For a growing tech company, the path to publicity may seem obvious. You’ve gotten the funding, have a working product, secured your first customer, hired an industry veteran and signed a major partnership agreement. The next step is a full-court media press, right?
Not necessarily. That plan assumes the media understands the significance of your product or service and also assumes there are reporters out there paying attention. This isn’t a concern for legacy products and services where there’s an existing media infrastructure and general awareness of the landscape. But with so much growth in tech-infused everything—fintech, proptech, insurtech, agtech, edtech, legaltech, martech and more—you need to do some work before you can expect the media to write about you.
Reporters are busier than ever and have increasingly wider areas of focus, but they still have a responsibility to their readers to create content that’s on brand and in line with expectations. If there are no journalists focusing on your space, you need to first help reporters and editors understand why they should pay attention so they lean in when you send them the news you’re hoping to promote.
For tech companies breaking new ground, there’s often a period early on when editors may be reluctant to assign a reporter to explore your “cool new thing,” simply because there’s no analog out there in the market. This changes PR’s job from pushing the bells and whistles of your product to first educating media on the broader category and the basic technology, as well as the challenge or pain point your technology is solving. This can be a heavy lift, but without it, your program won’t even get off the ground, much less achieve the type of results that help drive business growth. Here are a few components of an effective media education program.
Simplify and clarify
The technology world is always 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 come up with, take a step back and think about how you can use real-world language to explain what’s new and different and why a consumer or end-user would care. It’s often helpful to consider how you might explain the technology to your parents or grandparents. This can help you quickly shed unnecessary jargon from your marketing, get to the heart of the “why” of your technology and generate real understanding.
Give media the tools they need
For complex technologies, verbal descriptions can be less than ideal. Think instead about how you can use various forms of rich media—such as a compelling chart, an infographic, a video or an animation—to bring your technology to life and quickly communicate the significance of an abstract concept or innovation. In conjunction with visual collateral, analogies, comparisons or simple use cases can be extremely effective in convincing a reporter your technology is worth attention.
Even once interest is piqued, additional collateral may be required before reporters “get it” and feel comfortable enough to write something. E-book overviews, glossaries of relevant terms, a comprehensive FAQ and relevant data that gives a sense of the market for your product or service can all contribute to create a compelling package that educates reporters before anything is formally pitched.
The importance of face time
Alongside collateral, in-person demos can be critical to effective education on technology functionality and provide an opportunity for reporters to engage in a deeper dialogue on your innovation than is possible on a phone or video call. Real-time walkthroughs and face-to-face conversations can also help kick-start relationship building. Better yet, if you can offer a reporter a sandbox version of the product, you can build credibility and let them experience the “Aha!” moment in an organic way.
Socialize your messaging
One big advantage tech firms have today is the ability to leverage social media. Social platforms can be a great way to test messaging outside of the spotlight, getting direct feedback from a diverse community with varying knowledge levels. It can also be the perfect venue for low-risk media interactions as they build knowledge of your product or offering. The less formal setting is conducive to collaborative dialogue as reporters explore the possibilities of your new technology.
Education begins at home
Educating media about your client goes hand in hand with educating your client about the media. Technology that might excite an executive or a product development team may not always translate into a compelling news story. A good PR team should push back when they’re fed a sales pitch that doesn’t pass the smell test, when superlatives such as “revolutionary” or “game-changing” are thrown around or when an analogy cherished by the founder doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The more companies can prove the value of their technology through customer testimonials, statistics, estimated time saved or other metrics, the more convincing the story will be. Getting sales and technology teams to understand what media need and how they think is a big part of the PR education process.
With technology continuing to advance at a breakneck pace there is 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 begin pitching them, you’ll build a cohort of more knowledgeable reporters who will be able to write accurate, insightful stories for years to come.
Alex Varney is a Director at Stanton.
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