For a growing tech company, the path to publicity may seem obvious. You’ve got funding, a working product, landed your first customer, hired an industry veteran, and signed an important partnership agreement. The next step is a full-court media press, right?
Not necessarily. This plan assumes that the media understands the importance of your product or service and that there are reporters who are paying attention. This is not an issue for legacy products and services where there is an existing media infrastructure and general awareness of the landscape. But with so much growth in the tech-influenced space — fintech, proptech, insurtech, agtech, edtech, legaltech, martech, and more — there’s something you need to do before you can expect the media to write about you.
Reporters are busier than ever and have ever broader focuses, but they still have a responsibility to their readers to create content that is on brand and meets expectations. If there are no journalists focused on your field, you must first help reporters and editors understand why they should pay attention so that they lean in when you send them the news you want to promote.
|This article appeared in O’Dwyer’s Nov. ’22 Technology PR Magazine
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For tech companies breaking new ground, there’s often an early period when editors are reluctant to hire a reporter to explore your “cool new thing” simply because there’s no analogue out there. This changes the PR job from pushing the bells and whistles of your product to being the first to educate the media about the broader category and underlying technology, and the challenge or pain point your technology solves. This can be tough work, but without it, your program won’t even get off the ground, let alone produce the kind of results that drive business growth. Here are some components of an effective media education program.
Simplify and clarify
The technology world is constantly coining new terms and phrases to categorize emerging ideas, solutions and models that are often understood by few outside their immediate circle. Instead of relying on the buzzwords that sales and marketing teams have devised, take a step back and think about how you can use real-world language to explain what’s new and different, and why it matters consumers or end users would be interested in. It is often helpful to think about how to explain the technology to your parents or grandparents. This can help you quickly ditch unnecessary jargon from your marketing, get to the heart of the “why” of your technology, and generate real understanding.
Give the media the tools they need
For complex technologies, verbal descriptions can be less than ideal. Instead, think about how you can use different forms of rich media – e.g. A compelling diagram, infographic, video, or animation—to bring your technology to life and quickly communicate the meaning of an abstract concept or innovation. Coupled with visual collateral, analogies, comparisons, or simple use cases can be extremely effective in convincing a reporter that your technology deserves attention.
Even when interest is piqued, additional reassurances may be needed before reporters “get it” and feel confident enough to write. E-book overviews, glossaries of relevant terms, comprehensive FAQs, and relevant data that give a sense of the market for your product or service can all help create a compelling package that educates reporters before anything is officially unveiled becomes.
The Importance of Facetime
Along with collateral material, in-person demonstrations can be key to effectively educating about technology capabilities and offering reporters the opportunity to engage in a deeper dialogue about your innovation than is possible over a phone or video call. Real-time walkthroughs and face-to-face conversations can also help boost relationship building. Better still, if you can offer a reporter a sandboxed version of the product, you can build credibility and let them experience the “Aha!” moment in an organic way.
Socialize your messages
A major advantage that tech companies have today is the ability to leverage social media. Social platforms can be a great way to test messaging out of the spotlight and get direct feedback from a diverse community with different skill levels. It can also be the perfect place for low-risk media interactions as they build knowledge about your product or offering. The less formal setting encourages collaborative dialogue as reporters explore the possibilities of your new technology.
Education starts at home
Educating the media about your customer goes hand-in-hand with educating your customer about the media. Technology that might excite an executive or a product development team doesn’t always translate into a compelling message. A good PR team should retaliate when fed a sales pitch that doesn’t pass the sniff test, when superlatives like “revolutionary” or “groundbreaking” are thrown around, or when an analogy cherished by the founder doesn’t hold true. t stand up to scrutiny. The more companies can demonstrate the value of their technology through customer testimonials, statistics, estimated time savings, or other metrics, the more compelling the story becomes. Getting sales and technology teams to understand what media needs and how they think is a big part of the PR education process.
As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, there’s no shortage of companies vying for media attention and no shortage of PR pros bombarding media in boxes with pitches. By investing the time in educating the media before you start pitching, you’ll build a body of knowledgeable reporters who can write accurate, insightful stories for years to come.
Alex Varney is a director at Stanton.