What is Tech PR?
If you follow the Luminous PR team on social media, you’ll know we spend a lot of time on the road for events and client meetings. This month, we set up camp in the capital all week for London Tech Week.
We attended loads of exciting events across the city and networked with entrepreneurs and professionals from all walks of (business) life. Among the usual networking chat, one question came up more than any other: what exactly is tech PR? Since we live and breathe communications, we take it for granted that everyone is as clued up on the lingo as we are. If you’re not quite sure, or you need a refresher, keep reading: we’re going to attempt to pin down the tricky beast that is tech PR…
Defining tech PR
Before we attempt to define tech PR, let’s just get the ‘PR’ bit figured out first.
PR – short for ‘public relations’ – is the process of informing stakeholders about a brand or organisation. During this process, you also encourage them to form positive opinions about your brand or organisation. What we mean by ‘stakeholders’ is broad: it can mean the general public, prospective customers, investors, employees, partners, and anyone else who might be affected by the organisation.
This goal is achieved by maintaining positive relationships with whichever types of media are favoured by your target audience. For businesses, this is usually in newspapers, magazines, blogs, or broadcast media.
Essentially, PR is about using the media to create a positive reputation for yourself or your organisation. This is where PR differs from marketing and other types of communications. In these disciplines, you are telling the customers about your perks – in PR, the media does it for you.
Anyone can use PR to boost their reputation: businesses, organisations, institutions, public figures, government, non-profit organisations, and more. While some businesses attempt to do their PR themselves, it is a skilled discipline. If you have a solid news story, you can gain some great coverage for yourself but it is generally easier (and more successful) to use a specialist agency.
So, we have the ‘PR’ part down. ‘Tech PR’, then, is the process of using the media to create positive reputations for technology and digital businesses.
Why do tech businesses need PR? As well as general reputation management, tech firms can use PR to overcome a number of tech-specific challenges. For example, communicating innovation to stakeholders, attracting the best talent, and securing investment or award wins.
There are a number of different types of tech PR. Here’s an overview of what they are, as well as when you might use them…
News & press releases
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to try your hand at some tech PR for your business, this is potentially the simplest way to get started. If you have a news-worthy story, there’s nothing stopping you from sending this to your target publications to gain some coverage.
However, there’s a very important caveat to this: it has to be real news. If you’ve invented a new piece of technology that will genuinely improve lives then yes, BBC News may be very interested in your story. If you’ve hired some new staff and expanded your office, they probably won’t care about that. However, that could be the perfect story for your local business news section: still a very valuable media outlet if you’re trying to raise your profile in your local area. Just don’t waste anyone’s time.
If you’re convinced you do have a relevant news story, you’ll need a killer press release to get things started. This should be interesting, informative, and concise. And don’t be coy about it; put the most important facts in the introduction.
Need more information? We like this guide from the Guardian Small Business Network on how to write an effective press release.
Blogger and influencer outreach
While popular culture loves to ridicule ‘social media influencers’, they can be an incredibly valuable asset when it comes to telling your brand story. Just to be clear, an ‘influencer’ refers to someone…
- With 10,000+ followers
- Brands engage with to help promote their products/services/messages
- Who shares information about products they love
- Who is an expert in their field
Though not ‘celebrities’ in the traditional sense, social media influencers and bloggers are very popular (especially among younger audiences) and wield a great deal of selling power.
Influencer outreach is a relatively new PR discipline. It involves collaborating with vloggers, bloggers, or social media personalities to promote your brand to their followers. Clearly, this is only worth doing when an influencer’s followers are also your target customers. For example, a successful tech PR influencer outreach campaign might involve working with bloggers who review apps or digital products, or any specialists in your sector.
It’s worth noting that some influencers will charge for collaboration opportunities. However, there are strict rules in place to ensure they only feature products that are well-suited to their platform.
The million dollar question: does it work? You bet it does. Research from Nielsen found that ROI on influencer outreach is 11 times higher than traditional marketing forms.
