If you keep up with our agency news (you do keep up with our agency news, right?!), you likely know by now that the annual general meeting of our global PR network, IPRN, just happened to be in Moscow this year. And yes, we’re well aware…of all the years and all the places…
But politics aside, it so happens that our host partner agency, Moscow-based PR Partner, has a very similar agency focus to that of CVM. And we were surprised to discover that many PR best practices in the U.S. are similar to best practices in Russia. Thanks to a robust landscape of tech and business media, and the fact that many international companies are looking to gain a foothold in the country, Moscow, much like New York, is a hub for launching technology. (Though you’ll need a VPN to access LinkedIn in Russia. The company wasn’t game to store its Russian users’ data in the country, and, well, suffice it to say, it didn’t work out.)
But I digress. In comparing country-specific PR best practices, we gave a short interview on best practices for launching a technology product in the U.S. Though we had to keep our answers brief, we thought we’d share our answers since they offer some helpful basics.
1) What are the most important first steps in launching a new IT [note: “IT” is what we would refer to as “tech”] company into the market (launch time, competitor analysis, etc.)
The most important aspects of preparing a tech company for launch actually lie with the tech company itself. Having launched more than 50 tech products over the last decade, we’ve seen a number of companies attempt to launch prematurely because they want to be first to market, they’re eager to generate revenue, or they’re working on an arbitrary deadline set by their shareholders.
Launching prematurely can be suicide to a tech product in the U.S market, as there’s too much competition to take these risks. Our job at Channel V Media is to make sure that our clients’ products are market-ready before meeting with media or speaking with customers.
Here are the five steps we take to make sure our clients are ready to meet with the media:
- Make sure the experience has no known issues.
- Know the competitive landscape–and what sets the product apart.
- Make sure the product does what it says it does.
- Make sure the product meets the baseline needs for showcasing its functionality.
- Learn from the successes and failures of those who came before.
2) How to find the distinctive features of the new brand, its competitive advantages?
Our clients are innovators and disruptors, so we are often in the unique position of working with companies that are doing things differently than they’ve been done before. Identifying their differentiators isn’t usually our challenge. Instead, the issue is often that they are ahead of their time, so customers don’t even understand that the problem the technology solves is one that can and should be solved! Our work is often about educating media and consumers about that problem–and the opportunity to solve it in a completely new and foreign way. Only then can we communicate, in ways that people understand, the value of a technology.
3) Why it is important to monitor not only the successes, but also the failures of competitors. Is it possible and appropriate to use the mistakes of competitors with the benefit for themselves?
Other companies’ successes and failures always offer lessons–and opportunities! Successes are more obvious: of course, you can learn from others’ good ideas, to either use them or build on them. But failures are also valuable. For example, we recently watched as U.S. company Salesforce raced to announce its AI product Einstein ahead of competitor Oracle. Salesforce got a lot of media coverage, but now the media is watching their every move and misstep, including the fact that Salesforce is now partnering with IBM Watson to build the product they announced prematurely last September. In creating awareness of and demand for a product that did not yet exist, Salesforce created an opportunity for other business AI technologies.
We actively took advantage of Salesforce’s lack of case studies and we highlighted to journalists that our client Adgorithms was the only marketing artificial intelligence platform with success stories.
4) How do you measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign (what is the success criteria for you?)
Before we ever begin active PR work, we work with our clients to agree on what success looks like based on their business goals. Then we regularly assess what’s working–and bringing value to them–and what’s not to improve the value of our work. It’s easy for everyone to agree that a story in a major U.S. media outlet, like The Wall Street Journal or CNBC, is great. But often more targeted stories that speak directly to a specific audience, whether in a trade media publication, a niche consumer vertical, or through an influential thought leader, can be just as valuable in creating desired business outcomes. So a part of our work is also helping clients understand all the different types of media that can have value, and then constantly working with them to determine what’s reaching and resonating most with their target customers.
We also work with b2b technology clients to create lead-generating websites with content that relates to current media coverage. With this approach, a prospect who learns about a business through a news story can arrive at the company website, find resources that are related to that story that captured his/her attention, and download that. With this, the sales team directly captures new leads through PR.
Finally, we also encourage client sales teams to use PR coverage as a way to engage with new, or reconnect with existing, business prospects.
5) How to make an IT company attractive for the wide range of media? (Not just specialized IT)
Through stories that are relevant to the end user they are hoping to attract–not just to their peers. We see so many clients who just want to talk about their technology, but that’s not interesting to most people, and it doesn’t make people want to buy something. Companies must figure out how to make themselves attractive to the right people. If you go on a date, and you only talk about yourself, are you likely to make someone interested? No. But if you go on a date, and you are interested in the other person and talk about what matters to them… You have a totally different result.
A big part of our work is knowing all of the different buyer types and potential customers intimately, understanding what the news, trends and interests are among those audiences, and then shaping relevant stories that include our clients’ products and technologies.
6) Tell us about your special instruments or secrets, how you manage to develop clear messaging to ensure that media and uninformed audience could immediately understand the IT product.
First, of course, be curious and enthusiastic about technology, innovation, change, and new ideas. This helps you understand any product in the context of what’s currently happening in the world–and where the world is going. With this, you can always be thinking of new angles and contexts for a technology or product to get new media stories and new customer interest. But you also have to think about how your most unsophisticated customer thinks and understand how to simplify your value to speak to their interests, their pain and their problems. When you can make even the newest, most innovative technology feel new, but also like a solution to a familiar problem, easy to use, and not scary, that’s when you capture attention.