When selecting the right PR agency, it helps to take your time. As a tech company, you need to ensure that any new partnership is the right one for you and that you’re not rushing into anything - especially if this is your first time engaging with an agency.
Although no one denies the power that PR can bring, a lot of people still have a hard time trying to measure the value of press coverage against the level of investment committed. How do you evaluate the success of an article in a national newspaper, or a press release placed in an online publication?
To find the perfect PR agency, the first question you have to ask yourself is “What do I need PR to do for me?” PR can help in a lot of areas - from brand awareness issues and building trust to storytelling and even building backlinks - but there are also things it cannot help with, such as lead and sales generation.
PR can lead the horse to the water, but your sales and marketing team are the only ones who can convince it to drink from it.
Plus, if you’re looking for sudden results, you’re better off looking elsewhere. In B2B, PR campaigns mirror the sales cycle. It can take months or years for the full effects to be felt, especially for tech companies in an already competitive and growing space. You need to make sure that your next PR agency has the skills, expertise, and resources you can rely on - but how can you make sure this is the case?
Do I need to hire a PR agency?
There are three circumstances in particular where a tech company should be looking to employ the services of a PR agency:
This is a particular problem for tech startups who, although may be working on building the coolest new technology, have a hard time trying to tell people about it. But brand awareness can also be an issue for tech companies that are competing with larger enterprises and are struggling to get their voices heard. Both of these scenarios are ideal reasons to start working with a PR agency. Using company news announcements, media comments, and thought leadership opinion articles, you can shout above the crowd and watch as your brand becomes a household name.
Another PR problem tech companies may face is that, even if their potential customers have heard of them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they trust you enough to buy from you. Plus, this isn’t something that your own marketing or advertising channels can fix. What you need are third-party channels - media publications, bloggers, and other influential organisations - to tell people why you should be trusted. This can come in the form of reviews and recommendations, but trust also comes in seeing your brand regularly in the media. Only by investing in a long-term PR campaign can you give people the confidence to invest in your company.
Boost website performance
Outside of boosting brand awareness and trust, PR can also now bring some pretty substantial benefits to your best salesperson - the website. For example, by placing an article on a highly powerful media website with a backlink, you can help boost the performance and Domain Authority of your own site. What’s more, you can also use tools such as Google Analytics to track referral traffic and readers of article placements that clicked through to your website. Digital tools can also help spot spikes in branded searches and general web traffic increases during the PR campaign, such as a new product announcement or launching in a new territory.
When should I start with a tech PR agency?
When it comes to starting with a PR agency, there are some telltale signs - other than the scenarios, like the points above - that it might be the right time.
The first thing you’ve got to make sure is that your marketing, sales, and website are all in order. What that means is that each one is able to track and capture new contacts, leads, and sales opportunities. Using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform will be vital here, but another thing to make sure of is that the website is fully optimised and searchable through search engines like Google.
Another thing to consider is if you can dedicate the time and resources needed to fuel a PR long-term campaign. Hiring a PR agency isn’t to take away your time - in fact, it’s usually the opposite, with rapid response and newsjacking opportunities have to be reacted to as soon as possible. Ultimately, PR is a two-way street, so if you’re not able to invest your time in it, it will most likely be doomed from the start.
But most importantly, make sure you have the budget to do it justice. Although PR doesn’t have to be an expensive option, there still has to be a significant investment to see the desired effect from campaigns. For example, a PR programme at the lower end of the scale would cost around £2,500 for a monthly retainer, but it can quickly scale up depending on your needs and targets.
Top questions to ask your tech PR agency
Before getting started, there are some basic yet vital questions you will need to ask your potential new PR partner to make sure you’re choosing the right agency:
What are your relevant expertise for this PR campaign?
This is essential in figuring out if the PR agency you’re looking to partner up with has the right skills and experience to deliver on their promises. For example, another way of asking this question to a tech PR agency might be, “What media publications do you typically have relationships with?”, as this will tell you if they have a broad range of contacts or specialise in just one area, such as cybersecurity or AI. The PR agency should also be able to provide you with recent and relevant case studies of their work for clients working in a similar industry or of a similar size/budget.
What will my account team look like?
This is another important one to ask as far too often companies get signed up by high-level staff and then are left to deal with less experienced junior members for the day-to-day running of the campaign. All account teams should provide a mixture of experience and knowledge - from director level down to junior account executives - so you know you are getting the right amount of support. The size and resources provided by the account team can also dictate how often updates and progress is communicated - either by email, phone call, or videoconferencing - as it’s important to have regular catch-up calls so that the programme is heading in the right direction.
How will you measure the PR campaign?
Although the way in which success is measured will change from agency to agency, this is one of the most important questions you can ask. The PR campaign needs to contribute towards one primary aim - for example, raising brand awareness - but you then need to ask how the agency intends on measuring levels of success against this. For example, one way would be to measure increases in branded searches on Google the week of a new product launch, or spikes in referral traffic from coverage that included a backlink. Not every agency is capable of measuring in this much detail, however, which is why it pays to ask the question.
How much will it cost?
Typically the last question you ask is the most important one, but the rest on this list are just as important as the level of activity, expertise, and speciality of the agency will help define what kind of budget you need to contribute. PR campaigns can vary from wildly creative to a simple press release distribution service, so what you should be asking yourself first is, “What will success look like?” By working backwards and figuring out what you want to get out of the PR programme, you can start to plan with the agency on the elements needed to get you there and therefore how much investment is needed.
One question that is commonly asked - and really doesn’t need to - is, “What contacts do you have in my industry?” Unfortunately, journalists don’t owe PR pros a favour and can’t post any old news story - such as the launch of a new website or moving into a new office. As natural storytellers, PR agencies need to use these skills to convince journalists that their story is better than everyone else’s. It doesn’t matter if the journalist is the PR agency’s best friend - if you can’t provide them with a unique, thought-provoking story, or at least ideas or opinions that can form one, you’re simply not going to earn coverage.