If you’re a technology company that’s thinking of hiring a PR agency or freelancer PR (or you’re running public relations in-house) what key activities should make up the media relations programme? A lot will depend on your PR objectives, strategy, the media you’re targeting and the resources/budget at your disposal. But a typical 12-month tech PR programme might include many of the following ‘nuts and bolts’ PR activities.
The place where most companies start is press releases about the new products or services they’re launching. The problem is…reporters are bombarded with dozens of product releases from tech companies every day. And they’ll only cover the most compelling.
So, only issue a formal press release if your new product is genuinely newsworthy. Is it a significant technology breakthrough? Does it bring something unique to a trending issue in the media agenda? Are you a global tech brand with millions of businesses using your products? If not, it’s a much better use of PR resources to publicise your product updates via owned media such as your company blog, social network pages and customer newsletter.
The next obvious activity includes company news announcements that aren’t about your products or services. Partnerships, appointments, awards and accolades, company initiatives, milestones and so on. Again, be hard on yourself before deciding which corporate announcements to release. Do the publications you’re targeting cover these types of announcements? Does anybody care? Be selective but open to possibilities. For example, CloudNine PR used a simple new hire story to get a video adtech client covered by tech startup publication TechCrunch
These are the short announcements that tell the story of how a customer has recently deployed your technology. Importantly, any customer story needs to be current (gone live in the last 6 months) and provide insights about how your technology helped the customer tackle a business challenge(s).
Highlighting quantitative business benefits is usually key if you want to get media interest. To generate a story in a top-tier publication, you’ll also need to offer reporters an interview with the customer as they’ll insist on getting the story ‘from the horse’s mouth’.
Data continues to be a key part of the editorial content of most tech, business and mainstream media (in both news and features sections). So, it needs to be an important part of your tech PR activity.
Many technology companies, especially Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, can extract data from their platform to highlight interesting insights to use in PR. The alternative is commissioning surveys or other primary research.
Your data stories should highlight new market trends, customer behaviours or pain-points/challenges that enterprises are facing in your sector. Be aware, however, that reporters will quickly filter out self-serving research stories designed to highlight the benefits of your own solutions.
Newsjacking or reactive PR is about pitching comments from experts within your company on breaking news stories or trending topics.
Success relies on providing interesting added value insights that journalists can incorporate into their stories. Start by deciding which types of breaking news topics are most relevant to your company. Which of your spokespeople is best placed to comment on them and what kind of things cane they say? Speed and unique views are crucial. Having relevant data can also help.
Securing face-to-face or virtual interviews usually requires having company subject matter experts with specialist expertise, compelling insights or strong opinions about a topic that a journalist covers. If your spokesperson is able to deliver the goods in interviews, he/she stands a chance of becoming an expert source who is regularly called back by the journalist when covering that issue.
While opportunities are fewer than they once were, many technology, business and vertical industry publications still run guest articles and blogs. They’re a good way of showcasing thought leadership opinions and comments on topical industry issues as well as providing helpful advice and ‘how to’ info.
Usually, you need to pitch the publication with a brief summary of the proposed article explaining why the author is a credible source for the topic. The article must add value and not be self-promoting or a thinly veiled attempt to generate a link.
These days, few tech or business publications will publish full-blown case studies using material provided by a vendor’s PR or marketing team (although it may still happen in certain verticals). However, it is possible to get in-depth case studies covered by the media occasionally.
It helps if your customer is relatively well known and is willing to do a detailed interview with a journalist about how they were able to solve a topical business problem. The more compelling the problem tackled in the case study – and the bigger the turnaround achieved – the greater the chance of getting this sort of media coverage.
Getting reviews of physical products (as well as software and apps) published in relevant media and influential blogs is a good way of targeting prospects who are lower down the sales funnel (needing content to help them decide which product/company best suits what they are looking for).
Pitch relevant reporters and influencers with details about your product to arrange solo reviews as well as get included in group tests. It’s important to make sure that reviewers have access to relevant support and technical contacts who can answer any questions during the review process.
Winning or even getting shortlisted in industry awards is a great way of raising credibility and creating a buzz around your company and its offerings. Take a disciplined approach to researching a list of potential awards and spend time ensuring your entries are easy to understand with quantitative business metrics (to showcase your product or deployment to best effect).
Remember: You can often repurpose awards submissions to enter multiple awards in order to get ‘more bang for your buck’.
PR support at Trade Shows and Events
Trade shows can provide opportunities for arranging one-to-one briefings or demos with journalists – or hosting social /networking events for journalists outside of the formal tradeshow timetable. Be cautious about doing major launches or announcements at major shows, however. They can and do work for the biggest tech brands (who always attract media attention). But for others, there’s always the risk of your announcement being drowned out by all the competitive noise. It may be better to make your big announcement in the weeks running up to the event to drum up some pre-show visibility.
Putting it altogether
At a basic level, you or your PR company can build a month-by-month PR programme or timeline of the above activities based on your goals and expectations of what is going to happen across the year. You won’t be able to nail down every detail in advance, but you can create an outline plan to work towards. What are the key issues, trends and customer pain points you want to focus on this year? When and how often can you schedule time with your subject matter experts to create articles/interviews? What industry trends or pain points do you want to highlight through data and when is the most appropriate time to release these insights? What is a reasonable number of customer story opportunities you can expect to develop? Which shows are you attending? What major industry awards will you prioritize entering and when are the submission deadlines?