A Non-technical Guide to Breaking into Tech PR

Tech PR is a bustling, innovative and ever-changing field – but it’s not one I ever foresaw myself going into. As a journalism and Spanish double major whose most relevant workplace experience was working for a lifestyle magazine conglomerate, I didn’t really know what I’d be getting myself into at a tech PR agency. Luckily, it’s been one of the most wonderful experiences I could imagine, and I’ve grown and learned every day at Highwire. Now, a year into my tech PR career, I have a few tips to share for anyone entering the space who thought they never would:

Read all day long

Read as much as you can. Obviously not all day because there’s also work to be done, but take the time at the beginning of your career to get familiar with the industry. Read everything from breaking news to industry term definitions. It’s okay not to know what a cloud data warehouse off the bat – chances are you’ve never had to think about it before – so just look it up! You’re not expected to be an expert from day one, and that’s an advantage. Knowing what you don’t know allows you to prioritize learning while you get your feet wet before you’re expected to dive into the deep end. 

To narrow down your reading list, consider what specific news will be most relevant to you. There are numerous credible and interesting tech publications to use as resources including TechCrunch, WIRED, Fast Company and ZDNet. It’s worth considering what publications your client is most interested in getting featured in to understand the components of a story in that outlet. If your clients are focused on leadership in the industry, add Entrepreneur and Business Insider to your reading list. Alternatively, if they’re more focused on a technical audience, try TechTarget or InformationWeek.

Additionally, reading regularly will make you better at creating informed pitches, knowing where your client can contribute to news trends and holding stimulating conversation at dinner parties (joking, mostly). But don’t limit your reading extravaganza to the beginning of your career. The 24-hour news cycle means not only is news happening every day, but it’s happening every minute, so spend time every day dedicated to digging in – even if you think you know everything there is to know.

Ask anything

Your brain will be buzzing with a million questions. Don’t be scared to ask! At any good agency, there will be people who know the answers and are happy to help teach you. It can be nerve-racking to ask questions because you might think you should already know the answer, but no one is expected to know everything. Asking informed questions shows that you’re interested, invested and taking the time to think critically. And trust me, it’s better to ask a question about a project before you take it on than to get in too deep and realize you should have come prepared with more intel.

As far as best practices for asking questions, if you’re genuinely lost and it’s time-sensitive, fire away! If you have some time to look into the topic, do a bit of research and see what you can find. Anyone you ask will be grateful that you were considerate and thoughtful enough to give it a shot on your own. Additionally, figure out the right person to ask. If you’re confused about a client’s product, ask one of the experienced members of your team. If you’re not sure about a specific assignment, ask the reviewer. 

The best part about asking questions is that the answers you get give you an arsenal of knowledge that you can implement the next time around – and even use to answer questions for the people following in your footsteps. 

Understand goals

As you break into tech PR, you’ll realize that all of these general guidelines and best practices are great, but they only go so far. In client relations, team dynamics and personal career growth, there are a bevy of contributing factors that make each situation unique. 

For your career, ask your manager what goals you’re tracking toward at your level. You can’t prove your success if you don’t know what you’re measuring against. Once you understand your personal career goals, make a plan for how to achieve them. Discuss them with your teams and ask what you can contribute to that will put you on the right track.

For each team, you will have a separate set of goals. Internally, your managers will set expectations and that will often track to the goals of the client. You might be wondering why you get a certain request, and it’s fair to ask! Often, you’ll find that a project you’re working on is essential to a certain business or measurement goal that the client needs. Remembering that everyone you’re working with – inside and out of the agency – is working toward a North Star will help you understand their motivation.

Take it one day at a time

If you’re considering a career in tech PR, but have only ever written articles about engagement announcements and restaurant openings like me, don’t be scared off. There are a few key practices that can help you get started, and while the industry may seem overwhelming, you’ll learn day-by-day and the experience will be invaluable.

Women’s Equality Day

Today, August 26th, 2019, is the 99th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the US. Women’s Equality Day commemorates this event and celebrates the continued fight towards equality. Women are still fighting for a spot at the table in many industries. Although women make up half of the workforce, less than a fifth of tech jobs are held by women. Only 5% of leadership in these companies are women. It’s important to uplift women not just on Women’s Equality Day but throughout the year.

