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.
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.
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.