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PR Is a Top Tech Management Function

Successfully building a company's public awareness and establishing its credibility is a task that should involve every key member of management. Whatever your title — CEO, General Manager, Product Manager, Director or VP Marketing, or VP Engineering — public relations needs to be as important an element of your work as forecasting, budget control, hiring, sales, or product development. Yes, it's that important.

Every company is doing public relations. It may be a conscious or unconscious effort, and it may be happening with or without any planning or management participation, but, like cell division, it is occurring constantly. If it's allowed to happen on its own, it may take the form of negative attention, or simply no attention at all.

Consider the company whose product manager receives an emailed questionnaire from an editor at a key publication requesting information for an upcoming article that would include all the players in the company's market segment. If management's attention isn't on public relations, the chances are the questionnaire will never get completed or returned, and the opportunity will be lost. Someone will read the article and wonder why the company wasn't included.

Timely reaction to opportunities is only half the story. Management neglect in the PR arena is most obvious in the lack of planning. Without it, an important introduction, or other significant business news, may be missed or ignored by the target media, limiting the company's ability to create demand for its products or services. Advanced planning input from management is an essential part of a successful public relations program. PR is a strategic tool, not an occasional tactic. Too often, management thinks PR stands for press release, so the media handlers are brought in at the last minute, rather than when strategy is being discussed. “PR in about a minute” doesn’t pay off.

Management must be willing to support and participate in planning and scheduling public relations actions. PR managers must get involved in top-level decision-making, or at least be made aware from the beginning. PR isn't nearly as effective when its tools are used only to react to events as or after they occur. As a long-term effort starting with personal contact, public relations is more than proven as cost-effective.

Great examples of management that's fully-engaged in public relations and key speaking roles abound. Apple Inc.'s Steve Jobs is only the tip of that company's public relations arrow. But you don't have to be Steve to be effective. Think about your segment of the tech industry. Aren't there execs who speak for their company and often for the entire market? That's management involvement in public relations. The result of this is that their brands receive more than their share-of-voice. Ultimately, greater share-of-voice results in increased share-of-mind and nets larger share-of-market.

Establishing good personal contacts by company managers at various levels is accomplished particularly in the tech sector by meeting with key market research analysts, publication editors, and other “industry influencers” at least annually. Major trade conferences can be a good opportunity if your company isn't located close to these important people. The rest of the year, constant communication should occur with the press by phone, by email, and even by personal letters, as well as the over-used tactic of news releases. Today, tech management can easily and broadly engage its market by blogging on relevant topics and creating a dialog directly with prospects and customers.

Ongoing contact with the press and maintaining a flow of corporate or product publicity is obviously part of the PR pro’s job. But senior and middle managers who actively and consistently participate in the PR process, even in when the news is bad, will find a much more available audience for their company's messages in the good times. Ask top industry influencers covering your business sector to meet or teleconference on a “background basis.” Assume no story will result, but that follow-up contact by the PR team may yield important coverage if you present your business or technology story in a way that relates to major industry trends or issues. This usually takes some planning.

If nothing else, being accessible to reporters, bloggers, writers, and research analysts tracking your technology builds relationships, gets the company “on their radar,” and encourages them to contact you, rather than your competitors, for information when they're writing about your market or product category. Consistently doing PR well can be an important competitive marketing edge.

Your public relations manager or agency account exec can help by inviting the press, initiating and coordinating contact, and, most importantly, getting managers prepared with newsworthy things to discuss. But it's top management that the media, particularly the business media, wants to quote, not your PR person. Tech management needs to be in the game.

11 comments on “PR Is a Top Tech Management Function

  1. Anand
    July 6, 2011

    Ongoing contact with the press and maintaining a flow of corporate or product publicity is obviously part of the PR pro’s job

    Ford,

     Thanks for the post. Do you think in this era of Twitter/Facebook, PR's job has become bit easy ? Because they can always keep in touch with media/public through social sites.

  2. Daniel
    July 6, 2011

    Ford, you are right. Upholding name and fame is always important in business world. Reputation matters very much and the key interaction points from office (PRO, Business VP, CEO etc) to the outside world are responsible for this. I think social networking medias like twitter or Facebook can up hold this values, but most of the time negative news are spread much faster than the positive one.

  3. Taimoor Zubar
    July 6, 2011

    I think executives have to play a dual role when it comes to managing PR and both of these roles are equally important. The first is obviously to collaborate with journalists and reporters to provide information and ensure that the company's name and image is present amongst articles, reviews and other platforms.

