It’s surprising how often the question about ‘how tech PR works’ comes up – from both small businesses and large. If you’re running a small, fast-growing businesses, you will inevitably reach a stage when a systematic approach to PR starts to make sense.
The team realises it is important, but simply doesn’t have the resources or know-how to run a sustained programme. For much larger businesses, particularly in the B2B space, perhaps you’ve never really had to pay attention to PR. But with the landscape becoming more competitive – and disruptors appearing over every horizon – you realise something has to change when it comes to building your reputation beyond the sphere of customers who already know and love you.
Where to start
Before you consider reaching out to any freelancers or agencies, it is important to be clear about what you want. Ask yourself these questions (and write down the answers):
What do we want to be known for?
Where are we today?
What does success look like, in terms of leads, business growth, recognition, competitive positioning etc?
Who are our most important target audiences? Give them a bit of personality. For more detail about creating personas, check out this article.
What is our time-frame? Is there something important coming up that we need to be aware of? Product launch, legislation, etc?
How much money are we prepared to spend on this project?
Are there well-defined success parameters?
What have we done so far? List everything you’ve done to communicate effectively with your staff, your customers and other stakeholders over the last two or three years. What worked? What didn’t?
Building the right connections
Congratulations! You’ve just written your first PR brief. The next step is to identify a freelancer or an agency that has the potential to support you. But with thousands of PR experts in the UK, how do you choose? The best first step is to go out to your network and ask for recommendations. You can also go to industry bodies like the Public Relations Consultants Association who can make recommendations based on your industry or specific skills you believe you might need. Ideally you want a list of no more than five agencies.
Speak to them all on the phone before you proceed; it’s the best way to get a ‘feel’ for who they are – and to determine if they might be a good fit. Whittle your longlist down to a shortlist of three and take it from there.
Once you have agreed to work with an agency, there are six important steps to follow:
To get your campaign off to the best possible start, get the team in to your office for a day of briefings with your own experts. Include technical expert, salespeople and ideally the CEO. If not the CEO, then the most senior the person, the better. The goal of this session is to ensure the team absorbs as much of your company culture as it does the concrete product or service information.
You should expect your team to recommend a specific plan of action, based on the parameters outlined in your brief, with specific measurements and milestones in place. Make sure you ask what is required of you throughout the programme. In order for an external resource to be successful, you want to give them as much information as you possibly can.
Once you’ve agreed on the plan, things ought to shift into high gear. You should expect daily calls or emails from the team to keep you updated, alert you to opportunities and ask questions. If your agency is writing content for you (which they should!), expect to get full drafts with at least two days to review (unless it’s a last minute opportunity). Initially, you should expect to make a few edits to reflect your company tone and content – but the technical detail should be correct. Over time, you should have to make fewer and fewer changes.
You will be working with people who are having daily conversations with the media your target audiences read, reading relevant social media channels and who will just generally have their finger on the pulse of activity outside your business. The ability to tap into that knowledge is a big part of what you are paying for.
Meaningful, robust measurement costs money. Your agency will ideally provide weekly reports updating you on progress, but if they don’t, measure activity against your own KPIs and make sure you keep a firm eye on ‘outcomes’, rather than ‘outputs’.
In other words, you want to measure the things that really matter to your business. Getting media coverage five times a month might be great for the ego, but if it’s not changing perceptions of your brand, driving enquiries, or sparking conversation, then you will inevitably start to question whether it is worth it. A piece in a trade publication with a small circulation can be more valuable to your business than a fawning write-up in a national newspaper.
Whatever you learn from your measurements can be applied to your activity. A PR programme, by its very nature, must be a living changing thing.
If you are interested in going to measurement in a little more detail, check out this blog post.
It’s not for everyone
Taking on external PR support is a significant step for any business – and not one to be taken lightly. It’s only ever as good as the effort and investment that you put into it. If you give it the time and resources that it requires, however, your technology PR strategy can take your business to the next level.