After 20 plus years’ experience of running a tech PR agency, I’ve had the opportunity to witness first hand how tech PR can help start-ups build credibility and market presence.
A number of companies we’ve done tech PR for at EML Wildfire have gone on to IPO and then to establish themselves as global market leaders, many have provided investors with financial gain and, unfortunately, some have ultimately failed.
So what have I learned over the years about tech PR for start-ups? Here are seven pointers which will improve the chances of your tech PR campaign being successful.
1. Strong and simple messaging
This may seem like an obvious point, but it still surprises me how many companies don’t do it well. If you can’t explain in a few sentences what differentiates you from the competition, how can you expect the media, customers and investors to understand your value? If you know what you want to say and have clear differentiators then the PR battle is half won. And needless to say, you need to keep pushing the message out there.
2. Get out of stealth mode now
The sooner you go public with your vision, the sooner you start building credibility and establishing a position in the industry. Most start-ups remain in stealth mode for far too long, usually from an irrational fear that their ideas will be stolen by better resourced competitors. This won’t happen. Can you really see a corporation shifting tens or hundreds of R&D engineers from on-going projects to a new focus because a new start-up announces an unproven technology?
3. Know your audience
Your target audience will change as the company and the campaign develop. Initially, an early stage start-up normally wants to reach investors and potential employees, then prospects and customers and finally, possibly potential buyers.
These changes in target audience should be reflected in your tech PR campaign as you grow. Make sure you choose a tech PR agency that understands how the target media, geographical focus and channels to engage the audience will need to evolve with your business. And make sure your tech PR partner can demonstrate an understanding of your technology and your industry
4. Run PR lean
Get your tech PR team to focus on engaging and building relationships with the key influencers that will make a real impact on your audience. And forget long reports and frequent review meetings, just work hard on getting the results that will make a difference.
5. Once you start, don’t stop
The initial kick off launch will get your name out there but if you don’t keep the campaign running the money is largely wasted. Influencing people, building credibility and developing a body of evidence takes time.
In fact a stop-start approach is worse for new companies than for established ones. People are far more sceptical of start-ups and if you go quiet they may well assume that you have gone under.
6. Use every route to reach your audience
Communications have changed dramatically and continue to do so. In the digital age, it is possible to reach the people who can really influence your standing in the industry by a number of routes and not just through the trade media. While journalists remain very influential, there are now many more ways to engage with your audience and you need to use all the appropriate ones. I don’t mean just Twitter and LinkedIn – be prepared to engage directly with bloggers, industry groups and at conferences. Building a community and engaging directly with the people who can influence your success is not a hands-off activity, it will work much more effectively if you are involved.
7. Be ambitious, please
I’m still amazed by the lack of ambition of most start-ups; raising funds or reaching an IPO is too often the height of ambition. Does no one want to be the next Google or Broadcom? Surely your company is going to change the world? Or the sector you have chosen to operate in at the very least. So act like you believe it. Be more than just another company with a neat technology or product and talk about changing the industry you know from the beginning; this will build your thought leadership position, establish your credibility and ensure your PR campaign reaches a wider audience.
While tech PR cannot take all the credit or deserve all the blame for the outcome, we have proven time and time again over the years that a successful campaign can play a big part in accelerating a company’s success and improving its position in the market. So, if you are a technology start-up with belief and passion in your offering, then don’t wait any longer – go for it.