Avoid These Common Tech PR Fails

Nothing upsets a PR more than seeing ambitious tech companies waste their valuable news opportunities.

For most companies, particularly SMEs, real ‘news’ opportunities are a rarity, coming along once or maybe twice a year at the very most – so they really should be coveted, and optimised to the max. 

Publishing company news is among the most important external communications a company can make. Survey after survey shows that even in a world of declining social returns, company news still attracts strong social media traction and positive responses. In addition to this, industry surveys also point to the fact that the media retains a very strong influence on C-level purchase decision makers, ranking alongside peer word-of-mouth in terms of being a key third party reference point.  

These are very real benefits, so when an opportunity for real news comes up, it shouldn’t be squandered. Instead, your news opportunities should be identified and planned for, and form the spine of your communications plan. Built up over time, news stories on media and other sites will dramatically increase your SEO, strengthen your digital footprint, and build your credibility.

Here are some of the ways that many small tech companies react when faced with real news opportunities:

1. Do nothing

This is the most common: doing nothing. 

This can be because companies don’t recognise the true news value of their milestones, or they are simply overtaken by other events. The net result: a valuable opportunity to tell your story  withers on the vine. 

The best way to overcome this is to appoint a  person to the PR task – either from inside the management team, and/or by outsourcing. Make sure the individual  really ‘gets’ PR and its unique long-term value to your firm. 

Weekly or fortnightly updates will ensure that every opportunity is identified, planned for and acted on appropriately.

2. Write a press release - but don’t send it out

Surprisingly, this is also common. In order to reach your audience, your press release first requires an editor or journalist to read it, act on it and report it. Surprisingly, some firms write a press release, publish on their website, and then  make no further effort to distribute, communicate or ‘sell’ it to the key writers in their trade media.

Getting your news published is a competitive pro-active task, requiring research, pitches, and follow up calls – and getting any news published without some or all of these steps is highly unusual.

3. Issue a press release - but don’t research the journalist audience properly

The core journalist audience for every tech company is usually no more than a handful of individuals in a small number of publications. 

I recently saw a PR firm offering '50,000 publications' and '150,000 journalists' in '80+ countries'. Really? It sounds impressive, but to be honest, it's not really much use. The real trick for your PR is to whittle your media down to the influential handful, who will read your release, become familiar with your firm, and hopefully publish your story where you want it to be seen. Those are the people you want to contact. Not 150,000 names on a database somewhere.

4. Allow a third party to claim their news

This frequently happens to tech SMEs, particularly where funding bodies or government support agencies are concerned. I have seen some extremely newsworthy firms reduced to no more than a namecheck in a list of other firms, as a government body makes a tech firm's success and innovation about themselves, and claims the media as a result. 

This is fine occasionally, but in general, if you are going to be in a news story, make it about you and your success, rather than making up the numbers in someone else’s announcement. Take centre stage.

5. Send out important news at a trade show

On the face of it, this looks like a great idea: after all, the industry journalists gathered together in one place looking for stories. Great, except many other firms will be doing exactly the same, many of them bigger than you, so you are very likely to be lost in the background noise.  Do you really want to compete with Verizon or Microsoft?  The bigger the show, the more likely this is to happen.

For trade shows, I always go for ‘previewing’ instead. It is true that many trade journalists gather at shows, so it makes sense to make use of a trade show’s press office, who will issue your announcement and make sure it makes its way into press packs.  However, release it as a ‘preview’: that way you can offer journalists the ‘exclusivity’ of an early look, while reserving the launch at a time that you can resource it properly, and when you have the floor to yourself.

PR is about recognising your company news opportunities for what they are, being prepared, and sweating them to make the most of them. To a professional PR, none of this is rocket science. But it does take preparation, research, and concerted effort to get the best result possible for your firm. In return though, you get profile, publicity for your firm and its products, validation, increased reach, a much improved SEO, and a credible addition to your firm’s digital footprint.

No other communications activity offers returns like these for the effort and outlay. And over time, you can build a proper, credible story, tracked and validated in your industry media.   For more information on how to take full advantage of your media opportunities, contact me here.