[NOTE- A version of this blog first appeared in PR Week and caused quite a stir – subscription required]
What a wake-up call. This year has seen nearly quarter of a million highly-paid tech workers laid off. If you’re employed in tech today, you’re at risk of a RIF or Reduction In Force. The worst part? Some of these new jobseekers did nothing wrong, they are just the statistical ‘friendly fire’ of nervous boards who are echoing each other’s decisions.
In the first quarter of next year, ex-Twitter, HP and Salesforce staff will somewhat unexpectedly compete for jobs against former workers at hipper tech players such as Stripe, Coinbase and Spotify. Some will want a well-deserved rest and others will want to ‘get straight back on the horse’.
Naturally all this disruption is making internal marketing teams nervous. So are the UK’s 150-plus Tech PR agencies, with some justification. But should we be?
Focus on what you can affect
Having seen three recessions, it’s easy to panic and make rash decisions. Our advice? Just don’t.
Instead, agencies should make their clients the stars of the hour. Even as ad spend declines, your internal PR sponsors need you, now more than ever, to fight for PR’s fair share of the marketing budget. That’s what we should all do every day, right?
Of course, there is budget pressure from the top to divert funds to short-term tactics like advertising. But some advertising, such as Meta’s crass “Some say..’ TV and YouTube ads can seem inappropriately pushy in a downturn.
The fact is great tech brands and innovative propositions shine brightest when they prove their long-term value to businesses. That’s a story only PR can do justice to.
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Don’t cut teams prematurely
Tempting as it may be, from a solely cost perspective, agencies cannot afford to lose great talent to this hot jobs market. For our part, Positive just implemented a cost-of-living pay rise demonstrating our long-term commitment to the team.
Recent layoffs though do prove in-house is no longer the safe, no-drama career choice it once was. So this could be a rare, perhaps once-in-a-career, opportunity for agencies to pick up amazing in-house talent looking for new agency-side challenges.
There is both a lifestyle and a professional fulfilment argument. Contrast the bureaucracy and in-house psychodramas of life at some large employers to the unending optimism which, by necessity, has to drive external PR teams. In my experience, having worked in-house and externally, agency life is more liberating, diverse and creative.
Tech PR reinvigorated
Tech of course is not going anywhere. If anything, each day tech becomes more mainstream and less ‘magic’. Fewer in-house resources does not reduce the need for tech brands to differentiate themselves. Quite the reverse.
And while we should keep a sharp eye on the once-in-a-career talent availability, mostly that means it’s the ideal time for external agency partners to provide maximum proof of value. This implies we should measure the payback on PR like never before. Get this right, with rebalanced teams focused on growing tech out of this recession.Its in our own hands, we just need to wake up and smell that coffee again.