on technology innovations and growth (e.g., revenue growth year-over-year, client growth or new clients, new international offices, etc.). This allows you to maximize the moment in the spotlight and ensure that there will be interest in the company long after the funding news has dies down. Highlighting forthcoming innovations and growth can tee up future stories and pitches. See this post for more PR storytelling tips.

Go vertical the day of the announcement

Among tech media, funding story opportunities with “bigger” outlets are limited for most B2B tech companies. For example, Mashable, GigaOm, Pandodaily, CNET,  and TheNextWeb all used to cover B2B funding. But in a shifting media landscape, it’s now largely the domain of TechCrunch and VentureBeat (both great outlets), along with business publications like The Wall Street Journal and Forbes, where the bar for coverage can be very high. 

To drive air cover and wider visibility, funding announcements can be shared with other categories of media. For example, VC and PE trades like PEHub, Private Equity News (Dow Jones-owned) and FinSMEs are great targets, particularly after an exclusive or embargoed set of stories runs. There are also key newsletters that cover funding daily, such as Dan Primack’s indispensable Pro Rata for Axios and Polina Marinova’s must-read Term Sheet for Fortune. Relevant industry media, of course, should be pitched and local media are another option.

In reaching out to each vertical, make sure messages are tailored accordingly. This means the PE and VC media need basic facts about the deal, while industry media can use more meat on why the funding matters. Similarly, local media need to be told your company is “based in” whatever city you reside in. A lack of personalization will confuse press and make them think your pitch is irrelevant.

Don’t forget the logistics
Logistics are a critical piece of any funding PR strategy. Here are the core elements of a funding strategy that need to be managed in advance of an announcement.

    • Timing – Announcing funding earlier in the day — between 6-8 AM ET — will provide more time to pitch day of, with inclusion in key newsletters that hit at 9 AM.

    • Images – Having logos for the company and key investors are important, and media will ask for them. Most critically, though, is  having a founder group shot and product screens where relevant.

    • Website – Once the funding news breaks, having a splashy headline on your website that links to a blog post from a founder can help communicate the news to prospects and clients.

    • Clients – As soon as the news breaks, a good PR person will advise client to reach out to customers and stakeholders with a tailored email message explaining the deal. Funding is great for clients because it shows them that they will have more resources down the road, in the form of customer support, better technology, or other benefits. All should be touted.

    • Internal Announcement – Businesses should try and wait until the last minute to announce funding news internally to employees. The reason for the secrecy is to avoid having the news leak prematurely. While it can be difficult to keep funding under wraps, the payoff will be worth it.

These basic steps B2B tech companies can take to ensure they optimize a capital raise. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @chrisharihar.

5 Ways To Ensure A Worthwhile Analyst Meeting

In today’s B2B PR, good analyst relations (AR) are essential. Technology analysts at firms like Gartner, Forrester and IDC can meaningfully shape the overall direction of a category and directly impact a B2B technology provider’s business. This can occur in two ways.

First, most analyst firms publish in-depth research that potential clients and existing customers buy on an ongoing basis. These reports are meant to guide technology decision makers on the best vendors, or at least the most relevant ones.

The most famous examples are Gartner’s Magic Quadrants and the Forrester Wave. Companies pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to have access to analyst reports, so vendors that are well positioned in the the reports benefit.

The second way analysts affect a category or industry is more informal. Analysts are constantly being tapped as thought leaders by media for stories, as expert panelists and speakers by event coordinators, and more. They have a platform to share their opinions and perspectives on who matters in a space.

This is why AR, and building bonds with relevant analysts, can help a business stay top-of-mind and be referenced. A mention by an analyst confers immediate third-party credibility for a solution by someone with real authority in the industry.

But how do B2B tech companies build long-term relationships with industry analysts? Many have paid relationships, of course. Any analyst company is more likely to listen to a client company, especially one in a hot category. But it is possible to get their attention without paying an analyst company? Ultimately, it all starts with an analyst meeting, and in maximizing the opportunity once secured. I’ve sat in on hundreds of analyst meetings over the last seven years. Here’s what I recommend.

