I've been talking with media people tracking various tech sectors for over two decades, and it's very clear there's a huge amount of time and money being wasted on public relations. While some want to debate whether the news (press) release is dead, I suggest there are far greater tech PR problems that can be easily corrected. I discussed the biggest problem, lack of strategy, last year. (See: You May Not Have a Marketing Strategy if… Part One and You May Not Have a Marketing Strategy if… Part Two.)
The problem gets even worse when public relations pros aren't involved in making PR strategy and are just handed something to write a news release about, often at the last minute. Experienced PR professionals, whether they're at your agency or in house, are well worth tapping early in the process to shape and sharpen the story. PR pros should be close to customers' brand perceptions. They can help integrate that understanding into the message development, if they're engaged early.
To do that, they need a seat at the table when strategy is planned, rather than being brought in a few days before information goes public. Don't separate the PR department from where strategy is created, among engineers and product managers. Dumping an announcement or other major information on PR a week or two before your deadline kills a range of valuable strategic PR approaches that can make a huge difference in overall promotional success. PR doesn't stand for Press Release.
Make sure your PR team has its head around your company's strategic direction so it can explain it to media and market research analysts instead of saying, “I'll get back to you on that.” Lost time and media cycles are destructive to PR effectiveness, brand credibility, and media coverage. PR pros are company spokespersons, so appearing ignorant of essential facts certainly doesn't help. Make sure they're completely up to speed on what the company is doing and why. Give them a fighting chance of success at working with the media. It'll make a big difference.
Communicating to the market demands that the value to your direct customers, and perhaps even the end user, be made very clear. If announcements are all specs, speeds, feeds, and acronyms — and don't tell the more important story about how the technology affects people — they will fail. Make it clear how a system OEM design engineer's life will be easier as a result of this new part or component. If that's missing, the tech media will ignore your story. Media people don't have time to guess or call your PR team to ask. If your PR people don't know either, because they haven't been strategically well prepared, you're really sunk.
An effective public relations campaign for high-tech firms requires the engagement of key executives and shouldn't be left only to PR pros. Another way of thinking about this is to understand that public relations isn't like advertising. It has the word “relations” in it, which means directly engaging with and understanding people following your market, including editors, writers, analysts, bloggers, and gurus, as well as customers. You need to know who's who among the key market opinion influencers.
In order to execute effective PR campaigns, you need direct management team involvement. Sometimes the best PR results come from the CEO or head of engineering picking up the phone and having a conversation with an editor, maybe even a few times a year. The PR department can coordinate this, but management involvement can make a big difference in communicating company strategy.
Finally, make your news interesting. If it's boring, not understandable (few editors are graduate EEs), and there's no “wow” factor, why in the world are you issuing an announcement in the first place? Get out there and tell your own story. Let your audience understand what your brand does that's different. If you've got a clear, competitive story, it's likely the media will be interested.
What other challenges and successes in tech PR effectiveness do you see at your company?