At Highwire, women supporting women is how we thrive. Ways that women can help support each other in the workplace include:

  • Creating a space for women to feel safe, encouraged and inspired to share ideas
  • Recognizing women’s ideas and wins
  • Creating a network of women that empower and mentor one another across multiple levels

It’s important that women build each other up and not tear each other down. By creating a space where women are uplifted and celebrated, we are providing women a platform to showcase their talents and creating a strong community that nurtures one another.

To celebrate Women’s Equality Day, we put together a list of events that women can attend to network, grow professionally, and be empowered by other women:

On today especially, take a moment to thank or acknowledge a woman who has helped you grow and extend that same support to another woman on her own journey. We are better together!

How Do We Scale Communications For High-Growth Companies?

Last month, Peter McCormack shared his thoughts on how to Scale Your PR Team from Startup to IPO  in a recent Highwire blog. But when you are a growth-stage company, everything must scale, including communications. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to host a webinar with Insight Partners and share my knowledge of how growth-stage companies can do just that.

Following are Five Key Takeaways:

Don’t Just Say You are a Leader, Be a Leader

Don’t just say you are a leader, be a leader. You need to take the long-term view and build relationships with the right influencers, including media. That means a give and take, and not every interaction will always have a direct outcome for you. Make sure to have a perspective on the industry, not just your company. Having executives contribute content on industry topics, point of views and external research will establish your company as a thought leader, strengthening trust and credibility with audiences including the media. 

Think big. Think Integrated.

Making sure all team members and executives understand the goal of each interaction will allow your organization to meet your long term marketing goals. PR requires an integrated approach; combining paid, earned, shared, and owned media will allow your organization to gain the most value from your investment.

Funding Just the Foundation

Funding is becoming more and more competitive. Think strategically about your announcement. What is the bigger story about the market and your company you are trying to tell? Consider an exclusive to give a reporter an opportunity to tell that story.

Finding the Right Agency 

Once you’ve developed an established internal PR team an agency can help bring your company to new heights. Onboarding an agency provides expertise, strong media relations, prestige, scalability, and transparency. When searching for an agency it’s important to research industry experience. Not every agency will understand the industry and media landscape necessary to help advance your goals. Before on boarding, make sure you meet the team that will be working on your account. This will allow you to see if there is a connection and if the agency is a good fit for your business. 

Making the Most of It

Choosing the right agency will create a strong partnership setting you up for a path to success. As you continue to build your relationship, it’s important to be transparent and communicate all information both positive and negative. Having clear communication will help ensure you get the most value out of the relationship.

State of Media Report: AI Edition

Artificial intelligence “AI,” is one of the most talked about topics in the media today. In fact, according to data from TechNews, since January, there have been an average of 4,000 articles per month that mention AI. From the role AI is playing in helping autonomous vehicles make decisions in milliseconds to how it is providing recommendations to healthcare providers about potentially life saving treatment options to all of the “boring” AI uses in between, we read about and engage with AI on a daily basis. 

However, with all of the buzz that AI is creating, there are some areas of concern including the ethical debate surrounding AI and whether or not AI will take jobs away. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to cut through the noise the topic of AI is creating. While there is a fantastic group of journalists and influencers who cover AI, they are inundated with pitches, news and other information from companies trying to stand out as a leading authority in the space.

We work with our clients on a daily basis to uncover the unique AI storylines – ranging from cutting edge research on key advancements within the field of AI to use cases driving real world business results – and determine the best integrated approach for telling those stories. We’ve landed top tier placements with tier-one business press, collaborated with AI influencers to amplify messages to target audiences and executed creative campaigns across various social media platforms to position our clients are experts in this field. 

We are on top of key trends in AI and speak with the top reporters in this space daily and that’s why we created this Media Insights AI edition report. This report will detail the top trends currently being discussed in the media related to AI, the top AI reporters and influencers and what organizations can do in order to stand out amongst the crowd. 