Bring your best deck

Every analyst meeting, unless otherwise directed, should start with a cogent presentation that outlines a company’s mission statement, positioning and differentiators, core features, pricing, clients, use cases, and scale. These presentations should be more in-depth than a typical media overview, of course, given analysts’ level of expertise. And they should be less focused on marketing jargon — analysts can see right through that — and more focused on the technology. The overview should last roughly 10-15 minutes.

Bring your best demo

After B2B tech companies offer up an overview of their platform, it’s important to walk through and demo it. Again, this demo differs from a media demo, which is generally very top-level, if provided at all. Instead, an analyst demo should be more comprehensive and in the weeds, calling out any bells and whistles competitors don’t have. The demo should be the centerpiece of the briefing and take up the majority of the time. Given its importance, it’s critical to bring a top demo provider. If this means passing the baton from a CEO or C-suite exec to a product manager, then so be it. Whoever will deliver the best experience should be the demo point person.

Ask them what they think

Analyst meetings are an excellent opportunity for a software company to gather valuable feedback on company positioning, products and features, pricing, and more. Too many B2B technology companies will treat an analyst briefing as an opportunity to steamroll an analyst with an information dump. I find that the best meetings, however, are more conversational. Pausing to ask an analyst for their opinion on something leads to a more engaging dialogue, and will likely elicit candid insights and feedback that can shape your market strategy. This takes on even more importance if you’re not a paying Gartner or Forrester customer, since you have limited access to the analysts.

Become a valuable resource

Just as an analyst can share their opinions on your company’s positioning, a rising business can set itself up as a valuable information resource for the analyst. Don’t be afraid to share insights into current or future industry trends relevant to the analyst’s coverage. They appreciate an informed perspective from the front lines on the space and competitive landscape. This will show that you care about the demands of their job – and that your company is a thought leader. If you can become a reliable resource, your company and solution will resonate that much more with the analyst moving forward.

Make sure PR is in touch

Once a meeting has wrapped, PR teams should incorporate the analyst into their outreach plans. This means pinging them about significant platform updates, new product launches, customer wins, and more. This will allow a constant drumbeat and ongoing communications between formal briefings or meetings. (As with media, outreach must be tailored and personalized.) A failure to nurture these relationships can result in your outstanding solution not getting the visibility and market share it deserves.
AR is a key piece of any B2B technology PR or marketing program. Cultivating relationships with analysts can move the needle for your business and brand and elevate your positioning in the marketplace. These tips can help you maximize the value of an analyst meeting and ensure ROI. Are there any tips I’m missing? Let me know on Twitter at @chrisharihar.

PR Tips For Winning Business Awards

Placing a piece of industry hardware on the company mantle can be a nice PR win for a B2B company at any stage. Along with earned media visibility and recognition for thought capital, awards are an exciting way to build credibility and authority. Most importantly, awards represent a third-party endorsement. That’s valuable currency for rising into a higher consideration set.

Here are some tips from Crenshaw’s own Conferences and Awards Manager for filling the trophy case.

Awards are all about the outcomes

Whether entering a customer case study, product, or an individual award, the judges are looking for quantifiable demonstration of success. Don’t bother with the “customers have been very pleased with the product” or “our reputation has been enhanced…” Anecdotal evidence won’t earn the award; you’ll need as many hard campaign ROI numbers as possible for the entry. When submitting for a customer service award, be prepared to supply some numbers on customer reviews and testimonials. It’s also a good idea to consider data visualizations as a supporting document for some awards to substantiate the numbers.

Choose awards wisely

Industry awards exist for every vertical and niche, so choosing the right one is no simple task. Each awards competition will have multiple categories and/or subcategories, which naturally increases the chances of winning, but also adds complexity to the task. Your PR agency or team should have an existing database of awards from which they can compile a targeted list. More established companies may elect to focus on awards that have an editorial component; that is, awards produced or sponsored by media outlets.

