Many companies develop products and services relying on their networks and various types of “do it yourself” marketing to get the word out. As companies grow, especially in the software and tech business, subject matter expertise in technology can only go so far when it comes to building a brand, creating influence and inspiring the kind of word of mouth that boosts sales.
While the founders might be great at developing their product and evangelizing it, they rarely have the experience or resources to amplify marketing beyond their first hand experience. Without a plan for engaging the media or understanding how the world of print, digital and social media work, efforts by founders often fall flat, are inefficient uses of their time or result in the opposite of intended outcomes.
If you run an emerging software company, here are three signs you need to take a step back and engage the expertise of a public relations firm.
1. You’re not getting press. I know, that’s an obvious one but there’s a difference between getting casual mentions because a CEO, founders or execs are active in the industry and getting mentioned in a favorable way that includes endorsements from customers or industry analysts. In other words, when an industry publication or blogger mentions your company, it’s one thing. When those publications tell a story about your company in a way that inspires readers to find out more or even buy from you, that’s another.
Taking it a step further, getting coverage in multiple industry publications sends a very strong signal to prospective buyers that the company must be doing something right and is worth a look.
Random and casual media coverage are no way to grow a business and to it to the next level.
2. You’re boring. Companies that create technology are often so close to it, they only see the original problem/solution. Once that story has been told a few times in the media, publications are unlikely to keep telling it. Unique and compelling news drives traffic and readers which sells advertising. Without interesting news, publications lose business.
One of the things really good PR firms provide is the ability to find and tell unique stories about their client’s services/software. Even if there do not appear to be any left. On top of that, they’ll know how to develop a media list, research writers and their preferences, schedules and planned editorial so the right pitch can be crafted at the right time.
3. The CEO pisses media (me) off. Company founders are excited about their business. It’s their baby. They want to tell everyone about how it will solve amazing problems. They can’t imagine why anyone would not be as excited as they are about their company or its technology/software. Being high on your own ideas aka drinking your own kool-aid can result in unfortunate outcomes.
For example, a company founder recently insisted that I take a look at his product after I explicitly said “No, not interested at this time”. Persisting after a clear statement like that with a dumbfounded “I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to take a look at my software” can only be attributed to alcohol or a completely egocentric view of the world or both. Not only will I not take a look at the software, but that company founder created an in-person situation that is memorable in a most negative way. Even if the software is great, I’m unlikely to break that feeling of “get out of my face” and “don’t you get it, now is not the time or place”.
Would it have been better if a junior PR person sent a horribly formatted email pitch via email? Yes, that would have been less annoying because you can delete the message and move on. But an in person situation like the one above is sure to do a few things:
- Kill any chance of coverage
- Generate word of mouth that is less than favorable
These signs don’t just apply to software companies of course, but since our agency used to do a lot of public relations work in the technology space, I’ve seen these and more first hand. While we don’t operate as a Minnesota Public Relations firm any longer, we are happy to refer technology companies to other PR agencies.
If you’re a software or technology company that current engages a public relations firm, what prompted you to hire them? What value do they provide you?