To download the report, please fill out the form below. If you are interested in learning more about how to make your AI story stand out among the crowd, please don’t hesitate to reach out – joe@highwirepr.com

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#HWCyberSquad Takes Black Hat 2019 by Storm

Black Hat 2019

Kicking off the 22nd year of Black Hat were keynote speeches from the conference’s founder, Jeff Moss, followed by Dino Dai Zovi, the mobile security lead at Square. Both talks reinforced one main message that was felt in all sessions, briefs, and side conversations that followed – communication is key. 

The security world finally has its well-deserved spotlight, and cyber teams are now being challenged to seize this opportunity and shift their focus to high engagement with departments across companies through thoughtful and strategic communication. 

In Dai Zovi’s talk, he shared his career path through security, starting with research and hacking contests he did in his free time – since security positions weren’t an option when he joined the workforce – to now, were he holds a lead security position with a seat at the head table. From his personal roadmap, Dai Zovi has been able to pull together four main ways that security teams can shift the way they engage and communicate with across all teams at their organizations, which are: 

  • Start with “yes.” In order to engage the world, you can’t shut them out 
  • Meet with teams dealing directly with customers to get a deeper understanding of who customers are and what they struggle with on a day-to-day
  • Use feedback loops and software automation to meet scalability needs 
  • Create a culture of security across an organization, instead of focusing on strategy and tactics

It became clear that the security community was hungry for more communication like Dia Zovi noted above and ready to shift their focus. While technology demos continued to be a huge part of the conference from a marketing perspective, and technical innovations in automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the new, changing definition of endpoint/perimeter security being the main PR drivers, most technical conversations managed to continually turn toward this more human element of cybersecurity.

As we see security concerns around topics that are increasingly more detrimental to society such as, election security, data abuse, privacy issues, AI being weaponized, and widespread disinformation, Dai Zovi’s message on shifting the focus of cyber teams to communication will become more vital than ever. It will open the opportunity for a culture of security, empowering each individual in every organization to be an extension of their security team and allowing cyber practitioners to think big and work together against future cyber attacks. 

Let us know if you’d like to connect with Highwire PR to talk through how communication will change the game for the security industry! Contact secleads@highwirepr.com for more details.


It’s Time to Prepare for Your Post-Summer Product Launch

By Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash

We’re in the midst of summer and all we’re focused on is the joy of exemplary weather, barbecues, time with friends and family, vacations, and prepping for back to school…but what about that product you want to launch in the Fall, feature in a holiday gift guide or debut at CES?

Preparing for a product launch post-summer takes strategic planning and careful execution — breaking through the noise of back to school chatter, the holidays and large tech events in the Fall is no easy task. Luckily, we can help. 

As we approach Fall and the holiday season, here are a few tips and tricks to ensure you break through the noise:

Plan, Plan, Plan: When we refer to planning, we’re not just talking about your brand strategy or your go to market plan, we’re talking about taking a look at your calendar. The Fall and Winter are lined up with a multitude of technology events that run the news cycle for weeks at a time. With everything from Apple’s product announcements in September to MWC in October to Microsoft Ignite in November and AWS re:Invent in December, the tech community has a jam-packed next couple of months. 

To ensure your product will break through the noise of all these events, make sure you’re not aiming for a launch date the same day as Apple’s infamous September keynote. Chances are most, if not all, the reporters you’re targeting for coverage will be occupied during any week of a big tech event. 

Plan ahead and launch during a week where there is a lull in events or major product announcements — aim for a Wednesday or Thursday giving your team a couple of days earlier in the week to tease the news.

Give Yourself Enough Time: Product launches are notorious for being pushed back whether it’s due to setbacks with the visual assets, product functionality or production of the product itself. With that being said, you should plan for at least a one month cushion to prepare for any delays.

Let’s say you’re aiming to launch your products around the holidays. You’ll want reviews to come out in time for peak holiday shopping and you’ll want to place it in gift guides — your product review program needs to begin in September. Editors can take up to two months testing out a product ensuring there are no kinks and it delivers an experience consumers will enjoy and that’s before they even write the review. Don’t underestimate your product review programs lead time and miss out.

Get Creative: Breaking through the noise is all about standing out, doing something that’s never been done before and making an impact. Sure, this is all easier said than done but it’s not impossible. There are numerous creative ways to get your product seen before the big launch – we can help with that.

