In many ways, social media has turned an old adage on its head: impatience now seems to be a virtue. Instant fame, or at least instant notoriety, is just a few tweets or scandalous photos away for those who want it. And there’s pressure on new businesses to achieve this same type of instantaneous success. That’s why it’s understandable that companies who get an infusion of VC capital or are rushing to market with a product, are tempted to jump into a #PR campaign immediately. But too often, this is a costly mistake. A little patience can save a lot of money in the long run.
PR is like a plant – you have to nurture its roots in order for it to grow and prosper. The roots of good PR are quality content and messaging. PR is about delivering the marketing messages you’ve created and then tracking activity around them — it’s not about creating the messages in the first place. If you don’t do the foundational work first, your PR strategy won’t blossom.
We’ve covered many angles of PR for tech firms in our ongoing blog series. This blog is based on a conversation I had with Christine Puccio, Director of Global ISV Business Development at Red Hat. Puccio has honed her craft through years of experience as a tech product marketing manager. Here’s her advice on how to do PR the right way.
Build Your Own Sandcastles
Puccio echoed a point I’ve heard time and time again when discussing this topic with PR experts: there’s no point in doing PR if you haven’t created content on your own first. For PR to work, your company needs a marketing message as well as content that customers can access once the PR campaign catches their interest. And all of this needs to be done before you interview PR firms to see who would be the best fit. The reason? As Puccio told me, “If you don’t have your foundation in place, you’re going to lower perceptions of your company in the long-run.” There needs to be something behind the curtain when you pull it away.
Creating a strong content marketing foundation is essential. That means a lot of content, not just a few documents. “You don’t want to be like, oh wow, they put out a press release and I can’t get any information anywhere about that,” Puccio said. She’s spot on – put in the time to create solid marketing materials before you engage PR.
Know Your Limitations
Puccio also advised that companies should only reach out to a firm for help on PR at the moment they realize they don’t have the necessary skillsets in-house to accomplish their goals. Until that point, it’s a waste of time, money, and energy. Be realistic about what PR can and can’t do and what skills you need on your team to accomplish your goals. For instance, just about anyone can write a press release, but you know you’re ready for PR when you don’t have someone who can make sure that press release is read by journalists and industry leaders.
Fools Rush In
Okay, so you have your content ready and you’ve recognized you don’t have the connections you need to really make an impact. Now, the next step is to carefully analyze which PR firm will best align to your objectives. Puccio has three criteria for how she analyzes PR firms.
- What is their reach? Who do they know in your line of business and how are they going to get you networked to achieve your goals?
- How well positioned are they in your industry? Subject expertise matters in PR. If you partner with a firm that’s never worked in your specialty, your might find your efforts stymied. With her work in financial services, Puccio specifically uses firms that specialize in relationships in that field.
- What resources do they bring for social media? From tweets, to LinkedIn and Facebook posts, look closely at how potential PR firms have leveraged social media in the past. If they have no track record of navigating social media, do not be convinced they’ll be any better in the future.
Data Is Your Friend
Like others in the PR world I’ve spoken to, Puccio believes firmly that tracking your PR campaign is essential. She encourages companies who use PR firms to track results on their own. “You’re not ready for PR if you don’t have these tracking platforms in place,” she said. She also said that it’s okay to ask your firm to share the burden. “You should be asking if your PR agency can help with this tracking to see how effective they are,” she added.
Don’t Be A Shirking Violet
One critical mistake Puccio cautioned against is not standing up for what you want when working with a firm. That means getting your firm’s A-team. When she works with PR firms, she always ensures she’s getting the attention she deserves through weekly calls and monthly reviews in which all members of the PR firm on her account are present. Additionally, for Puccio, the team that pitches to you should be the team you’ll be working with. You want to know who you’re working with from the get-go to gauge whether the relationship will work.
Avoid the Big Mistakes
When asked what mistakes companies should avoid, Puccio said many companies make two big mistakes when working with PR firms:
- Lack of preparation
- Lack of focus
They haven’t created content before engaging a firm and they don’t know what they want out of a campaign.
But she offered other cautions as well. Never assume any PR firm, no matter their reputation, knows your business. Just as you would screen a candidate you were hiring for a job, it’s your responsibility to assess whether the PR firm is a good fit for your needs. This means knowing whether you need to offer the public informational context about why your product even exists. For many tech companies, you may be producing a solution to a problem so technical that few people even are aware of it. A PR firm should help you highlight the issue and show the need.
Additionally, Puccio recommended that when choosing between firms, to go with the firm you think is best for your interests, not the one that is pushed on you or that you’ve used before. “You need to know what’s right for you,” she said. Finally, she cautioned against speeding into PR to check off a box rather than assessing and ensuring the relationship is right. Again, patience is key with PR.
Become PR-ready with quality content creation
Director, Global ISV Business Development at Red Hat
Christine has over fifteen years experience in business development and corporate marketing for enterprise software and hardware technologies. She has been with Red Hat for over 6 years, and was the 2014 recipient of the Red Hat Chairman’s Award. Christine is passionate about articulating the business value of complex technologies to sales, partners, and industry analysts.
Check out the whole blog series: