Has your technology PR agency joined the digital age?

Technology wordingIt’s 2013 and your technology PR agency needs to be up to speed on a lot more than just tech PR. We’re in the midst of a digital revolution. It’s exciting and it is opening up a whole new world of opportunity for how you market your technology business. But if your tech PR agency is still stuck in the dark ages, you could be wasting your money.

It used to be that the best way to choose a tech PR agency was to ask around, see who had the best contacts in the channel or tech end user media, look at a couple of coverage portfolios and choose the one that boasted the most column inches. However, times have changed and tech companies need to take off the blinkers – the ability to place a story in Computing.co.uk, FT Connected Business or CRN is no longer enough to justify the budgets many top PR agencies demand.

If your whole marketing strategy relies on placing a few articles here and there, your business is either so utterly well known as the leader in its field that you obviously don’t need to bother with proactively winning new business, or it’s destined to fail. That’s because the way technology buyers make decisions has changed. In 2006, they might have turned to their favourite trade mag for the majority of their information, but in 2013, they’re using a much broader range of resources. They’re conducting Google searches, seeking recommendations from contacts on social networks and watching online videos to get up to speed before even speaking to vendors. That means, your piece of coverage, while valuable, will only get you so far. What you really need from your tech PR agency is the ability to look at the bigger picture: i.e. how the thought leadership / brand awareness work that they are doing fits into the marketing and lead generation strategy. How does PR interact with social media to generate leads? How can media coverage be used to support SEO efforts (which ultimately generate leads)? And how can it be used to leverage analyst relationships and share video content (to generate the right kind of leads)?  

That means the traditional PR agency skills, while still highly valuable, need to be augmented by digital skills if your tech PR agency is to deliver the business value you are looking for. Your account manager and her team need to be able to combine these with a working knowledge of Google Analytics, a more than basic understanding of how Google’s search engine algorithm determines which websites to return for certain search results, and they need to have embraced social media, including Twitter, blogging, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and the myriad other niche B2B social media tools.

As a buyer of tech PR services, however, how can you possibly identify whether the tech PR agency submitting a proposal for your business is up to scratch (particularly when they’ve put a swish business development team in front of you)? Here are some signs to look out for when evaluating a tech PR agency:

They still use AVEs

Advertising Value Equivalents were long ago discredited by the industry as a way to measure return on investment. To work out AVEs, agencies would count the number of column inches or minutes of air time secured in your tech PR campaign, and work out how much it would have cost you to buy the equivalent space in advertising. This is then multiplied by a random constant (3.3), based on the principle that editorial carries more weight than advertising. It is now widely accepted in the industry, that this is not an accurate or useful measure of value – it doesn’t take into consideration whether the client would have bought that advertising space in the first place, messaging or actual benefit to the business. Furthermore, as the digital marketing era dawns, it is becoming increasingly clear that online marketing campaigns could deliver better ROI than both advertising and PR.

You Google “technology PR agency” or “b2b technology PR agency” and they’re nowhere to be found

Any B2B tech PR agency with a modicum of digital sense would have long ago recognised the importance of being in the top 5 pages on Google’s search results for this keywords (and it’s not that difficult to get on to page 5). If they’re not there, can you really trust their digital credentials?

They tell you to send your media release out on a newswire “to help SEO”

This is a favourite of PR agencies, and it’s a great way to judge if they genuinely understand SEO. The SEO value of newswires is limited (I’ve blogged about this extensively in the past). Sending one media release out on each newswire a year will be of some benefit (for a significant fee) – provided each media release you send is unique and is not published on your website. But sending every release you write out on PA Newswire will have no impact whatsoever.  

Their social accounts have been left floundering

If your tech PR agency claims to offer social media services, they should be practicing what they preach. It’s easy to check up on this one: is their Facebook page active? Is it being used intelligently? Is the company engaging with its fans? Likewise for Twitter. Does the company have a good follower base? Is it interacting with followers? Does the company have a blog? Is the content interesting, regular and well shared, they probably know what they’re on about. If you think it’s okay that they’re not, then you’re probably one of those people who go to a hairdresser who has had to shave their head after an ugly haircut!

Work with a one of London’s top technology PR agencies with proven digital credentials.