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Why I’m over the term “tech PR”

As more and more industries face a wave of digital-first challengers, tech PR seems to be on a continued rise.

The underlying assumption to some in the industry seems to be that if your product is tech-based, then you need something called tech PR. Follow this line of thinking as far as you can, and it often leads to an obsession with tech publications and tech reporters too. Well, if tech rules the world now (and many recent articles about Google, Microsoft or Amazon suggest that it does) then surely there should be more of those than ever, right?

Wrong.

In fact, inside the newsrooms and editorial floors of the UK, reporting teams are shrinking. Most journalists are covering multiple beats, often under pressure to deliver nearly a dozen stories a day. What’s more, those stories need to be unique in order to win the SEO battle – meaning that the pressure is on to find unique stories that no one else has written about yet.

So, what does this mean for tech PR?

Here are a few ways to think differently about PR for tech companies:  

  1. Where do you fit in the media agenda?

Look at the wider news agenda. What stories and issues continually grab the attention of the media? In these stories, think about each article as a play with a cast of characters. Most articles will have as a minimum, a hero and a villain. These could be people, organisations, or even more general things like time or budgets. For many media stories, there are also key supporting roles – from a ‘narrator’ who sets the wider context of a debate, to a supportive champion for the hero.

If your organisation often finds itself in the villain position (and hopefully that’s not very often) then this is where crisis communications or proactive issues management can come into play. But in the majority of cases, you will find your organisation can add value to the story as one of this cast of characters. Some organisations can become obsessed with being the hero of their own story – a sort of company-wide ‘main character syndrome’. Taking this view, they may miss opportunities where they would make a valuable cast member. Whether it’s being a consumer champion or market expert, an impartial demonstration of expertise is often an underutilised strategy which comes with its own reputational rewards.

  1. Think beyond tech

As a previous boss of mine used to say, “it’s not just the sausage, it’s the sizzle”. The most exciting part of almost any tech story is the human impact that the tech can achieve. For this, you have an army of allies that you can call on – from your customers or end users, to partners.

Narrowing the focus of your campaign to only tech media might mean missing out on opportunities where you are uniquely placed to add value. After all, the reason there is such a boom in tech companies across all sectors is that almost all industries are going through digital transformation. Even the Vatican has recently undergone a cyber security overhaul to protect some of the world’s oldest Bibles.

For this reason, you won’t always find ‘tech PRs’ solely on the phone to IT trade media or tech journalists. Far from it – they are a bunch of people that have an eclectic set of professional experiences in niche sectors, which makes them uniquely placed to see (and promote) tech in the context of wider issues.

  1. Integrated thinking

Many PR campaigns for tech could see more success by using more integrated thinking. After all, this the digital age.

Some people mistake PR to be press relations when it is public relations. This means your PR strategy needs to be an integrated approach which nurtures your reputation among all your key public audiences. This can include, customers, investors, partners, end users, employees, and local communities where you operate. So, think about using other channels to give your key audiences the right message at the right time. If customers are after product updates, are they more likely to check your blog or email newsletter?

Tech PR is dead, long live tech PR

Although the approach may be different, a strong understanding of tech is key to representing tech (or ‘tech based’) companies. Whether we call this ‘tech PR’ or not is maybe the wrong question to ask. Maybe it’s simply that with almost everything being tech is some way nowadays, companies want to be part of that movement. But no matter how much technology comes to dominate the media, make no mistake – putting impact, humanity, and storytelling at the heart will always be a winning combination.

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