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.

7 Ways To Help Your Tech PR Agency Succeed

If you’ve ever worked with a top technology PR agency, you know the business of developing public relations programs for hot tech companies or startups can be challenging. That’s why it’s important that all members of your PR team are working in sync and that the time is being well deployed. To be successful, there are some key things to keep in mind from the start of a PR agency relationship.

Focus the team’s time. Life at a growing technology company — especially a startup — can be a whirlwind, round-the-clock kind of existence. When the activity is nonstop, it’s critical to prioritize the activities where PR resources can be most effective. Make sure the scope of PR work is clear. It may be tempting to ask the team to respond to website inbox queries, or to get media attention for a last-minute idea by the founder. Sometimes they’ll need to jump in, but as a rule it’s a waste to burn precious time on tasks that can be handled by internal staff, or that require lead time to be successful.

Stage your announcements to maximize PR. Have news to share? Great, but let your PR advisers help stage the news and announcements to generate maximum mileage. Many a great story has been lost because someone leaked a hot scoop, allowing the news to dribble out without a coherent media strategy. When timed strategically, you’ll be able to get more out of those announcements and continue generating buzz month after month.

Secure participation from partners in advance. It’s a huge advantage when you work with big-name partners who can help with PR by being quoted in the press, but make sure everyone is aligned on what they’re willing to do (or not) for publicity. We’ve seen companies invoke well-known VCs or celebrity partners on exciting new products and services, only to learn that there are hard limits on participation in media relations. Getting on the same page from the start will smooth bumps in the road when it comes time to execute on PR strategy.

Invest in the right places. If you’re ready to invest in a PR partner, be willing to think through other expenditures that may be necessary – or merely desirable – to make the most of that investment. That could mean more sophisticated tools for tracking social media, or spending on original surveys or proprietary research data, which can set you apart from the crowd. Maybe it’s a killer event to build stronger relationships with media and bloggers, or a series of media training sessions. Greater visibility raises the stakes for many startups.

Work only with experienced PR professionals. As explained in our tipsheet on how to hit your PR goals in the New Year, there are many moving parts in a full-fledged PR program, and it’s hard to keep things going at top speed when people are in roles that don’t suit their skills or desires.  As in other creative services, experience counts in PR, and it doesn’t pay to settle for less when it comes to the team members. Don’t be afraid to move staffers around when your gut tells you it’s not working, or when a team is not aligned. It’s better to rip that band-aid off earlier rather than later.

Streamline tools. Tech loves its tools. But it’s important to be flexible and to streamline the use of tech tools for project management, reporting and ongoing communications. Your team might live and die by Asana, or you may love email, but if it’s creating more work to adopt new tools, find a happy medium that pleases everyone. Tools should simplify, not create more work.

Understand PR’s timeline. There’s always the possibility of a quick win, and the tips above help maximize the chances of that. But the fruits of strategic PR can take months to grow. Protect your PR investment by developing a robust program of tactics to avoid the “eggs in one basket” syndrome, then break down each program segment into deliverables and milestones to gauge progress against goals.