Lee Odden

Three Signs Your Software Company Needs a PR Firm

pr firmMany 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:

  1. Kill any chance of coverage
  2. 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?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.


  1. Thanks for the support for PR folks, Lee! I think the “how to tell the story” part is probably one of the most important things we PR pros can help clients & organizations figure out. Because if you don’t have a good story, it really doesn’t matter what else you may/may not have, does it?

  2. you’re absolutely right about how to tell a story it’s obviously one of the most important thing
    in PR and media
    very good article
    thank you

  3. Lee – Where would you recommend a company start their research on PR firms to hire?

  4. Lee, great read. We just recently began the process of identifying a PR partner. There were two main drivers of the decision. Number one, as your post states, we weren’t getting enough press, and our market (event ticketing) is growing increasingly crowded . Number two – we’ve done a great job at developing software, but have done a poor job at personalizing our company externally (telling our story). Our hope is that we find a partner that is able to help us address these issues.

    • Thank you for your comment Eric, your reasons are exactly what I’ve experienced in talking with software and technology companies over the years. While we don’t do media relations any longer, we do work with many companies that have PR firms and learned your reasons for engaging are very common.

  5. Thanks for this information. I’m not with a software company, but we are definitely in need of a PR firm to tell our story.

  6. I found this article very fascinating. I have been learning so much about how to properly pitch bloggers and after reading this article it proves that research is key. In my Social Media class we learned that it is important to get to know who you are reaching out to, to create a relationship and to know when too much is enough. From this, I understand more fully how important it is to know what you are doing, especially in this day and age when spreading negative thoughts about a company is as easy as a re-tweet.

  7. What a good read. As a software Co-Founder myself, I’ve found that our company has suffered the same tragedy that others have in finding unique angles for a story pitch.

    Unfortunately, since we need the sale to get the money for the team, finding the money for PR firm is a bit difficult for a small software company. I wish there were more affordable solutions for PR firms. SIGH!