Why PR and technology make such good bedfellows
Why PR and technology make such good bedfellows
“If I had two dollars left, I would spend one on PR.”
This quote is frequently attributed to Bill Gates, and although I have never found a specific source for it, I’d really like to believe he actually said it. I’ll have to assign it to the category ‘hearsay’ until proven otherwise, but this mantra is still used frequently by PR people as a heavyweight endorsement of their trade, and compelling encouragement for companies to spend their money on PR.
I have to admit I didn’t grow up dreaming of a career in either technology or PR, let alone a combination of the two. I trained in Molecular Pathology, studied Zoology and wrote a dissertation on dinosaur homeothermy (a topic, along with Robert T. Bakker, that I am still fascinated by) before working in cancer research. So when I hear scepticism of the role of PR in communicating the value of technology, I do sympathise. I was equally unconvinced when I started out in PR 16 years ago, working with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).
Over time (as well as many press briefings, analyst calls, client meetings, phone interviews and, um, faxes) I came to realise the deep value that PR has in clearly communicating the benefits, features and differentiators of new technologies. Today I can share many thoughts on the subject of why technology and PR go hand-in-hand (or hand-in-glove, to coin the American term), but here are my top five reasons:
1. Complexity. Technology is inherently complex, whether it’s due to the sheer scope and choice available, the underlying scientific know-how, the phenomenal range of features and benefits available to buyers, or the frustration at some vendors’ inabilities to simply state what they sell and what makes them different. The challenge of evaluating, buying, implementing and justifying expenditure on enterprise technology solutions is huge. Public relations, media relations and analyst relations all provide a means to dissect, review and understand this complexity
2. Pace. The sheer pace of technological development is so rapid that I’m surprised we can’t hear it grow like a stand of bamboo. Now, I don’t consider myself to be that old (yes I know I mentioned the whole fax thing earlier), but even in the time I’ve worked in the market, it has evolved constantly. Change is the law of life, and technology is certainly a vivid example. The ways in which consumer and business technologies are developed, viewed, marketed and adopted have changed beyond all recognition. This pace demands our attention, as it alters the way in which we need to communicate, as well as how we live and work. There are so many valuable technology stories to share, so PR must embrace a continuous and newsworthy conveyer belt of innovation
3. Credibility. This is a complex market with more than its fair share of ‘me too’ vendors, as well as an abundance of self-claimed ‘leading providers’. Buyers, investors, potential business partners and employees all need assistance to understand just how credible, unique and innovative these companies really are. The press and analyst communities are key to this clarity, with editors, staffers, freelancers and analysts all keeping a steady eye on the market, evaluating relevance and impact, and sharing their perspective and commentary. You might even argue that this is a key difference between PR and advertising – advertising helps a company claim it has a brilliant, relevant or ground-breaking product or service, while PR allows someone more objective to say the same
4. Reach. The increasingly global application of technologies is expanding all the time. Today it’s not just about competing with your local competitors, because markets are no longer defined by geography, but by technology area. More than ever before it’s crucial to be able to clearly differentiate products and services, and to do it consistently. Relevance and repetition of key message are vital.
5. Buzz. Both PR and technology are disciplines that thrive on excitement, energy, dynamism and invention. The high-tech sector is an amazing and fascinating market to, well, market. As someone who never thought they would end up flourishing in the world of technology, I now feel blessed to be part of such a vibrant, innovative and fun community. Each day I encounter amazing new products and services, ingenious ideas and life-changing concepts. I can no longer even imagine working in a market that wouldn’t have the constant element of surprise and buzz.
Bill Gates [or was it?]: “If I had two dollars left, I would spend one on PR.”
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