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The tech PR market has come a long way in the last few years, but 2017 will be an incredible year. Opportunities abound for tech PR professionals both agencies and in house.
These predictions started life as amalgamation of conversations with clients, prospects, industry influencers, competitors and professional bodies. I’ve then simply asked myself and the CCgroup team – how might these things manifest themselves in 2017?
Here’s the result.
1. PR professionals take charge of customer insight
B2B tech brands do not know enough about their customers and prospects. The net result is that the marketing and sales programmes and messages they put out don’t resonate with audiences as much as they should. In the consumer world, brands invest millions of pounds a year on customer insight. But it’s not about the money, it’s the seeming lack of ambition amongst B2B tech firms to do more than just ‘optimise’ campaigns. B2B tech brands seem ‘content’ with category level insight from industry analysts that’s available to all their competitors.
In 2017, things will change. B2B tech sales and marketing leaders are beginning to know what they don’t know. Due to recent advances in business psychology and data collection, and the gradual emergence of planners who can turn this data into insight, tech PR professionals can play a leading role in the collation and application of customer insight. I wrote about it for Gorkana late in 2016.
Early in 2016, we started Aperture – a specialist consultancy employing psychology, data and technology to derive customer insights in the B2B market. And if we, a tech PR agency, can do it then others with greater resources than ours can too. It’s a critical step on a journey that will evolve dramatically in 2017.
2. Tech PR leads on PR automation
I don’t think it has ever been more difficult to hire good tech PR people. So why do they end up spending so much time on low value tasks – the type that could be automated? Take some big data, integrate machine learning and add a dash of AI and you have an incredible opportunity for the whole PR industry. But it’s likely that tech PR folks that are more familiar and comfortable with technology will lead the way – and make the requisite mistakes - for the whole industry.
What does it mean in practice? Well, ‘goodbye’ to the dull but necessary tasks of daily PR, the challenge of hiring huge numbers of talented tech PR people and the wastage on admin and reporting. ‘Hello’ to strategy training earlier in careers, scaling brilliant people across tasks and, the main aim, more time spent doing ‘PR’.
CCgroup is making a big bet on the automation of PR in 2017, starting with a thorough examination of the possibilities and the tasks that waste time and deliver little value. It’s going to be a long, hard, expensive road. But the potential is really quite amazing.
3. We all love media relations, again
Over the past few years, media relations has become a ‘dirty word’ in PR circles. We’re meeting a worrying number of junior to mid-level job candidates who don’t seem to value media relations, or make much of their influencer contacts. And these are PR people.
Insight and strategy, content marketing, customer reference programmes et al are critical to contemporary sales, marketing and PR programmes. But first and foremost, clients hire tech PR agencies to win them targeted media coverage, which helps to activate marketing programmes and reach a wide range of audiences. I’ve seen a couple of examples where SEO and advertising agencies have attempted to engage with journalists – it’s truly awful. Media relations must remain the domain of PR professionals because we’re good at it and should be proud of it.
Obviously, PR is not just media relations – that’s far too limiting today. But media relations is an essential component of contemporary tech PR. As an industry, PR has devalued one of its greatest assets. In 2017, we’ll learn to love, respect and value media relations once again in tech PR.
4. Integrated marketing programmes: PR takes centre stage
Over the past seven or so years, CCgroup has learned how to participate in integrated tech marketing programmes. Now we’re finally realising that, of all the marketing disciplines, PR is the best function to lead integrated efforts.
In five years, PR will have secured its rightful place at the centre of integrated marketing programmes across all markets and sectors. We have superior market and customer insight, we excel at inventive storytelling, we understand multi-channel communications and we can handle measurement tied to business outcomes. Trust me, PR will be the most important marcomms game in town. Nothing made me more sure of this than my trip to SXSW last year.
But in 2017, and especially in tech, PR will start to take the lead more formally, demonstrating the benefits the function can bring as the fulcrum of integrated marketing. Just consider this: if we’ve grown up learning to successfully engage with the world’s most cynical audience (the media), then working through owned channels and going direct should be a piece of cake (it’s not a piece of cake – but knowing how to tell a compelling story that drives a response is more useful than knowing how to buy ad space).
5. Buckle up: tech PR growth outstrips the rest of the PR industry
In PRCA research published in 2016, the two areas are tipped for most significant growth in the next few years were healthcare PR and tech PR. There was an emphasis on the latter.
Many areas of PR - corporate, financial, consumer and industrial – are suffering from intense price and competitive pressure. This became apparent at the PRCA’s final PR & Communications Council meeting of 2016. In stark contrast, tech PR is flourishing.
CEOs and MDs of specialist tech agencies have reported growth levels of above 30% in 2016. That’s decent growth, but some of us are daring to dream of 50% in 2017 (I’m not quite sure anyone has thought about staffing this growth yet, but let’s not spoil the optimism). As the tech market grows and grows, and the opportunities to play more strategic, more integrated and more successful roles in campaigns evolves, the potential for incredible growth is there. 2017 promises to be a vintage year for tech PR professionals.