For B2B technology companies, publications like The Drum, Digiday, Campaign, Forbes, and Ad Age all put on annual award programs. Major trade conferences and trade associations like IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) also dole out awards. Note that some of the high-profile business awards like Fortune Most Admired Companies, Glassdoor, and Forbes do not have a submission process. Instead, they evaluate companies based on their own metrics or on employee reviews, as is the case with Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work.

Award entries need not be dull

Industry competitions usually require entry reports of anywhere from 500 to 1500 words. Because the entries often explicitly list required elements, it might seem that a dry boilerplate document is called for. But like most any PR content, a quality awards entry should feature good storytelling. That’s not as challenging as one might assume. B2B campaign case studies have the same basic story structure. A customer has a problem, it enlists a solutions provider to help solve it, they form a strategy, execute the campaign, and solve the problem. Entry reports should read like simple stories, with rich, action-oriented language. No competition judge wants to be lulled to sleep reading dry, antiseptic entries.

Mark your calendar

Industry awards are usually annual, so businesses can and should plan an attack strategy well in advance. Consistent award wins can bolster a company’s reputation for product or service excellence. A PR team can even plan to enter its company’s new offerings into competitions many months down the line – basically targeting certain awards and categories for new products they anticipate to be successful. This type of planning helps prevent procrastination and can help shape the entry. Award entries can be costly, both in cash and staff time, so it helps to analyze all programs and prioritize the most prestigious, relevant, and promotable programs for the highest return-on-investment.

Leverage the win

The whole point of winning awards is to brag about them. PR and marketing will amplify the win in owned media channels, collateral, and perhaps a press release or email. Place the official award logo on company webpages; write about the win in a blog post; feature it in the newsletter; include it in new business pitches; and don’t forget to celebrate the win within the company, especially if it showcases a star employee. Naturally, news of the win will be shared on all social channels, so make sure any customer permissions are in place well in advance. Many awards feature ceremonies or galas, which can offer further opportunities for industry exposure, customer networking, and even extra PR. See our earlier post for more on leveraging award wins. Now go and bring home the hardware!

3 Best Practices For Using Data In B2B PR

Media love data. As most PR people know, data offers a powerful news hook in a way that even a product launch or partnership often doesn’t. It can easily feed a story to make it stronger, and data-driven stories can easily be made visual, which adds to their appeal. Business and tech media in particular have an ongoing appetite for research, studies and surveys.

For B2B companies, this presents a massive PR opportunity. To meet media demand, B2B tech brands in particular can build out their own research assets. An asset that can earn branded media coverage is valuable — and that’s not all. Data-driven coverage can establish a brand as a category expert or leader. Moreover, it can attract the attention of media, analysts, and business customers. It’s pull marketing 101. These audiences look for category insight and find… you!

Our client Uberall is a good example. Uberall is a Berlin-based location marketing platform that seeks to build its brand here in the US. To help it be seen as an expert on location marketing, one of our first initiatives was to develop branded research on “near me” mobile searches. Our first study drove story volume and quality while also presenting Uberall and its team as rightful authorities on location-based marketing.

But developing research and generating data that media find worthwhile is easier said than done. To be successful, here are three best practices that B2B tech companies and startups need to keep in mind.

Your data only goes so far

When I start discussing branded research possibilities with a client, their first inclination is to point to their own data. This is natural. Most scaled B2B tech companies are sitting on a pile of interesting data. It’s also inexpensive and easy to access. But, more often than not, internal data doesn’t work for B2B PR. Keep in mind that a company’s data is usually selective because it’s based on customer research. Unless you have massive scale, it’s not often representative of a mass category or even a segment.

Media tend to be conservative when it comes to covering a brand’s own data as well. This is why the best ongoing research programs for B2B PR rely on a combination of client data and third-party paid research. Third-party “commissioned” research delivers a fuller sample and is often seen as more credible. For leading data management platform Lotame, for example, their data and third-party surveys are both important, and they often work together.

Don’t make research a sales pitch

It’s important to develop research and data that speaks to core themes, messages and products. BUT it’s equally vital to be restrained in how self-promotional the data is, or media simply won’t cover it. They are inherently skeptical of research from brands because they know brands have a vested interest in the subject matter. So the best research work is grounded in hot buttons and trends, with the brand’s core themes and messages lightly baked in. For B2B tech brands, walking that line is important. This is meant to be a soft sell, not a hard commercial pitch. It’s pull marketing to promote a sense of thought leadership. That’s why brands should avoid featuring their name in the headline of any survey content like a press release. Focus on the findings instead.