Check out our detailed guide to working with influencers for more advice.
Crisis management PR
This is a very specialist category of PR, usually only carried out by experienced professionals.
As the name suggests, crisis management is a type of PR carried out to try to minimise the damage of a negative event. A ‘crisis’ is anything that could have a serious impact on a business: legal issues, supply issues, product flaws, redundancies, mistakes, misconduct, and other scandals.
High-quality crisis management isn’t just reactive; it involves planning a strategy before anything goes wrong. Typically, only larger businesses really need crisis management PR. However, tech firms are not exempt from scandal. Depending on the size of your business and the nature of your industry, crisis management may be an essential part of your tech PR strategy. For more information, try PR Week’s guide to crisis management.
For a lot of tech firms, thought leadership will be the PR approach that yields the best results.
Thought leaders are the ‘influencers’ of the business world: they’re experts in their field, their opinions are trusted and well-respected, and they have a large network of connections. Thought leadership isn’t just for the Richard Bransons and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world: anyone can do it, provided you have something interesting to say.
Generally, a thought leadership tech PR campaign will involve writing feature articles, perhaps exploring how tech can solve a real-world problem. If you’re a confident writer, you can write these articles yourself, or they can be ghost-written by your PR team.
Many – but not all – industry and trade publications will publish top-quality thought leadership features that fit with the news agenda. However, publications can have various criteria to meet, and this style of tech PR does rely on strong existing relationships with the media. Again, it’s possible to do this alone, but you will have much greater success if you work with a specialist tech PR agency.
This is a discipline that’s often overlooked. We understand why: unlike other tech PR methods, it isn’t outward facing. It’s concerned with communicating your brand message and values internally among your team. When budgets are tight, this can seem less important than communicating your message with potential customers via the media. However, we think this is a shame.
Done correctly, internal communications is one of the most valuable investments your business can make. Once your employees have fully internalised your business’s values, they are able to be your fiercest brand ambassadors. Employees are the ones delivering your product and services and interacting face-to-face with your customers. If anyone needs to be well-informed and have a positive opinion of your brand, it’s them.
Although this can feel more like an HR issue, traditional communications channels have a role to play here. Social media can position your business as a vibrant and community-driven place to work, and a well-written email newsletter can keep staff in the loop about company goings-on. Some larger corporations even have their own internal publications or blogs to communicate more effectively with their teams. Whatever you choose, it’s important this is genuine and well-suited to your team.
Don’t be put off by the different media type: broadcast PR works similarly to standard news outreach.
Since TV spots are highly coveted, you will need to have a particularly strong news story to make the cut. Unsurprisingly, it also helps if your tech business has a strong visual angle. For both TV and radio, it will help if your business has a strong or emotive ‘story’. If you have some case studies or users who are willing to appear on camera, that’s even better.
When working with TV or radio teams, be aware that they will have tight deadlines – especially with live features. Be thoroughly prepared before you make contact, and don’t delay. Wasting a journalist’s time can hinder your chances of success for future media appearances.
This isn’t so much a ‘type’ of tech PR, as an approach that incorporates it. This definition of integrated communications is a good place to get started:
Integrated Marketing Communications is a simple concept. It ensures that all forms of communications and messages are carefully linked together.
At its most basic level, Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC, as we’ll call it, means integrating all the promotional tools, so that they work together in harmony…All of these communications tools work better if they work together in harmony rather than in isolation. Their sum is greater than their parts – providing they speak consistently with one voice all the time, every time.
Integrated communications involves applying tech PR as part of a holistic strategy to shout about your brand. As well as one or more types of PR activity, it should also incorporate a great website, captivating social media, and strategic email marketing. This is the approach we favour at Luminous PR: tech PR simply works better when it’s combined with other powerful aspects of comms.
In our opinion, the more seamlessly you can integrate your channels, the better. Every single business communication should be perfectly on-brand, no matter how small it may seem. For a really thorough guide to integrated comms, check out this blog post on integrated comms channels you might’ve overlooked.