How do I get more media coverage for my technology SME?
How often have your read an article in the press, or heard an expert commentator on TV and thought: “Well I could have told you that …”? Then the self-doubt creeps in as you conclude: “But they would never ask me for a comment because my company is not on the NASDAQ, and I don’t employ thousands of people.” Sure, big players like Google and Cisco get more coverage than SMEs simply because of their size, but that’s no reason to give up on PR. There are, in fact, some advantages in being a smaller company, especially if you have some expert knowledge and experience to share. Here are our top ten PR tips for smaller companies looking to punch above their weight and secure more media coverage for their technology firm.
Talk around your subject
Many smaller companies (and some large ones) miss out on major PR opportunities because they only want to talk about issues that are 100% about the specific product or service they provide. You may be an expert in penetration testing and don’t think you have the right to comment about a breaking story on a high profile data breach. As far as your local news channel or national newspaper is concerned you’re a “security expert” – so why shouldn’t you offer your views? The only thing holding you back is your concern that you may not be big enough for them to bother with. But the media care more about an interesting, informed angle on a story than they do about the size of your turnover (unless it’s just fallen through the floor!)
Involve your customers
Many of the requests we get from journalists are for comment from the user of a technology rather the vendor or solution provider. Some technology SMEs have some pretty impressive clients on their roster, from FTSE100 companies through to government bodies, banks, airlines and major NHS trusts. Try to develop a partnership with your customers so that they are happy to support you in developing news and feature stories in the media. You could be the expert comment provider and they can add colour and credibility to your story by real end user experience, facts and figures.
Resist the urge to sell
As a smaller tech company your sales instincts will be pretty well honed. After all, that’s how you stay in business. This is not the place for selling – other than selling ideas. If all your early encounters with the media start with you telling the journalist that you are the “industry’s best kept secret” and you have a “truly unique and innovate solution” then they will not take your call or will ignore your email when you have a real story to tell. Remember: a story is something that is important to other people. It may not be the same as your key marketing messages.
Be ruthless with the “so-what test”
Allied to the not-selling discipline; be honest about whether what you have is a real story. Run it by people who don’t depend upon you for their next pay cheque. Single digit growth is not a story but £5m VC investment is, as is a breakthrough solution for a previously intractable problem or some credible, original research into your market. If you are writing a thought leadership piece, help it pass the “so what” test by adding lots of detail and references, as well as just your opinion.
Start small and highly focused
If there’s one publication or online portal that you would kill to get into, then focus on that (i.e. getting in there … not killing). We often cite the example of TechCrunch because it has a highly specialised focus in only covering tech companies at key stages of growth. Here’s a link to a sample pitch suggested by editor, Mike Butcher which shows the sort of tailored approach you need to take.
Other publications will have similar niche requirements and you need to structure your pitch accordingly. For example, if you sell through the reseller channel and you want to get into the key titles like CRN and Microscope, you need to find an angle that is relevant to resellers, not end users.
A great way win favour with your press contacts is to deal with each of them on an exclusive basis. That doesn’t mean you cannot cover similar topics or issues, but it does mean each outlet needs their own unique angle and story. In the age of digital publishing, duplicate content is bad news for the publisher’s search-engine ranking as well as being damaging for their credibility. If it’s not exclusive content then be explicit. It’s better to miss out on one opportunity, than to have the door permanently blocked for all future coverage
Keep it topical
Read your specialist media as well as following national issues so that you know which topics are hot. Set up Google Alerts for any subjects that you have specialist expertise or experience in. Following tech journalists on social media will also give you an insight into which stories are getting them hot under the collar.
Network your media
Be careful about engaging too soon with journalists on social media. They are mainly talking to their peers in the media and trusted long term PR contacts and may not welcome intrusions from someone they have never heard of. “Liking” and re-tweeting their posts is fine and may help to put you on their radar over time. When, however you spot a specific request for help on a topic, then you can get involved. If you want to be proactive, try using hashtags like #Journorequest of #PRRequest on Twitter. Or if you really want to get serious subscribe to ResponseSource, which delivers journalist requests to your inbox.
Be available…and patient
I mentioned the fact that there are advantages in being small. One is that you can be nimble and faster off the mark in getting a story out than major corporations that will have several approval layers to wade through before hitting send. Equally, if you are the CEO of a tech SME you are probably used to handling calls and dealing with emails outside office hours. So make availability your USP and always take the call and get back to reporters quickly when they ask for a comment. They might prefer a comment from Apple but if you get yours in pronto and the major corporates sleep on theirs overnight and miss the deadline, you will win the day. Don’t expect immediate results but as you become known as a reliable and informed source you will start to see your profile in the media steadily rise.
Get the hygiene factors right
If you have a strong news, comment or thought leadership piece and the journalist likes it then it would be a shame to fall at the final hurdle by not being able to deliver on simple requests, like a high-res photo of yourself (not a photo booth or holiday snap), a logo or your potted company history and personal bio. So have these ready to hand or, better still, provide a link to them on your email pitch so that they don’t have to come looking later.