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How effective PR can be a game changer for tech startups in 2020?


Bill Gates famously said that “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR.”

Every tech company has a story to tell and people to reach. But not all stories travel equally far. Effective communication defines success and failure.

In a dynamic field like the tech industry, innovation is cheap: New ideas, services, and products come and go on a seemingly daily basis. In this environment, for your story to reach the right ears, and for your product to succeed, effective public relations is key.

Today, PR in tech is not what it was 10 years or even five years ago. A multitude of new communication channels, from social media to video streams to in-app advertisements present brands with a tremendous opportunity to reach out to the people that matter.

The ongoing paradigm shift away from conventional, established modes of brand communication necessitates new strategies and new approaches. Conventional modes of communication–press releases, newspaper ads, and TV placements– still have their place.

But for emerging startups poised for future leadership, today’s PR challenges require non-conventional solutions and the assistance of modern, digital native PR agencies.

What does PR offer tech companies

The success of a strong PR strategy can be tracked in terms of measurable KPIs such as digital audience engagement and critical response.

All of this in a way correlates to increased sales figures and less tangible– yet equally important– outcomes, such as greater audience awareness and a positive reputation.

How can a modern PR firm deliver these results? Let’s take a look at some key strategies that today’s PR firms successfully deploy

Tech events: Moving beyond the press release

In earlier years, annual tech events such as CES, MWC, and E3 served a discrete, standalone function. They provided tech companies with platforms to announce new products and services.

Tech events used to be product-focused: conventional PR firms would play a limited role, disseminating press releases and complementary information on the product to journalists in the field. This would result in event and product-specific hype that would typically dissipate after the event.

This placed a further burden on brands and PR firms to rekindle interest in the product around the actual launch.

Of late, however, tech events have transformed into key points of interest in and of themselves. By leveraging social media and influencer outreach, modern PR firms extend awareness significantly before and after tech events.

Apple’s annual iPhone event is a case in point. Over the past few years, Cupertino’s iPhone showcase has transformed from a hot piece of September news into a year-long talking point, reaching a final crescendo at the actual keynote address.

Through consistent stakeholder engagement, modern PR companies are able to keep people talking about an event, focusing attention on a product throughout its lifecycle.

Influencer outreach: charting unexplored territory

Traditionally, tech journalists from large, well-established publications were the primary points of contact for PR agencies handling tech portfolios. The objective was to secure favorable big-name reviews, lending the publication’s credibility to the tech product.

While critical reviews continue to hold a key position in overall PR strategies, modern PR firms recognise that a multitude of other influencers command as much, if not considerably more influence with the buying audience.

A handful of top-tier tech publications, with Alexa 10K websites and widely circulated print editions, command considerable audiences.

However, hundreds of thousands of smaller influencers garner the attention of tens of millions of potential buyers. These micro-influencers tend to be online-exclusive and adopt unconventional platforms like Snapchat and Instagram to promote tech products.

Because their audiences are smaller, engagement tends to be more personalized. Audiences identify closely with micro-influencers and consider their advice as valid or even more so than corporate promotions and high-end reviews.

Micro-influencer audiences also tend to be more focused: a great example is a vernacular language YouTube tech reviewers. Engaging with them allows brands to quite literally speak the audience’s language.

Recognizing the importance of smaller players, today’s PR firms invest considerable effort towards nurturing relations with a wide range of micro-influencers. For tech firms, this translates directly into sales growth and the development of entirely new audiences for their products.

Message complexity: Getting past the jargon

For any product to succeed, your audience needs to understand why it’s needed. In an industry like tech, subject matter experts themselves are frequently confounded by complexity– consider semiconductor engineers who have to contend with quantum physics.

In this environment, breaking down your messaging and making it accessible to the widest possible audience becomes critical to success.

Today, PR firms are themselves tech-savvy. A synergy between technical SMEs and communication experts at the PR firms ensures that your message becomes accessible to the widest possible audience. Consider Tidal, for instance. The service offers lossless, 24-bit, 96 kHz audio streams.

What does that mean to the average smartphone user?

The company’s #TidalForAll campaign consolidates an extremely technical offering into something any user can understand: the claim that Tidal marks the “beginning of a new era” in audio. A campaign that focused on YouTube, a platform where many users access low-quality, free audio, reached precisely the audience that would benefit the most from Tidal’s product offering.

As technology becomes more and more complex, PR becomes an increasingly essential aspect of any tech company’s overall strategy.

From reducing message complexity to reaching out to the right people to addressing untapped audiences and platforms, modern PR agencies can help tech firms stay afloat in an industry that is changing by the day.

This article was first published on e27, Jan 7, 2020.