+ Point of view

Five things you need to change your PR in 2021

Written by Paul Maher

1.Write with more self awareness

2020 was the year of fake news. The US presidential election was awash with it but B2B tech PR was guilty too with its torrent of self-serving stories reported by a distracted, largely uncritical media.

Google plotted the demise of third party cookies, a move it claimed would help protect user privacy. It did so though as regulators investigated its advertising monopoly. It was not alone, leaving aside Facebook, Apple tried to spin its forced U-Turn on reducing its 20% Appstore tax as philanthropy and not a reaction to a revolt. Really? Such corporate puffery is nowadays swiftly called out on social media.

2020 also gave corporate communicators new reasons to be careful. Activist campaigns like Black Lives Matter and anti-vaxxing started on social media. Being truthful, confident and yet diffident to all the issues concerning others has never been harder for PR teams to pull off. Get used to it and embrace it in your corporate communications.

2.Pan-digital skills (SEO, data visualization and video production)

Like it or not, PR and content professionals are going to have to upskill. Those who think ‘Data Scientists’ and ‘SEO gurus’ are exotic geniuses, better think again. The skills to wrangle stories and make sure they will attract attention are now core to the job.

At a minimum, PRs should know ‘enough to be dangerous’ on SEO. How else could they recommend keyword and link strategies? Likewise everyone from the intern to the principals should be able to knock up a quick pivot table on demand. Being useful with a smartphone, a mike and a basic lighting rig is also extremely important handy for podcasts, vlogs or even TikTok. 

Not feeling the need to be pan-digital? Just remember, once there were standalone typing pools, fax operators and receptionists. Try to find them in your Working From Home office today. For a real-life proofpoint of how a ‘recovering tech CMO’ does all this and more, watch the excellent and chart-topping Lochhead podcast series. Start with this episode on the Ocean Spray trendjack.

3.Real Time trendjacking based on Social Listening

Everyone knows basic trendjackng these days. New games console comes out – pitch your new game. Microsoft makes an acquisition – offer commentary on what this means for your somewhat-related market. TalkTalk does down in an easily avoidable hack – pile in with thoughts on how to not be so dumb in future. But, inevitably in tech, as in PR, things speed up.

Now the world of smart PR has moved to real-time trendjacking. Well, not quite real-time, but not far off. Journalists now tell us not to contact them past midday about stories which broke that very morning or overnight. If you are pitching UK-based media, the next day is simply a day too late.

4. Flexible messaging to match customer journeys

The accelerating news agenda means PR needs to speed the f** up. Automate your alerts and adopt agile PR pitching. To respond at the lightning speed required means considering the creation of pre-baked messages. In effect therefore PRs need to create and maintain agile Message Houses, built and rebuilt every month or so internal and external teams can react at pace, within a pre-agreed framework, to the news agenda.

It is also well worth expanding your list of commentable topics. The key is flexibility and breadth of relevant angles. This year the most unexpected of topics have yielded great results for our clients recently. We have pitched the return, or not, to the office, the importance of the IT-driven supply chain for everything from Christmas presents to vaccine doses and even how aubergine emojis can protect smartphones from phishing attacks.

5. Real Time Social listening is your content fuel

Need to get even further ahead? Socially listening to Twitter using the latest AI-powered digital analytics tools helps us a lot. By identifying common concerns and phrases among target audiences, your message can appear super-fresh.

This works wherever a prospect is in her buyer journey. It may be a sale does not happen this quarter, but delivering quality content at the right time puts you in the driving seat for when it is back on. After all, who does not want to buy from informed experts? Offering influencers your sage commentary on a consistent basis, whether reported every time or not, separates those who care about tech, from those who play at it.