It’s a bit like being a musician. If a tech company can make it in the US then that can be a significant move. However, doing tech PR in the States requires a slightly different approach compared to meeting with UK technology journalists.
Just like any other business to business PR campaign, the US press need hard news or a compelling reason for them to give up their time for you. The ideal is to do a pre-launch tour of a product that has resonance to both global and domestic US markets – particularly the latter.
Before you even start writing the press release, you need to ask yourself why would anyone in the US care about this? If you’re struggling for an answer you’re going to have a hard time pitching.
The reason for the pre-launch is to be able to offer the journalists a tech PR story under embargo for a week or two. The US tech press like to write a unique story to place on the day of the launch – so send them the release on the announcement day and coverage will be much lower.
Allow plenty of time to fix the tour. It will take at least four weeks to set up enough meetings to make it worthwhile. Allow for three to four per day because you have to travel to each meeting and you can be covering a wide area, especially around Boston and the West Coast. Not everyone is based in the city, one person will usually need to drive – so get a car with sat nav!
Traditionally, in terms of tech PR, the real techie journalists are in Boston/New York or San Francisco/San Jose/Bay Area. This is changing now with a hub of analysts and press in Austin, Chicago and Washington. However, the tech PR focus still often remains on the east and west coast.
At the planning stage you must bear in mind public holidays, the geography and the weather. In the US, employees have less holiday allowance than in the UK, so journalists make good use of official holidays with an extra day or two either side.
I know it is stating the obvious but this is a vast country, spanning multiple time zones with little usable public transport. A flight from New York to San Francisco takes on average only half an hour less than flying from London to New York, and crosses it four time zones. So don’t go planning meetings up until 6pm in New York and then another at 8am the next day in San Francisco, at least not if you want to be awake for it.
A colleague in Boston this January experienced temperatures that hit minus Fahrenheit, whereas when I was in New York early in July it was up in the 90s. Go for Spring and Autumn if you can.
As any good tech PR should, make sure you research the journalists and analysts you may be meeting. Some are very technical, others are looking at the bigger picture. Make sure any presentation is not too long and be prepared to cut to the chase quickly – any overruns can have an impact on the next time you try to meet.
Also, while the majority of US press like tech PR stories under embargo, not everyone does. So do the research before you get there.
Running an international tech PR campaign may be hard work, it may be hot/cold, you may have no idea where you are going, but to hear a client say: “My biggest take-away was just how important it is to meet these people face-to-face,” means it is worth it.