    The second role is to keep a look out for the negative press being circulated about the company in public and to answer the questions and concerns being raised. This also involves preventing the negative news from spreading across.

  4. saranyatil
    July 6, 2011

    PR Is the most important managemnet for any organzation. In todays Volatile market having a good public relation plan is very important than not having one especially todays consumers are so skeptical about the advertisements, products and the issues . PR is just not dealing with Media its far more than that.

    Public relation may be a tedious or a difficult one but its always fun to be a PR. When we know that people learn a lot more and gain lot of information. How much they are going to put it to action is secondary.We leave them with a thought at the end . that where the difference is.

  5. Ford Kanzler
    July 6, 2011

    Saranyatil – Suggest its perhaps not management's “most” important area but it should be balanced with their many other activities. During my career I've too often seen the company spokeperson role at best delegated or ignorred as superfluous by management. Brand value and perception suffers. Top or middle management's involvement needs to be the voice and face of the company. It can't all be left up to the in-house or agencyPR team. Stakeholders want and need to hear from those running the business. Close cooperation especially between Marketing management and PR is essential. This is the focus of my upcoming book, “Connecting the Mind and Voice of Business” – http://www.prsavvy.com/book.php

  6. Ford Kanzler
    July 6, 2011

    Ananadvy – I beieve the PR pro's job has become more difficult and may be more stressful with the arrival of social media engagement. It requires more time and attention, including aspects of measurement. It can become a complete distraction to the detriment of all other PR activities. Company manageres can participate in socual media engagement when appropriate. More effectively, people throughout an organization can be trained and responsible for connecting with customers and others via social media to build far stronger ties to their user communities. Social media is an effective PR tactic for some organizations. It can be guided by PR but not necessarily be only executed by PR pros. There are many other content experts within in an organization who should be involved as listeners and company voices. Social media engagement can help break down siloed organizational behavior.

  7. saranyatil
    July 7, 2011

    Ford ,

    Catchy title, i went through the gist the idea is very intersting.

  8. FLYINGSCOT
    July 7, 2011

    You make some interesting points in your article.  I believe the appropriate amount of PR depends on the business your company is in.   Some companies need the hype to continue selling products but others can quite happily grow without too much PR activity. As for who needs to be involved in PR, this also needs careful consideration.  Not every employee should be in front of the media as the company's key message needs to be presented clearly, concisely and uniformly. It is unreasonable to train every employee to handle media questions which is why most companies leave PR to the selected few.

  9. Ford Kanzler
    July 7, 2011

    Hi Scott – Suggest the amount of PR depends on the size of the company, its competitive environment, management's perspective on its use, available budget and several other factors. Companies can survive and grow without an active PR program, just as they can with inadequate engineering support, space, funding or other critical needs. I'd ask how much more successful they could be WITH effective publicity and the resulting increased awareness and credibility. Also, I wasn't suggesting every employee needs to or should be engaged in social media interactions. That's not likely a realistic scenario at any company. However, I do suggest that social media engagement not be restricted to only PR team members. There's far more talent, wisdom, and time available from many others in an organization.

  10. stochastic excursion
    July 7, 2011

    Company leadership has to be engaged with PR on many levels.  Image can be an influence in decision-making about corporate practices.  Ultimately however the principle has to be applied of not doing what's popular but doing what's right.  Beyond sound judgment in leading the company, PR professionals are important to have on hand.  Someone to call editors and media contacts on a regular basis and push for positive coverage, send the gift baskets, etc. can be a real plus for an organization.

  11. Ford Kanzler
    July 7, 2011

    You're right that PR pros can and should be the conscience of a business by considering the long-term consequences of company actions on corporate reputation. Business success is driven by the market's brand perceptions at as well as by the products being offered. Additional values PR people bring are driving the PR program by constantly uncovering and creating opportunities for management to speak, write and act in ways that positively affect market awareness. Creating and maintaining media and market research and/or financial analyst relations are a significant part of tech PR practice and an area where close cooperation between the management team and PR is required. Each needs the other for success. However, sending out gift baskets to the media went out with the use of FAX machines a couple of decades ago for most PR pros working in North America. Perhaps its still done elsewhere. Gifting media people isn't an acceptable practice, particularly among tech media people. Letting them know you're reading their content and providing them with useful news, story ideas and sources are really all they want to receive from public relations pros.

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