These are stellar days for those of us working in the local tech sector.
The Bristol/Bath cluster is now recognised as the largest outside of London, employing over 61,000 people in our part of the world.
Nationally things are pretty healthy as well, with the country’s digital economy tipped to be worth an impressive £221bn by next year.
As the tech sector continues to grow, so too will opportunities for related PR and media exposure. After all, what startup doesn’t want to shout out about its success and attract more users and investors?
“If you can’t accurately communicate what you do within 10 – 12 seconds, the chances are a journalist won’t get what you do either”
But before you begin talking to the media, you need to hone your message and identify what you’re trying to achieve.
Rather than stumble your way through a media campaign, think about what you’re saying and how you should be saying it.
Identify who you should be approaching and talking to. There are a lot of journalists around – while some will be perfect for you to talk to, others will be a complete waste of time.
Exactly what is your story?
Cut through the waffle and craft your own elevator pitch.
If you can’t accurately communicate what you do within 10 – 12 seconds, the chances are a journalist won’t get what you do either. Think about the key messages you want communicated together with your USPs.
Who’s on your ‘media wish list’?
Putting aside national newspapers, what trade titles and blogs are your (future) clients and customers reading – and hence you need to appear in?
The content of your wish list will ultimately be determined by what you do – are you a B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) offering?
What media assets do you already have?
Do some housekeeping and collect suitable videos, images, logos and pictures. It’s also important to unearth independent reports, studies and/or statistics from reputable organisations that help support your key messages.
“A quick read through newspapers will emphasise how journalists love case studies – they bring a human face to a story and help lift it off the page”
Your most valuable media asset is likely to be your clients – how they’re using your clever bit of tech to solve a pre-existing problem and hence change their lives and/or save money and time.
Be warned that collating then takes time and money – but case studies generally play a central role in a PR strategy.
How much can you afford?
For the cost-conscious, it is possible to run your own media/PR campaign – but the results will be heavily dependent on the skills and experiences of your employees.
Regardless of whether you do it in-house or bring in outside help, it’s essential to understand that PR isn’t a precise science.
Treat with extreme scepticism anyone guaranteeing coverage. With the exception of the likes of Apple, the only way to guarantee coverage is via an advertisement – and national newspaper rate cards aren’t cheap.
Can I make the front page of the FT?
Unless you have a truly revolutionary new app, product or service, the uncomfortable reality is it’s unlikely you’ll make the front page of the FT, The Times, the BBC homepage, and so on.
“Choosing the right agency to work with is crucial. Ask friends and colleagues about their experiences”
However, with the right approach a journalist may well be interested in mentioning or quoting you in a ‘bigger picture’ story they’re writing – or mark you down as someone to keep an eye on for a future story.
But while you’re busy chipping away at national coverage, simultaneously approach trade magazines and blogs with (non-advertorial) opinion pieces as these will generate media noise and buzz about your brand and product.
Choosing the right agency to work with is crucial. Ask friends and colleagues about their experiences.
When you’re talking to agencies, they should at a minimum be informed, enthusiastic and display some knowledge about the sector you work in, your competitors and key titles and blogs.
Do some homework and look at the sort of coverage they’ve recently achieved – and decide whether it’s the sort that you’re after.
Find out exactly whom you’ll be working with – it’s common practice for an account to be won by a seasoned ‘grown up’ before being passed onto a cheaper, less experienced junior.
And while it isn’t essential to have worked as a journalist to be good at PR, it’s a definite advantage. Former journalists tend to outperform because of the individual contacts they have and their wider knowledge of how newsrooms work and what journalists are seeking in a story.
Kevin Maxwell is the co-founder of Bath-based Maxwell Communications. After two decades running TV newsrooms, he moved into PR/media relations five years ago and has since worked with companies ranging from established firms like Nominet Trust, Mozilla, Zipcar, Transferwise and PeoplePerHour – to local companies including Opposable Games, StoreNextDoor and Brightpearl.
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