Decoding Tech PR Jargon

Tech PR professionals, like all PR people, love their jargon. With its highly technical applications, products, and services, the world of technology startups, ad tech providers, and enterprise “solutions” is ripe with opportunity for creation of buzzwords that can leave non-techies baffled.
Planning a tech PR program means not only mastering what these terms actually mean, but knowing when to use them and when to translate into more plainspoken language. Here are some of the most commonly used tech terms, and our tips on when (or whether) to use.

SoLoMo. An inclusive term for three trends — social media, local commerce, and mobile apps — this term has relevance within the niche world of digital marketing, and continues to be a favored strategy for many adtech companies and startups. The term is believed to have been coined by venture capitalist John Doerr. Use it sparingly, and only when addressing digital marketing and adtech insiders.

KPI. A term that’s been around for a while, “Key Performance Indicator” has become shorthand for a measurable value that helps gauge how a business or program is performing, and is still widely used. Its use extends well beyond technology PR into the business world at large, and most business professionals should be familiar with it.

IoT. Most who toil in tech PR are familiar with the “Internet of things” and its acronym, IoT. It annoys some due to heavy usage in tech circles, but given the boom in businesses built around sensor and software-driven connectivity; the ever-growing interest in the data patterns associated with IoT; and the social impact, we think it’s one that’s here to stay. 

Growth Hacking. There are several ways to define this term. We prefer the one from Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail):  Growth hacking is the “lean startup” term coined by Sean Ellis for using conversion marketing tactics like content marketing, A/B testing, and analytics to grow a company quickly and efficiently. A favored term by techies and entrepreneurs, it’s often used loosely and has the potential to lose its edge, just like the overused terms “innovative” and “disruptive.” Since there is a lot of cross-over between growth hacking techniques and common marketing activities, use it only when truly accurate.

Disruptive Innovation. Invented by Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen 18 years ago, the term has been resurrected by the current tech startup boom and overused to the point where it’s nearly meaningless. One acclaimed artist recently created an entire body of work around the term in his latest exhibition, The Innovator’s Dilemma (the name of Christensen’s book describing the concept). Steer clear except in the rare cases where it is actually true.

Gamification. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users and increase user contribution, according to Wikipedia. Applicable in many disciplines, the term has become popular in education circles and even lands in a U.S. News and World Report headline (the publication deems it one of three top emerging trends in online education). As mainstream media adopt the term, we’d say that’s license to use it when appropriate.

Tradigital. The meaning here is pretty clear, given that it’s a blend of the words “traditional” and “digital,” and in PR it typically refers to media or media-driven program components. But given that most clients have made the transition to digital and the lines between on and offline has blurred, we find ourselves using this term rarely.

Top Tech PR Trends in 2014

In tech PR, storylines change quite a bit from year to year. The rapid shifts are inherent to technology, with both products and software evolving swiftly and with frequent changes in direction.
So, it can be challenging for PR pros, or companies DIY’ing their PR efforts, to stick their finger in the air to determine the tech wind’s direction. Still, that doesn’t stop us from trying. Here are the top 5 tech trends I think will impact PR in 2014.

Wearable Tech
This one was all over CES. From smartwatches to Google Glass, wearable technology includes Internet-enabled products that are being integrated into previously routine daily human interactions. Can your product or application fit into the wearable storyline? Even for those products that aren’t a “true” fit into the category, it’s possible to link your offering to the trend/narrative with some creative thinking around potential applications and possible use cases.

The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things and wearable tech are similar, if not related, concepts. The Internet of Things, as McKinsey & Company would define it, is the idea that “the physical world itself is becoming a type of information system,” with everything from pacemakers to refrigerators being online-capable. By anchoring a product or service to this tech PR trend, even seemingly dull offerings can become sexy stories. Need proof? See these venetian blinds.

Man Versus Machine
Making complicated operational tasks easy at scale doesn’t sound all that sexy. But if you look at the coverage in 2013 leading into 2014, it most certainly is for both media and the enterprise industry. If you’re in tech PR—which often overlaps with digital ad/marketing PR—you’ve likely heard about programmatic buying and marketing automation, two tools that streamline project efficiency for advertisers and marketers. In reality, these two buzzed-about categories speak broadly to an umbrella narrative about automating previously human-driven functions through software and technology. It’s the timeless man-versus-machine debate, reframed, and it’s going to have staying power in 2014.

Growth Hacking
Growth hacking, as a concept, has been around forever in PR. TheNextWeb defines a growth hacker as someone who can “utilize analytical thinking, product engineering and creativity to significantly increase their company’s core metric(s).” It’s basically figuring out how to scale your startup quickly and creatively through tactics like email marketing, SEO, content marketing, paid acquisition, etc. Every tech PR pro has pitched a “growth hack” story, but the term has only recently come to the fore as a more compelling phrase for a common media angle. By incorporating it into pitches about your business, you can more effectively “growth hack” your coverage.

Open Source
I’m cheating here. Open source isn’t a new concept by any means, but it remains one of the sexier tech trends available to PR pros and the companies they represent. If you can highlight the way in which an aspect of your technology, marketing, business, etc. was driven externally, by end-users, you can develop a captivating and fascinating story for press. We’ve done this quite a bit for our client skobbler, which led to a recent $24M acquisition, as covered by The Wall Street Journal. Take a look at our skobbler: PR Case Study here.

These obviously aren’t the only tech trends we’ll see in 2014, but they’re some of the most compelling.