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When I was an AE….

Posted by Debby Penton on 15th November 2011

The changing role of a technology PR exec and the potential impact on a client’s organisation means I’m increasingly finding myself wishing I could be an account executive again, but in 2011 instead of 1997.  The job an AE has to perform has changed enormously over the last 10-15 years, so I thought it might be worth taking a look at what is different…

What’s better?

In some respects, the job of an AE has got a lot easier – mainly due to technology: the internet, email and online tools that enable the automation of many admin tasks.

Long gone are the days of faxing or posting press releases, or calling up publications at the start of the year to ask them to fax you their forward features list for the coming months, so you could go through and manually create a features calendar for each client.

Mediadisk existed mainly in paper volumes and a series of floppy discs if you were lucky, so creating a press list was an arduous job.

And I doubt anyone misses the rulers, scalpels and spray mount required to calculate AVE and paste up cuttings books.

What’s not?

But in many ways the job is a lot harder now.  Press tours around all the publication houses used to be the best way to introduce a new client to the media in tech PR.  Even without any news, journalists were only too happy to meet up with a visiting CEO.  Now, they can find everything they need on the internet, so these fact finding meetings, which generally led to coverage, are pretty much a thing of the past.

Most execs (or AMs) these days can hardly believe that, pre-internet, a standard way to introduce a client to the media was to undertake a mass postal mailing of a client press pack and company overview to hundreds of unsuspecting journalists.

However, with all these tools, our expectations of execs are now so much higher.  The majority of AEs are expected to research, pitch, report, write, blog, interview, tweet, analyse, engage as well as use a whole assortment of tools, media databases, press release distribution services, analytics etc.

So, why is being an AE better in 2011?

The reason I think it’s so exciting to be an AE these days, despite being at the bottom of the PR pecking order, is that you are less bogged down with manual admin and instead are freed up to make a real difference to your clients’ business.

Instead of looking backwards and photocopying books of old coverage, PR is now happening more in real-time.  And we can track it and watch it spread.

We are guiding our clients in how to use PR to build awareness and visibility on the internet.  We are helping our clients blog and Tweet and spot opportunities for them to engage online and build their influence.  And we watch while the press coverage we are generating drives traffic to their website and hopefully converts to sales.

Never has PR been more exciting, and our AEs, often the most digitally-savvy amongst us, are helping drive this forward.

The differences at a glance

Then

Now

Faxing and posting of press releases; case studies loaded onto a floppy disc, clearly labelled Thank God for email!
AVE Google analytics & web traffic
Faxed features lists Response Source, Gorkana
Physical paper clippings through the post Scanned, emailed clippings
Press pack mailings The internet!
Transparencies (trannies) and printed photos all labelled up clearly and popped in the post jpegs and gifs
28 paper copy volumes of media lists, with updates posted to you each month Gorkana, Vocus, Cision, Features Exec

So where do we see the future going?  How will we see the role of a tech PR account executive in the next ten years? I’d love to know what you think and whether the job is better now.

Debby Penton

Motivated, competitive and highly experienced, Debby drives excellence across the agency and leads by example, going the extra mile to create stand-out campaigns and a dynamic agency culture. Debby champions a new breed of PR that meets the evolving communication needs of today’s tech companies.

  • I’ve got to say by the sounds of things, I’m almost not sure why you lot bothered staying in PR in the past – it sounds rubbish. Then again, I guess you did get the dotcom boom while we clack along through recession so perhaps it’s swings and roundabouts!