Dealing in Futures and Fortunes: The Challenges and Advantages for a PR Firm Focused on Tech – By Valerie Christopherson, Founder and CEO, Global Results Communications
A lot of people outside of our industry have preconceived notions and critical opinions about public relations—and rightly so. In our profession, we’re tasked with doing something that seems so natural and simple: building relationships and trust through engagement. But we all know that isn’t the case. Of course, what we do isn’t exactly rocket science. But what many of our clients do is. That’s why they need the support of an agency that can not only quickly grasp their groundbreaking products, solutions and services, bringing their messages to multiple audiences and platforms, but also help them achieve their organizational goals, whether it is market expansion, IPO, leadership elevation and influence or reputation management. This can present as many challenges as it does advantages, particularly for a firm like ours, which is focused on technology and everything it touches.
I began my career in telecommunications in 1995 at time when telecom wasn’t even considered “tech.” Since then, most would agree that telecom is foundational to most technological innovation. Simply put, without an advanced communications network, the delivery of today’s technologies would be stagnant—or nonexistent. Even in the 1990s, success depended on the ability to interpret complex ideas with clarity for multiple audiences, including media. That’s no easy task for communications professionals who were educated to think in the written and verbal world but expected to think in the world of zeros and ones (010101). So, the real challenges in the 90s and early 2000s were directly related to a steep learning curve in understanding these emerging technologies well enough to present them to the world in a thoughtful and engaging way. And there were lots of new technologies, apps and platforms being introduced in that time period—the Dot.com era—which is when tech really made its mark.
Today, technology changes so fast, but there’s no arguing that we have allowed our lives to revolve around and depend on it. That’s why companies are upgrading or expanding rapidly into other verticals either to solve evolving problems, offer more convenience or deliver innovation to meet customer demands. It’s necessary for staying competitive in the market. Having been in tech for 24 years now, moving at the speed of light is a requirement not an option. Technology pushes PR professionals to think beyond today’s reality and step into the future. And by future, I mean decades down the road. Consider the 1962 television cartoon The Jetsons. They lived in space, which seemed lightyears away if at all. They had robotic dogs, flying cars and tech-programmed maids. Here we are just 60 years later, and we are preparing to colonize Mars! We already have remote-controlled drones, semi-autonomous cars—with self-driving vehicles on the horizon—and we have robotics in nearly every industry, including healthcare and hospitality, where some hotels are staffed entirely by robots. Even pet rocks have been converted to virtual pets via technology! More to the point, tech clients are constantly moving forward at warp speed, and PR professionals need to move just as fast or get out of the way.
There’s more to PR tech than promoting products and services. Often, tech companies wrestle with issues that at first glance appear unrelated to their offerings. But at the end of the day, it is critical to see that everything is intertwined—and essential for raising visibility, building trust and reaching new markets, influencers and opportunities. That’s the turning point where one can take those challenges and flip them into advantages. Here are just a few of the many challenges Global Results Communications (GRC) has solved along the way:
Small, Dark and Handsome
A provider of ultra-high-performance smart antenna system solutions tapped GRC to get the media to tune in and talk about its wireless antennas. Understanding that while everyone likes to talk about new apps and wireless devices but not the back-end technology that makes them functional, GRC worked with the client to develop a “Small, Dark and Handsome” campaign. Based on the premise that mobile phone antennas are small, they are always black, and they’re handsome—as in handy (because without them, the phones and apps don’t work)—the strategy was designed to capture the attention of media and the target market with just one short seductive phrase. Our cheeky outreach approach resulted in consistent coverage at an average increase of 78 percent during the 3 months of the campaign, with high visibility from OEMs that led to new opportunities and an increase in sales.