Teasing the product and creating a sense of desire is crucial to a successful launch. Create a video teaser and share on social media platforms or create a giveaway with a limited number of products and build that sense of urgency among your audience. Utilize the trend of influencers — partner with a macro-influencer or micro-influencer to get your product’s story in front of a new and targeted audience that matches your key demographics.  

You could even host a pop-up event with sample products for attendees to test out to build that excitement; don’t forget to have them share on their social media (who doesn’t love free press?). If you’re planning to debut at CES, you’ll need to carefully plan your approach as it is one of the noisiest shows and therefore, difficult to attract attention. To break through that noise, we suggest hosting a happy hour a day before the event starts to give reporters an exclusive look at your product or attending a press exclusive event.

We realize it’s only August and you just want to enjoy what’s left of your summer, but the reality is there’s no time like the present and it’s time to start executing against your launch plan to have a successful post-summer launch.

PR Across Borders: How to Build a Global Comms Program

Highwire and U.K. agency partner, Nelson Bostock Unlimited, hosted a panel discussing the opportunities and challenges that U.S. brands face when entering the U.K. and Europe. Panelists included James Titcomb (The Telegraph), Caitlin Epstein (Twilio), and Tim Lines (NBU). Highwire’s Carol Carrubba moderated the discussion. 

It was a lively evening. The conversation shed light upon how to expand into European markets, as this is an integral step in building a global brand. This can be an insurmountable challenge for some, as media, business and consumer landscapes vary widely across borders. Insights from the panel illuminate how to transcend borders and execute a strategic global communications program.

Creating a Successful Story 

Caitlin Epstein, global PR Lead at Twilio, shares that in the U.K., input from local customers is critical to the success of a story. Stories that connect personally with customers validate a new company entering a market. This aspect—combined with commissioned surveys to create data points—helps stories go deeper. PR teams must understand this key difference in the media landscape in order to tell a story. Tim Lines, director at NBU, emphasized that the U.K. has more in-depth feature articles allowing for more narrative-building.

When working with press in the U.K., it is important to note a few key logistical differences in how American reporters operate. James Titcomb, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief at The Telegraph, explains that reporters in the U.K. are more willing to meet in person due to differences in culture and geography.

Communication between the U.K. and the U.S. must also take timing into account. Across the pond, it can feel a bit like everything is controlled by the U.S. West Coast. Epstein prefers a 6 a.m. PST embargo, as anything later can lead to missed opportunities.

Tech Trends Transcending Borders 

When asked which tech trends will transcend borders in 2019, Titcomb cited safety in data as the most serious threat. He emphasizes companies should be ready to correctly answer social questions, including topics of representation and diversity. Titcomb also stressed that pieces of news that relate back to the core message of a company make the best stories. Lines reminded us that local trends can reflect global trends.

Carol Carrubba, principal at Highwire, broached the topic we had all been eagerly anticipating: Brexit. The panelists proved that technology has seen both benefits and challenges following Brexit. Titcomb explained that Brexit increased the levels of positivity in tech stories. Another positive effect of Brexit: tech in the U.K. has seen massive financial investments as of late. Lines was optimistic that investing in tech, including great innovation and stories, is a vote of confidence at a time of economic and political uncertainty.

On the other side of the spectrum, the split has made it increasingly difficult to recruit talent in the U.K. This may contribute to challenges faced when building an international team. 

A question from the audience evoked thoughtful responses from the panelists: will GDPR come to the U.S. and create regulations? Titcomb expressed that the impact of GDPR on tech companies may not be as bad as one might expect because most companies are already preparing for the effects of the regulations. Epstein agreed, noting that executives have been planning for the long term and have taken the opportunity to get on board with regulations. 

Best Practices For Your Global Communications Program  

The panelists discussed best practices for approaching the development of a global communications program. All were in agreement that one-on-one time is preferred over media dinners for conversations with journalists. Epstein emphasized that companies should make the investment in hiring a PR agency in the target region that understands how to work with and handle the media market in that region. Additionally, be very honest and transparent with your agency, and let the comms program shape that. This will help bring in the best results. 