A good example is recent research done by event success platform Bizzabo. It’s a rare example of a client’s internal data analysis being more compelling than an outside survey or study. Bizzabo examined the gender split among the keynote and panel speakers across 60,000 conferences, and the research showed that we have a long way to go in achieving gender diversity. Bizzabo let its data shine and was featured in Bloomberg, NPR, MarketWatch, VentureBeat, and more.

Don’t run away from consumers

When B2B tech brands consider research options, they can be quick to write off developing data that polls or surveys consumers. For example, a technology startup that offers delivery and returns software to retailers may say no to polling 1,000 consumers about BOPIS or mobile shopping. Instead, they ask that the focus be on polling retail executives. This is a mistake. Consumer survey data can be pitched effectively to relevant B2B media just like a poll of 300 retail executives can. Additionally, consumer surveys are often sexier to a wider group of media  — instead of pitching only retail trades, you can level up to business and technology — and can be done at a fraction of the cost.
By keeping in mind the balance between media and client needs, B2B brands can create a reservoir of data that hits the sweet spot, drives visibility and builds leadership over time.

How To Make An Impact At A Business Conference

Love them or hate them, conferences and trade shows are key venues for any business to generate public relations, marketing, and sales returns. If you’ve ever attended a major tech trade show, you know they can be a blur of handshakes, branded swag, business cards, and mediocre meals. How to make the most of a time and dollar investment in a trade show or conference? Our own Chris Harihar offers some sage advice on navigating the world of B2B conferences.

7 ways to make an impact at a business conference

Choose wisely

There’s a business conference for every conceivable vertical, niche, and sector; and they come in various sizes and cities around the world. Since the ideal lead time for earning a speaking opportunity is six to nine months, and sponsorships take planning for maximum benefit, a PR team must incorporate a conference strategy in its annual planning. Is the goal to generate awareness, leads, and sales? To build an executive profile? To grow relationships with influencers, media, and colleagues? A sales-oriented trade show like Cloud Expo in New York may work for many goals, while a more ideas- driven one like Fortune Live Media may align better with thought leadership objectives. A consistent presence at carefully selected conferences year round can produce good ROI, as well as support PR goals.

For maximum impact, over-prepare

A B2B company can set itself up for success with some logistical planning and research. The first step is to work with organizers to earn speaking and event opportunities at the most advantageous times. The team should study the layout and the schedule well ahead of time, as well as the attendee and exhibitor lists to scope out a plan to be in front of the right people. A good PR team will get a list of attending media to plot their outreach and set up briefings. Some even create a “facebook”-type schedule with head shots of key contacts to maximize networking opportunities. Armed with advance intelligence, a company can create its own minute-by-minute schedule to avoid wasting the considerable time and money invested in the conference.

Bring the news

If a company has news to share — an acquisition, new product launch, or growth milestone, the conference backdrop can add sex appeal and offer the benefit of a captive audience of media and insiders. Experienced PR professionals often coordinate an announcement with a major conference appearance to maximize interest and visibility. Yet with so much noise at trade events, it’s hard to draw attention to your brand. The trick is to pay close attention to timing; even a company’s big news can get lost in a wave of similar announcements. At last month’s Microsoft Ignite, there were so many announcements that Microsoft had to issue a media a 27-page booklet for attendees. Consider making an announcement the day before the conference through a media exclusive slated for breakfast the morning of the first day. Or, sponsor a mealtime slot for breaking news — a time-honored trick that helps turn out press hungry for stories as well as lunch.

Bring PR to the show

Having a PR team member on-site for media relations support at a key conference isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. PR can continuously rove the event floor to wrangle relevant media and influencers to engage. While the sales team is working at the booth or in private meetings, the PR team can take the offensive as your advocates. There are often video assets developed by conference coordinators on-site to promote the event through digital and social channels. PR teams can chase down those opportunities as part of a plan of attack well in advance of the conference.

