Technology marketers often struggle to understand how, when, and where #PR factors into their company’s marketing program. That’s why we’ve been running a series of blogs that examines everything and anything #tech PR. So far we’ve looked at different types of PR firms, and how to choose the firm that’s right for your company. In this blog we’ll focus on how best to use a firm once you’ve hired them.
I recently spoke with Nadia Gonzalez, the Head of Marketing for Orchard Platform, the leading technology and data provider for marketplace lending that helps loan originators and institutional investors connect and transact. Gonzalez has a unique perspective on how companies can leverage PR to make the most of the assets at their disposal, increase sales, and elevate their reputation’s as industry thought leaders – and you’re not going to want to miss what she has to say.
Timing is everything
Regardless of which type of firm is right for the needs of your business, you should not hire them until your company is ready to publicly announce itself. The goal of PR is to bring attention to either your product or your company. To do so, your company needs a strong foundation of marketing content. This is the foundation of any successful PR campaign. No one is going to pay attention to your company if there’s just empty space behind the curtain.
Sometimes, companies put the proverbial cart before the horse and employ a PR firm before they’re ready to announce themselves to the market. To avoid falling into that camp, Gonzalez recommends that companies first assess what mode they are in. If you’re in a building, or stealth mode, and you’re refining your product without an imminent time frame for release, it’s best to wait on the PR. Otherwise, you’re asking a PR firm to pitch possibility rather than reality.
According to Gonzalez, PR should really only start about six months prior to a product launch. During this lead-up phase, PR should focus on planting seeds with reporters, both in terms of what the product will do and why your company is a reliable and insightful thought leader.
Gonzalez and I agree that one of the most fundamental aspects of successful PR is that it is predicated on building lasting relationships. It may sound trite, but in truth, PR cannot function if reporters don’t trust your company. Reporters are barraged by scores of press releases and announcements everyday. They will only turn their attention to you if you have done the necessary legwork to forge bonds that extend beyond mere product promotion. As Gonzalez put it, “you have to be able to tell reporters: ‘here are things we have to say to make you smarter.’” You need a PR firm that has existing relationships with many reporters, and that has those reporters’ respect.
PR firms should be responsible for relationship management and reporter cultivation on behalf of your company. That means knowing (and cataloguing) every reporter who is on a beat, who has dropped off, and which bloggers will be the most receptive to certain topics. PR firms should be keeping tabs on these relationships for you so that your in-house marketing team can create content those journalists will value. The key is to have lasting relationships and to keep those relationships warm through frequent outreach at all levels. Your PR firm should not be the gatekeeper to those relationships, but rather the facilitator. Think of them as the host of a party that deftly lines up the right people with one another.
Gonzalez rightly pointed out that this should not entail companies turning over all relationship management to outside PR firms. A company should handle any incoming PR request itself and should know if and when anyone in the company is speaking with the media. Directing every incoming request to a PR firm is inefficient and can steer your business off-message. Part of your internal PR management includes managing your relationship with the PR firm itself. Gonzalez, for example, has weekly phone check-ins with Orchard’s PR firm, and almost daily email follow-ups.
I mentioned this earlier, but foremost, quality PR is founded on quality content. Gonzalez emphasized this throughout our conversation. I cannot reiterate enough: captivating and educational in-house marketing must be created before ever rolling out PR. Reporters are looking for insider analysis, and the best PR begins by proving that your company knows what it’s talking about. Begging reporters with pitches won’t work.
Marketing and PR go hand-in-hand, but this isn’t a chicken or the egg scenario: the marketing must come first. So if you want to know how to get the most out of a PR firm, timeliness, relationship building, and project management are all crucial. But quality content must come first.
Become PR-ready with quality content creation
Head of Marketing, Orchard Platform
Nadia has a track record of leading marketing teams that grow technology startups into differentiated global players. At Admeld she ran international marketing, PR, and global events — as employee 5 she also had a hand in growing the brand and company culture until it’s acquisition by Google in December of 2011. At Google she joined the Partner Business Solutions group where she was the lead product marketing manager for DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP). She then led North American marketing efforts for Sociomantic Labs, which was acquired by dunnhumby, a Tesco company, in April of 2014. Nadia graduated from the University of California, Berkeley where she studied Social Welfare and Business Administration. Go Bears.
Check out the rest of the blog series: