You’re driven. This could be your first or your twenty-first tech gig. Maybe you’re a founder, a CEO, a CTO or the next unicorn. Like most business leaders or entrepreneurs, you’ve visited the trenches, probably been down and out, stressed about the next payroll run and your cash flow. Somehow, you miraculously rose from the ashes to fight another day, flying high.
You learned a lot along the way, including scrum, QA, security, the cloud, operational management, inspiring teams, selling your vision and your product, and maybe even the ins and outs of how to negotiate a successful exit. Chances are you even know a bit about public relations and marketing.
But, perhaps you don’t? Take a look at these five signs your tech company is missing the boat on its PR efforts. If you recognize any of these, it’s time to call in a professional.
1. You Measure PR Success by the Number of Press Releases. Metrics around the quantity of wire distributions is pointless and arbitrary for a company looking for rapid growth, increased brand awareness and positive perception. I’m shocked by the number of clients that come to us citing metrics from other PR agencies based on the quantity of press releases put on the wire each month and the number of “pickups secured.”
Let’s be clear: a reposting of a press release is not media coverage and pickups carry zero to nil publicity value. A PR firm cannot “secure” a pickup. Media outlets repost press releases because they lack content and these pickups are not easily discoverable on the web. Simply, pickups are not PR–not in my or any successful technology company’s world.
For smaller and growing companies, the real, measurable impact comes from a targeted pitch from PR pros who know your market and can identify which reporters and bloggers will truly care. Press releases used to be a great search engine optimization (SEO) tool (key takeaway: USED to be). You could link keywords back to your website, and “Voila!,” organic rankings increased. This is absolutely and positively no longer the case. Google’s algorithm changes have eliminated any impact. SEO is not, and never was, PR, and many experts argue SEO is dead, but at least wire releases used to have some positive impact on your overarching marketing strategy.
2. Valuing Traffic Metrics Instead of Perception Analysis. If you’re looking for a major spike in traffic, conversion rates and inbound leads, don’t rely solely on PR. Earned media helps drive more traffic for sure. It also helps companies get funded, become an acquisition target, increase brand awareness, define markets and product categories, hasten the sales cycle and drive thought leadership, among many other things. If you are looking to PR as your only lead engine, you have it wrong. It won’t give you the results you want, and you, your sales team, and your PR team will be disappointed and unhappy.
3. “Publishing” Instead of Engaging on Social Media. Most corporate social media accounts publish instead of engage. Sure, corporate rock stars exist, but most get it wrong, especially in the B2B space. The perfect way to go unnoticed on social media is to be overly promotional, restrict the majority of your interactions to retweets, and refrain from adding anything meaningful to the conversation.
Influencing the influencers is not just about media relations any more. Social is essential, and this remains true for B2B brands. Social content is a reflection of your brand promise, genetics, and thought leadership, as well as a way to drive more leads and a faster sales cycle. Review your feeds and ask yourself, am I REALLY adding value to the conversations that are relevant to my company? Or, are your posts just adding to the cluttered cacophony that is the social web? If the answer is the latter, it’s time to make a change.
4. Irrelevant Mass Emails. If your PR people are sending mass emails without targeted, specific recipient messaging, your brand is suffering. Six years ago, I used to write columns on enterprise mobility and storage for some mainstream pubs. Did I mention that was six years ago? Every day, even today, six years later, I still receive mass emails from PR people to whom I have never spoken, nor communicated with on a one-to-one basis who are pitching companies and markets I never covered at any time.
Uninformed, unfocused, and untargeted emails are a nuisance to overworked, pressured bloggers and journalists with inboxes, voicemails and Twitter accounts brimming with irrelevant spam. That’s why many of them hate PR people. Respect their time, their beat, and their interests by coming prepared and with the answers to their questions. The result will be both positive coverage and respect for your brand and how you do business.
5. You’re Hiding Something. Sometimes the truth hurts. And unfortunately, many companies that hire a PR firm don’t tell the whole truth to their communications pros. You should consider your senior PR person on the same trust level as your therapist and your lawyer. We can’t help you if we don’t know the whole story. If you can’t trust the most senior people at your PR firm with the good, bad, and the ugly, then you have the wrong firm. Think partner, not vendor, when hiring an agency of record. And, by the way, the good ones don’t lie. If they lie or suggest that you lie, turn tail and run.