Get creative to stand out

It’s not enough to simply sponsor, exhibit, or speak at a conference these days. To maximize the value of the investment, think outside of the programmed opportunities. Rather than putting big dollars into a larger booth, consider using some of that budget to host an off-site dinner or cocktail hour, to which the PR team can invite press, clients, and prospects. This helps a brand separate itself from the crowd and earn a captive audience. B2B tech conferences can often get monotonous. An offsite happening allows a company to shake things up a bit, keeping it top-of-mind among the right audiences.

Be social

It’s remarkable how many brands still don’t optimize their event presence through social media. In advance of a conference, brands should consider paid and organic content strategies to gain more ownership of the event’s hashtag. For example, while Facebook isn’t a huge lead-gen source for B2B businesses, creating content for Facebook Live can be repurposed well after the conference ends. These videos can be easily shared with media who may not have attended but want more information about key announcements or trends. See our earlier post for tips on how social media drives B2B PR. But note that when the conference ends, the work does not.

Follow through

If a good one is available, the company should use the event video of the thought leader’s speech or panel appearance by posting on its owned media and amplifying on social channels like LinkedIn. An executive appearance can bolster the individual’s reputation, building a resume for other earned conference engagements. Additionally, the PR team may develop the speech into a white paper or byline. PR will nurture all the new media and influencer connections it made, just as sales will follow up on its leads. When a company has mastered the trade show experience from preparation to follow-through, it can build a consistent brand presence on big thought leadership stages year-round.

6 Ways To Generate PR When You Have No News

The PR plan has clear visibility objectives that call for earned media or branded coverage — and there’s news that will help tell the company’s story. But after the initial executive moves, product launch, or funding announcement, then what? How does a PR team keep the momentum going if things get quiet?

6 ways to build publicity when it’s quiet

Be an expert

Media need experts every day to fill out stories with quotes and commentary. Expertise is the gift that keeps on giving, particularly for large stories about complicated issues, important trends, or previously obscure developments. From the investment expert who weighs in on a stock market dip, to the child safety author who shares Halloween advice for parents, expertise makes the media world run. And as every PR professional knows, sharing a client’s expertise is a strong way to build media relationships.

Speak up on owned media

One way to be in the public (or industry) conversation is to start it — with relevant content. It’s another strong way to share expertise, of course, but content can also run on informed opinion. Any CEO who hasn’t yet weighed in about industry issues in thought pieces on a blog or LinkedIn should consider cultivating a strong point of view. An interesting bylined article or blog post can make its way around social channels and be picked up by a trade or business outlet. Guest blogging on a prominent vendor, customer, or partner’s channel is another way to expand the reach, and a good method for grabbing visibility when hard news is scarce. To gain traction, the content should be memorable: calling someone to task, advocating a new approach, or advancing a distinct point of view. For most B2B companies, it’s part of a proactive content campaign that raises brand awareness, boosts searchability, and even helps generate leads.

Be reactive

Proactive marketing of expertise is the first line of defense of course, but given the opportunity, a quick way to generate relevant news is to capitalize on breaking news stories relevant to customers. Watch for stories about competitive moves, big industry developments, financial market changes, or mergers in a given space. If an industry expert is offered for commentary within the short window of opportunity that follows relevant news, it’s a win for everyone involved. As we mentioned in a previous post, every PR team should have industry monitoring in place to identify reactive pitching opportunities. While this doesn’t always pay dividends, it’s one good option to generate publicity in news voids.

Make news with opinion or behavior surveys

Most PR plans are informed through research, even if it’s general customer information or category analysis. But an hoc data-driven story is a good option for pitching the media during lulls. Many companies have market research or category data that has nuggets of valuable, even newsworthy information in it, but no one realizes it. Often it can be mined for stories. And for those who don’t have usable research, they can create it easily through an omnibus survey or flash poll. The key is making the data tell a relevant story, gaining points as an industry authority, or promoting a common pain point or question that customers have. Nearly any issue can be turned into a data-driven story that initiates a brand new conversation — a story that your firm may be well positioned to tell.

