Companies create and execute PR campaigns for lots of reasons. They include management habit (we've always had one), helping to drive demand (a reasonable move), getting a company mentioned in the news media (very old school), and, of course (for public corporations), conforming to Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. But PR support of tech brands can cost-effectively accomplish lots more than any other promotional form. Here are some far better reasons to create and sustain active public relations programs in the tech marketplace and benefit from its value:
- Maintain share of voice.
- Counteract or overcome competitors' communications.
- Develop and disseminate valuable content.
- Establish connections or remain engaged with your market and customer base.
- Prepare for crises.
Tech markets are always changing, and now they're talking more than ever via social media. Word-of-mouth has always been there, but now it's amplified exponentially, and it occurs nearly instantly. Do you really want to ignore that? Public relations should help lead brand communications via this new medium as well as traditional channels, including news reports, feature stories, executive speaking, self-publishing, blog posts, and one-on-one contacts with industry influencers. Being there with something valuable to say to your tech niche, including explanations of product applications, is within the grasp of nearly any tech business, regardless of its size or budget. PR helps this happen.
One of my mentors pointed out that, if you don't have an active PR program, you give up valuable opportunities to speak for yourself. If you give that away, expect your competitors to use your lack of involvement to speak in your place, reposition your brand, and attempt maximum damage. Even if you're the big dog in your market, smaller competitors can hurt you with giant-killing PR strategies — if you let them. Listen and respond. Or, better yet, preempt competitors with your stories.
It's recently become popular to rename publicity as “Content Marketing.” A little history here: Effective PR campaigns have always created and spread audience-valued content on behalf of sponsors or commercial brands. They've done it for decades. PR pros are great at far more than dreaming up ideas for and firing off press releases, although sometimes that's a perfectly good tactic to apply. These pros have been proposing and executing content-based tactics like seminars (Webinars), contributed articles (blog posts), white papers (online white papers), speaking opportunities, sponsored films, audio and video productions (Webcasts/podcasts), magazines, and even books for their employers and clients since the dawn of professional PR in the 1920s. They still do.
PR creates informational content that helps promote brand awareness, preference, loyalty, and “engagement.” More on this is avaiable here. Skilled PR pros are great at applying content creation to tech marketing campaigns.
Being heard and seen as a participant, ideally one offering a customer value that others don't, is essential to marketing and sales. PR does this more cost-effectively than nearly any other method. This value must be earned by offering information that benefits the audience. Being an information resource is a sure path to improving awareness and credibility — two things every brand seeks. (See: PR Is a Top Tech Management Function.)
If it has been communicating well during good times, a tech brand is in much better shape to address its woes when something bad happens — and you can be fairly certain it will happen eventually. Coming out of nowhere to begin addressing problems around products, distribution, management, takeovers, employees, or plant mishaps is much harder if the company hasn't established a strong reputation in its market via PR. It can be done in other ways, but having a well established voice in the community makes it considerably easier, because your company has a recognized voice that's used to being heard.
Are there other reasons? Certainly. How about just getting the word out about new products, services, versions, company events, or participation at trade events? News is important to transmit if it's interesting to your market. Overcommunicating can be hazardous to credibility and, worse yet, highly wasteful of PR talent. Lots of tech brands are guilty of running a news release mill. For more on this, read my story here.