Visualizing a Future Beyond Print
A leading manufacturer in the printer, professional imaging, projector, scanner, system devices and factory automation categories tasked GRC with re-branding the client from its “old school” legacy in printers and projectors to a company that is recognized as an innovator in smart wearables with its augmented reality smart glasses. Working with the client, GRC created messaging that highlighted its competitive differentiators that no other company in the nascent smart glasses industry could equal: leadership in projection technology, global technology and R&D capabilities, manufacturing, scalability and distribution. GRC brought smart glasses directly to reporters via desk-side tours, video interviews and industry conferences, including a press conference at CES, which more than 200 reporters and analysts attended. We also tapped into the enterprise application developer market to find developers to create compelling applications for B2B use, and we promoted these stories via traditional and social media to show “real world” examples of how smart glasses can make a difference in a variety of markets, from healthcare and education to training and beyond. During the first 3 months of the program, GRC generated 1,200 press articles, 300 million media impressions and 8 million Twitter impressions. Notably, the media placements created demonstrable conversion to customer sales.
All for One and One for All
An American computer hard disk drive manufacturer and data storage company empowering the world’s data infrastructures sought to create a singular, unified, global voice across social media from various regional locations, which had developed their own “identities.” Recognizing that the client had long been at the forefront of game changing innovations—from the invention of the first hard drive to recent advancements in 3D NAND—but was struggling with new social media platforms, GRC conducted global audits to consolidate corporate goals across the board. After compiling and analyzing results, GRC strategically killed off approximately 30 of the existing social media handles and created a global content sheet, which resulted in one corporate social media program that fueled each region.
One of the greatest benefits in focusing on tech PR is that we get a glimpse into the future well before it arrives. But we also have the incredible opportunity to help position brilliant entrepreneurs and organizations by developing imaginative strategies and stories to place them in the present. We do this through outreach that allows people to read and hear about them, as well as watch and try live demonstrations when appropriate. It’s always about developing a visual story through content that engages the senses, taps into emotions and triggers a favorable response. In our case, we get to script the next chapter of life before it happens because we know our clients are shaping it.
Specializing within a sector under the tech umbrella also affords the opportunity to master an industry, which informs the application of the technology to all aspects of any given market. The brain just starts thinking in those terms. GRC, for example, got its start in mobile, and we were arguably one of a small group that only did mobile/telecom. This enabled us to apply everything we learned from clients and make noise within an industry, while providing strategic counsel based on knowledge of that industry not just PR knowledge. Because of that, GRC can now take its mobile/telecom heritage and apply it to all aspects of tech. And, let’s face it, mobile has touched everything from phones to medical devices and everything in between.
Most important, the results of any PR campaign must meet a client’s goal. That’s how impact is measured. I have often been asked, “What is the secret in using challenges to your advantage?” I tell people, it’s like taking one’s greatest weakness and turning it into a strength. Today, too many of us try to harness attention and dull the active mind. But it’s really about focus. When presented with a challenge, learning to laser focus on an outcome will provide a roadmap or blueprint leading to the desired destination for both the client and the agency. It’s a win for everyone.
ABOUT VALERIE CHRISTOPHERSON
Valerie Christopherson is founder and CEO of Global Results Communications (GRC), an award-winning public relations firm trusted by both entrepreneurs on the cusp of new discoveries and multi-billion-dollar enterprises breaking new ground. Renowned for her expertise in high tech, she is the driving force behind GRC’s targeted communications strategies that dramatically enhance client market presence and performance on a global scale. Prior to founding GRC in 2005, Valerie held key positions at QUALCOMM, Porter Novelli Convergence Group and other niche agencies in the mobile, telecom and technology sectors. Over a span of 20 years, she provided unparalleled counsel and campaign management resulting in successful public relations and social media programs for Fortune 500 companies, major trade associations and start-ups. A current board member of Golden Rule Charity, Valerie has been involved with various nonprofit organizations including Make a Wish Foundation and Mobile Giving Foundation among others. An industry thought leader, she is frequently called upon to speak at regional and national events including PR News conferences, regional PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) conferences and Comm Week at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). A graduate of CSUF, Valerie holds a bachelor’s degree in both English and communications with a public relations emphasis. She also completed a social media certification program at University of California, Irvine.