Leverage customer success

This is a tried-and-true tactic for getting trade media visibility, of course, but it can also work outside of trade channels. An artificial-intelligence-driven analytics company may not have news to announce, and its story might not resonate beyond narrow tech blogs. But if that company is helping another business like Blue Apron or Peloton serve customers or boost revenue, the story becomes more appealing. Even if a B2B service has helped a smaller up-and-coming brand, it may still be relevant to local press, specialist media, or social discussion groups. Case studies are some of the most powerful tools a B2B company has, and they can be used and repurposed in a variety of ways to fill in those news gaps. The challenge is to get customers on board in advance; some of our clients find it useful to make testimonials part of the deal when negotiating the business agreement with new customers.

Do something good

If nothing dramatic is going on, why not make something good happen? A full-blown CSR program might be ambitious for some businesses, and a thin commitment made for PR purposes is never a good idea. But any company can create legitimate local news through a commitment to a community cause, for example. Or, it can test-drive a philanthropic campaign through pro-bono work for a not-for-profit, or a pilot to benefit an underserved consumer segment. Sometimes it’s a demonstration of corporate values. When WeWork announced it was “going meatless,” major media covered its move, in part because it was controversial, but also because it was an unusual demonstration of the company’s commitment to its own principles.
PR teams and agencies strive to drive a steady drumbeat of coverage, but tech companies of all sizes run into occasional news droughts. With a little ingenuity, the drumbeat can continue even when there’s little to sing about.

5 Reasons Tech PR Is A Different Animal

If you’re an aspiring PR professional or even a seasoned veteran who has never worked in the tech sector, you may wonder what it’s like. Is all PR basically the same? The fact is, the public relations industry is becoming more specialized and diverse. Agencies who work in tech PR are part of an industry whose signature attribute is innovation – which is both stressful and exciting. The day-to-day work can also be different. Here’s how.

What sets tech PR apart

A transactional PR-journalist/influencer relationship

The tech sector’s rapid news cycle can contribute to a more transactional relationship between PR people and the journalists they know.  Prominent tech reporters are compelled to grab the latest news, publish, and keep the ball rolling on to the next thing. And while tech isn’t the only sector where being first is a journalist’s  goal, it’s among the most brutally competitive. Most tech PRs learn to negotiate for “exclusive” story placement on behalf of clients when it comes to funding or innovation news. Additionally, tech PR firms must nurture mutually beneficial relationships with analysts, just as they do with journalists. Here, the goal may be to score a mention in a key report in the absence of a paid relationship. A positive recommendation in a Gartner or IDC is a valuable third-party endorsements for an up-and-coming B2B technology player.

Taming the technology beast

In recent years the tech sector has faced a reputation problem, from its lack of diversity to data privacy issues. Problems vary with the individual company, of course. But PR agency teams today can face an extra challenge when it comes to poorly understood sectors like digital advertising technology or blockchain, for example. Then there are regulatory issues that demand the communication of a company position as well as internal adaptation to new rules. The recently enacted GDPR European data privacy rule challenged virtually every department in most companies, but it also offers opportunities for relevant commentaries and point-of-view content.

The need for speed

All PR moves at a rapid pace, driven by the news cycle and the speed of digital technology. But in tech PR, that pace is accelerated, for several reasons. Many tech companies are young businesses or high-growth startups, and they’re highly entrepreneurial in style and speed. The acceleration also stems from the current boom of private equity investment in tech startups. Finally, it’s the pace of innovation. There always seem to be new startups, more financing rounds, new offerings, and of course fresh technology breakthroughs. It’s also a crowded mediascape where there’s fierce competition for share of voice. That means PR teams are on their toes, reacting quickly to trending news or relevant issues or moving to fill the innovation story pipeline.

High-tech is highly “technical”

A PR pro working in any sector needs to be well versed in the language of that industry. Consumer PR teams become familiar with their clients’ products, and investor relations pros must know their way round Wall Street. But tech PR people must master a language that is sometimes more complicated. In adtech and media, for example, we assimilate terms like “native programmatic direct” and alphabet-soup acronyms like GDPR, OTT, and DMP. More importantly, it’s often the job of the PR rep to streamline, simplify, and translate the language of technology into tangible and relevant customer benefits. Tech startups in particular are known for being in love with their technology, sometimes to the detriment of the overall story. Our role is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

What tech? Where?

Adtech, martech, fintech, biotech, and greentech offer ample opportunities for corporate communicators, especially in New York, San Francisco, and Boston. If you’re a recent college graduate enamored with the cutting edge or a seasoned PR pro itching for a new challenge, a tech agency could be a great new adventure. You don’t have to be a computer geek, gamer, or data scientist to work in the sector. Most of us don’t have computer science degrees. We study and absorb knowledge as we go, and it soon becomes second nature. Technology is a beast that grows and evolves, offering a stimulating environment for public relations professionals. And lucky for us, it’s far from an endangered species.

5 Ways PR Beats Paid Advertising

PR, advertising, and marketing should be working together as well-oiled gears in a powerful machine that propels a brand toward success. While it shouldn’t be a contest, it’s worth noting that in some instances, public relations can yield a greater return on investment. Especially in the B2B tech sector, PR programs are essential to gaining competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace.

PR can shine in B2B tech

PR confers third-party endorsement

Many B2B companies engage in lengthy sales cycles where customers make a large commitment of capital – and faith. Ads alone may not inspire the confidence a customer needs to make an important decision. Customers who read or hear about an amazing enterprise software company in analyst reports, recommendations from third-party influencers, white papers, executive bylines, and in tech news outlets have gain a degree of trust that an ad campaign can’t provide.

 

For smaller firms, PR can reduce marketing spend

If you’re a scrappy startup or an early stage tech company, you may not have the capital for massive advertising budgets. By supplementing advertising with a PR campaign, a brand can earn visibility that attracts leads. Ads pop up and disappear, while blog posts, news articles, and white papers stay searchable for months ie even years. The longer life span of PR content and the snowball effect of earned media and can lead to great ROI for smaller B2B companies.

B2B decision-makers rely on research

And that research comes from PR content. Both profitability and reputation ride on the decisions of B2B buyers. In 2017, Forbes reported: “Most B2B buyers say they rely heavily on white papers (82%), webinars (78%), and case studies (73%) to make purchasing decisions. Close behind are e-books (67%), infographics (66%), and blog posts (66%).” In a 2018 study by TrustRadius, 75% of respondents said they used info from third-party sources (analyst reports, independent media news, and consultants) to make their decisions. Business buyers prefer hard, unbiased data over sales pitches and marketing collateral. When it comes to differentiating yourself from the pack, these PR can surpass advertising.

PR offers more bang for the content buck

In many ways B2B PR is a more efficient engine of promotion. The life span and versatility of PR content allows it to do more work with less effort. For example, a research study conducted by the PR team can be used and reused in many different formats, like white papers, blog posts, and earned media coverage. An executive’s participation in a trade show panel can yield video, media coverage, blog posts, and social media engagement. Plus, earned and owned content can boost SEO over the long haul, driving more leads in your direction.

PR offers credibility

Credibility begets trust. In today’s growing atmosphere of skepticism, trust is a priceless commodity. The fundamental power of PR bears repeating: impartial third-party endorsements outshine the tooting of one’s own advertorial horn. Sound marketing and advertising can be a good start in building credibility, but a well-conceived PR plan builds the type of reputational value that lasts. And solid reputation management creates a litany of benefits. A good reputation is social currency that can diminish the effects of a crisis event, assist in attracting the finest talent, and inspire the team.

MDG Advertising reported that 70 percent of internet users want to learn about products through content versus traditional advertisements. People don’t want the hard sell. Plus, advertising is usually a one-way communication. In this era of two-way communications, public relations is a better tool for engagement with stakeholders. If you’re in it for the long haul, it is unwise to neglect the PR part of the equation. If your marketing, advertising, and PR teams are collaborating in accordance with the brand’s business goals, your company is setting itself up for sustained growth.