This article originally appeared in the Bulldog Reporter.
Like rambunctious kindergarteners fighting for the attention of their parents and peers, tech companies—from startups to mid-market and even the enterprise—consistently fight for the mass awareness and third-party validation that only earned media can provide. With benefits of press ranging from awareness and perception to validation, lead generation and even valuation, it’s hard for even the most skeptical tech leaders to downplay the potential of media relations done right.
Serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Mark Suster is one of public relations’ most vocal advocates in the tech community. Aside from the well-known benefits of PR, Suster often praises the “silent benefits of PR,” which he argues include employee recruitment, business development and staff morale, among other return-on-investment (ROI) facilitators beneficial to tech companies at any stage.
Tech Culture Thriving
In 2015, tech companies took home $128.7 billion in venture capital. Of that investment, the majority was spread across the AdTech, CleanTech, cloud, cybersecurity, FinTech, HealthIT, machine learning, MarTech, mission critical and virtual reality industries.
The influx of capital has accelerated the growth of many tech industries exponentially. In just 5 years, the marketing technology ecosystem garnered $10 billion in investment. As a result, the industry now boasts more than 900 companies in 13 categories. The cybersecurity industry, aided by $4.6 billion in VC investment in 2015, has grown by 35x since 2004. And let's not forget about mobile apps. The Apple App Store now sees more than 1,000 new apps added per day! For growth-stage and enterprise companies, 2015 was the biggest year for tech M&A’s since 2000, a trend in which most analysts predict to continue.
Such vigorous innovation has led tech industry veterans, like Bob Dorf, to question whether or not there might actually be too many startups. Others believe that another tech bubble; similar to the one of the early 2000s, is imminent. No matter your opinion here, the proliferation of tech companies has created ”cluttered” and “noisy” industries in which earning media is proving more complicated than ever before.
A Journalist’s Perspective
Presently, the ever-shrinking pool of qualified tech journalists are inundated with pitches promising “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking” products and services by companies that look and sound exactly like their competition. This has subsequently intensified the cynicism and skepticism of tech media, who were already cynical and skeptical to begin with.
In reality, there aren’t enough tech journalists to write about the millions of tech companies that attempt to earn media coverage. In an interview with Buzzsumo, the heavily sought after TechCrunch journalist Anthony Ha revealed that he now receives up to 80 pitches per day. That is enough email to bury even the best of pitches from the most deserving companies.
One might argue that an unintended consequence of tech innovation is that it has made earning media a significant challenge, even for the most-savvy PR pros. But fear not tech friends, here are five ways to help earn media in noisy and cluttered industries.
Repurpose Content – Remember that whitepaper you spent 3 months perfecting and those blog posts you had to pull teeth to get written? By slightly editing these content pieces for vendor neutrality and active voice, you can seek publication as a byline, especially in online only media and industry-specific trade publications. It’s not a given, but with the economics of media now requiring a plethora of content to be posted daily, the probability of publication is good!
Grant Exclusive Access – In the final month of building your minimal viable product (MVP) or have major company news upcoming? If so, consider offering a journalist exclusive behind-the-scenes access of your final development preparations. While there is some risk involved here, journalists are traditionally favorable to companies that are willing to provide the reclusive insider information that their readers love. Be sure to set the terms in advance of course, so there is no dispute about what’s on the record and what’s off.
Create a Proprietary Report – If you have a platform and you have users, then you should have data – and you should use that data to your advantage. Although uncovering and analyzing trends takes some time, doing so often results in opportunities to promote your brand through media relations, thought leadership and even at events. Make sure your report is well designed, and supplement distribution on social media. You can even consider targeting reporters with paid ads on LinkedIn and Twitter so they are sure to see it. As a secondary benefit, data reports like these are known to
Ramp Up Social Engagement – Let’s face it, social media isn’t new anymore. Companies, especially those in tech, know they need a social presence. But what’s usually overlooked is how important engagement on social media is. Next time you read a story that supports your value proposition, Tweet a thoughtful reply to the journalist; don’t just re-Tweet the article. Engaging with journalists proves that you and your company are interested in building relationships that last beyond one story. Try pitching a narrative to a journalist you’ve been chatting with on Twitter for a month. I think you’ll like the results.
Pitch Perfectly – It’s hard to tell an entrepreneur or CEO that what they think is news is actually not at all newsworthy. A journalists’ way of saying so is by not responding to a pitch. When you do finally have an announcement worthy of making news, make sure 1) the messaging and competitive positioning is overtly clear and concise; 2) avoid using jargon like “revolutionary;” 3) pre-pitch early as to give journalists enough time to write, should they be interested; 4) aim for quality over quantity, and 5) offer multiple resources, not just your biased CEO.
What are you waiting for? Use these tips to start making news today!