Lines stressed the importance of building a good working relationship with an agency in order to shape stories, going beyond the basics of wiring press releases. He continued to advise forming a relationship with your agency where your stakeholders feel they can say no if necessary.  

When contemplating how to construct a global comms program, be sure to consider what makes a story stand out, your approach to agency relationships and which tech trends can and will best transcend borders. If you are interested in additional guidance on how to build a global comms program, reach out to hi@highwirepr.com—our storytellers can help guide your narrative.  

How to Breakthrough Competitor News During the Conference Season

With the summer conference season in full swing, and fall events like Fortune MPW, Microsoft Ignite and AWS re:Invent rapidly approaching, it’s likely you’ve already established a solid strategy for the “known knowns” – your client is sitting on a panel, you’ve agreed upon meeting and coverage goals, you can recite each executive’s media wishlist with the same, serene reverence of Arya’s hit list.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Now for the known unknowns. Over the past few weeks, you’ve intensely monitored (stalked) Twitter to identify press attendees, fine-tuned messaging for speaking opportunities and mapped out showroom meeting locations with the navigational precision of Magellan. You might think your event strategy is bulletproof, but it’s critical to account for one of the biggest factors outside of our control: news that’s not your own.

The announcement a competitor teased turns out to be a major partnership. One of the big sponsors unveils a new product during the opening keynote. We all expect this to happen, but, depending on the nature and breadth of any given announcement – it can be enough to turn your white-hot media plan lukewarm. Often, we’re lucky enough to have some idea of what the “news” will be ahead of time and can prepare accordingly, but we know that’s not always the case. 

Here are some strategies to anticipate and breakthrough the biggest news of the season, and even use it to your advantage.

Their News, Your Gain

When Apple announced Apple TV+ back in March, an endless number of companies, across industries, weighed in with their own analysis of the steaming market and OTT landscape at large. When speculations arose around Microsoft’s plans to reveal its cloud gaming platform at E3, you know press attendees were well armed with the latest data on the future of gaming and streaming in the cloud.

Barring any roadblocks around customer or partner relationships, there is an enormous opportunity to take advantage of competitor or “other” news by weaving it into executive messaging. This could be for their own speaking opportunity or for meetings with reporters onsite – either in the form of strategic thought leadership or owned data that offer a unique or alternate perspective on the launch or announcement. Try as you might, reporters won’t look your way if you’re spinning cartwheels, especially if they came to see somersaults. Talk about the somersaults. Lean into news cycle and leverage your own expertise to speak strategically about the news at hand.

Use Your Content, Make it Social

We recently shared digital integration strategies to help break through the noise at trade shows. The fact is, social media continues to play a significant role at conferences — whether it’s elevating brand presence through paid Twitter campaigns, or drawing foot traffic to booths for product demos via geo-targeting. The good news is that the same approach can be applied when it comes to cutting through competitor news.

Ideally, you’ve been amplifying your social strategy outside of and well ahead of any event. As a result, you’ve likely identified key competitor announcements that are coming down the pipeline and expected to launch at said conference. From there, be sure to gather internal content like data or analysis from executives attending the event, and prepare tweets ahead of time using relevant conference hashtags. If not a direct competitor, you could also use hashtags another company is using around their announcement — if ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

This approach could potentially result in getting interest from a reporter following the announcement, looking for supporting stats or industry perspective to add color to their story.

Take Advantage of Onsite Presence 

Even if another product launch or announcement overshadows your own news at an event, the fact is you can still leverage your onsite presence to connect with reporters and key stakeholders. For instance, maybe you weren’t able to get a reporter you’ve been chasing for months on the phone, but you could strike up a conversation while waiting in line for coffee or exiting a session. Here again, you can point to the topics that are top of mind — like a competitor’s announcement — to offer your own thoughts and perspective on the news and ask them what stories they’re planning following the event. Easier said than done, but conferences offer a singular opportunity to hustle to make the connections and secure the interviews that are critical to hitting your goals. At least, until the next one.

As you are busy preparing for the fall conference season and want a gut check on your plans, feel free to reach out – hi@highwirepr.com.