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Working in technology PR: hunting for headlines in HTML

Posted by Eleanor Dobson on 20th September 2011

When explaining to people that I work in technology PR, I’ve often been greeted by blank looks. Not only do many lack familiarity with what ‘doing PR’ means, but how do you PR technology? Isn’t PR for celebrities and politicians? And what exactly falls under the ‘technology PR’ remit anyway?

For those trying to fathom the above with a view to making it a career, grasping an overview shouldn’t be too challenging but it can be difficult to translate this into a day-to-day reality until you’ve had an opportunity for hands-on experience. This article lays out some key aspects of working in technology PR worth considering.

Beyond the whizzy gadgets

These days most people are victim to the magpie-effect of shiny gadgets, but to work in the technology PR industry long-term you need enough inquisition to appreciate the inner-workings of all sorts of different products and concepts. Onlookers to the technology PR industry often assume ‘technology’ just means hardware, specifically electronics, but our clients cover a broad spectrum including software, mechanical engineering and even services too.

Sometimes we’re talking about the application of technologies into end user systems and devices, but other times we’re explaining the semiconductor chips working away behind the scenes. And it’s not just the type of thing that will one day sit on the shelves of a retailer near you, much of what we do is business-to-business technology PR – the type of thing that may be less impressive to relay down the pub, but is exciting to us tech PR bods none the less.

From geek to chic

While an interest in technology is essential, in-depth knowledge is less so – particularly when starting-out. As PR officers we’re not expected to be as tech-wise as the engineers, programmers and developers that we work with but you do have to be able to communicate effectively with them and distinguish the headlines from the HTML. A lot of the work we do comes down to translation: interpreting technologies and their applications from those that make them, in order to communicate them in a way that is accessible to all kinds of different audiences.

Sift through the EML Wildfire team’s CVs and it’s clear that people come into technology PR from all backgrounds. There is plenty of opportunity for those without a tech background, and this also makes for a dynamic working environment with a stimulating mix of contrasting skills and personalities.

It’s not all smartphones and schmoozing

This is a fast-paced industry, it’s competitive and high-pressured, and you have to be prepared to work hard. In the same vein though, the unrivalled pace keeps it fresh and exciting, while the pressure and competition mean it can be immensely satisfying and full of opportunity. We certainly have our fair share of industry events too, which can be great for broadening your personal network as well as establishing those all-important media relationships. The technology press and PR social scene has grown considerably over recent years and, particularly with the help of social media as well as the increasingly frequent industry gatherings (usually underpinned by sponsored liquor), relationship building is arguably more important than ever in what has become a huge, yet insular group of tech hacks and flacks.

Put down the biscuits

Working in such an intense and dynamic environment can quickly catalyse an interest in the job to develop into a real passion. Certainly at EML Wildfire we’re not just here to bring home the bacon, our culture centres around a team that genuinely loves the job and wouldn’t think twice about putting-in what other industries might consider an ‘extra mile’. Such passion isn’t without pitfalls though, and it’s widely agreed that there will always be at least one client that really gets to you somewhere down the line. When you work in an agency and therefore have multiple clients, it’s natural that you feel more drawn to some than others. Some will be a pleasure to work with; others will have the most interesting technologies; one will consistently provide delicious biscuits during meetings. For whatever reason, sooner or later it’s common to develop a sense of personal involvement in their fate, and it can be challenging to maintain a certain level of detachment for the sake of your collective client base (not to mention your own sanity!).

The inflation of innovation

Technology is arguably one of the biggest growth industries, which means it has real promise as a long-term career choice. Interest in cutting-edge technologies has become mainstream and it’s now not unusual to see tech stories hitting the front pages of the nationals. Technology has come to influence almost every aspect of our lives, and with growing affection for it in the wider world the technology PR opportunities grow too. We’re even on the cusp of the consumerisation of business technologies, adding wider dimensions to this previously niche area.

Working in an industry built on innovation is inspiring. Our clients are constantly pushing the boundaries of our expectations, and such dynamism should be reflected and applied in developing fresh technology PR campaigns. There is no room for complacency in technology, and nor is there in long-term technology PR strategies, so the two are driving each other along at lightening speed. If you can keep up, it’s a great path to follow.

picture credit

Eleanor Dobson