Here at Sofarbeyond, we asked PR communications specialists – Sam Howard, founder The Comms Crowd to tell us more about the value of PR and why companies need to think differently about how they do it.
PR is a core component of the marketing mix, done well, it provides third party objectivity, delivers credibility and is a perfect complement to more direct marketing vehicles. In the world of B2B tech, the purchase decision making process is drawn out and with multiple stakeholders, who each have their own agenda and their own influencers.
Sustained media coverage of a company and its solutions can help establish brand trust and preference. Another positive, in terms of budget demands, PR leaves a much smaller hole in your spreadsheet, than advertising or event participation.
Hurrah! I hear you chorus, where do I sign?
But it’s called ‘earned media’ for a reason and you have to be prepared to earn it. Effective PR that delivers to your bottom line is less spin, more graft. If your software company is thinking about ‘doing PR’ here’s some factors to consider:
1) A good book relies on more than just a cover: PR is the best vehicle for telling your company’s story, explaining your strategy and demonstrating delivery of your values and vision. If your company has news, views, beliefs and genuine success stories, PR can help articulate them for you – but we can’t just make it up! If you have nothing to say, that’s absolutely fine, but don’t waste your budget on white noise either.
2) Not all children are above average intelligence: If I had a pound for every ‘world’s leading provider’ I had encountered, I’d be running a donkey sanctuary right now. The pub is the place for inflated claims of greatness, not PR. Be prepared to forgo the hyperbole!
3) PR can ensure molehills stay molehills: This is the era where we witness reputations rise and crumble in hours not years. But companies that have invested in telling their story intelligently are in a far better position to ride out the lows than those that only invest in riding high. PR channels give you the opportunity to rapidly respond and restore trust. However, if what you’ve got going down is more Kilimanjaro than molehill, you might want to prioritise attending to the cause rather than hoping for the PR cure.
4) Techies need to talk business: Often in B2B tech, the software is made by a guy with a PhD and will be used by a guy with a PhD. So why do you need some PR (probably without a PhD) in the middle of that food chain? Well the thing is, what’s important to the guy that made it and even to the guy that uses it, may not be that important to the guy that pays for it. A good PR will help you articulate the issues in the marketplace, what problems these are causing, and why your technology solves them. It’s about the business benefits, not just the technology features.
5) Keeping it topical: I hate to sound mean but the old adage is true: Only you, are that interested in you. So often I sit in kick off meetings and hear the client say, ‘what we want to say is…’ and I get a bit of a sinking feeling. While it’s valid to announce new products and client signings, you need to be prepared to invest in the wider debate – whether it’s providing comment on the impact of impending legislation, producing a blog on next generation security issues, or penning an article on how the latest fat finger blunder could have been prevented. Thought leadership, requires your time and intellectual input.
In summary, PR done well and in collaboration, can deliver a credible platform to tell your company’s story, share your successes and demonstrate understanding of your market – you’ve just got to be prepared to work at it.
“No, no! The adventures first…explanations take such a dreadful time.”- Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Effective storytelling is an art form. A wonderful story draws you in, makes you stop what you’re doing and listen eagerly to find out what unfolds next.
You could be drawn to the quirky, future-facing tales of a brand like Apple – who this week topped the list of Interbrand’s 100 Best Global Brands 2013 – Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, or prefer Coca-Cola’s cosy, family-centric narrative. However, telling a seemingly simple, but seriously engaging, story is harder than it looks.
In an age where time is precious and attention spans are short, today’s stories need to grab our attention in the form of a 30 second advertisement, a 140 character tweet or in just three seconds as we drive past a billboard or click on a website. It’s crucial that a company becomes an expert storyteller and fully engages with how its audience sees, hears and responds.
Companies telling their story successfully are using technology such as Twitter, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram to instantly connect with their users. Some brands can create such genuinely compelling stories that people can’t wait to share, comment or retweet them. These are the stories that drive the success of a company, inspire a community of loyal followers and sometimes simply make us gratefully pause and smile in a hectic world.
An example of innovative storytelling is evident in the recent, beautifully shot Airbnb advert. The company used Vine (a six second video tool) to create the ‘Hollywood & Vines’ story. They asked their users to submit their own scripted Vines via Twitter, and artfully edited them to create a story told from the point of view of a paper airplane.
The Airbnb advert works because it doesn’t scream about the company’s product. Instead, the video slowly takes you on a journey.
Five reasons why you need to be able to tell a great story:
1. Brilliant stories drive social media engagement. People always want to share relevant, interesting and funny information.
2. Good stories drive brand loyalty. At the heart of any business is the reason why the business started in the first place. If you can articulate this ‘why’ to your audience, you’ll encourage them to relate to your brand.
3. Innovative narratives will differentiate you from your competitors. If you have a compelling story to tell, customers will remember you in a crowded marketplace.
4. A well-told, consistent story will build a community of loyal customers and referrals. Think about the brands you follow – why do you find them engaging?
5. A good story will enable you to build a diverse product portfolio. If you are known for your values rather than just your products, your customers will trust that you can deliver the same service across multiple industries – look at Virgin and Apple for two excellent examples of this.
Are you ready for an adventure? Your audience is waiting…
So, what’s your story? Share it with us.