Not all kinds of publicity are created equal: different modes of communicating with your publics produce varying types of engagement. Targeted ads can get your product in front of the audience you aim at, if for a brief period of time and limiting reach to the fraction of the audience that will choose not to disregard the message. Sponsored posts on social media that pop up in the face of people going about their business can also get your brand across by boosting mechanical exposure.
However, if your value proposition lies in creating complex AR applications or mind-bending AI-driven solutions to longstanding social problems, you might want to consider a balanced, healthy PR-centered communications diet over the paid-publicity fast food.
Although a popular online marketing maxim postulates that the four key media types – paid, earned, shared, and owned – work better when deployed together, PR-sourced, earned coverage is of paramount importance specifically in the tech sector. Here’s why:
1. At the core of PR are organic media placements that you earn rather than simply purchase.
In contrast to providing a quote to a specialized publication or securing a mention in a quarterly industry report – moves that position you as a go-to in the field yet also require effort and expertise – there are virtually no entry barriers for acquiring paid coverage. A host of scholarly studies suggest that third-party endorsements and organic mentions elicit vastly higher perceptions of credibility and trust than sponsored content. In other words, hard-earned media coverage and professional reviews simply work better in terms of building favorable attitudes towards your company and its products.
2. PR can work without paid media, but not vice versa.
As earned media builds your reputation as an influencer, your social media gets a natural boost, amplifying the effects of both kinds of publicity. You cannot make paid social work for you efficiently unless you have an established base following.
3. Quantitative indicators of ads’ reach can look impressive, but the quality of such coverage will be poor compared to earned publicity.
Skeptics may argue that it is often easier for a cash-strapped startup to get wider exposure for less money by purchasing targeted ads and sponsored social media posts. While this is true on the face, remember that educating fellow industry professionals and prospective early adopters on the benefits of your solutions is hardly a question of how many impressions have been achieved. Pointed, in-depth coverage and favorable mentions in key specialized publications and reports will do a better job in conveying your message to the right people and communities, laying the groundwork for brand recognition and appreciation.
4. Mind the audience: B2B tech buyers are typically thorough, educated, and willing to invest in research before making a purchase.
In 2019, perhaps that are still a few people who can be impressed by sponsored endorsements – however, professionals in charge of procuring cutting-edge technological solutions for their organizations are certainly not a part of this group on the brink of extinction. Specialized tech is a massive investment, and the selling cycle is usually long. People who take decisions on whether to employ a novel product have enough time at their disposal and clear motivations to scrutinize all the serious press around the potential technology provider. They are not going to be looking at your ads.
5. PR helps you build a reputation over time and accumulate recognition of your work, while ad-powered paid publicity fades without leaving a trace.
Coverage that emerges from long-term relationships with journalists and the expert community has a cumulative nature: as a consistent PR program unfolds, your brand will enter a positive feedback loop, where the previously earned coverage facilitates even more reputable mentions. Ultimately, you can hear a tech industry peer saying, “Remember that fintech startup that Tech Crunch covered several times last summer?” way more often than, “Remember that app who ran a cool ad on Facebook lately?”
6. For companies putting new markets on the map, PR is a way to both legitimize the emerging niche and establish their leadership within the space.
The need for sound PR is nowhere as pronounced as in the industries that are early along the path towards mainstream adoption. Having to justify the legitimacy of the whole class of products that you represent prescribes telling vivid stories, weaving convincing narratives, and summoning credible speakers to endorse your overall approach, rather than exposing a few social media users to glimpses of potential use cases. The task is gargantuan indeed, but the potential payoffs are huge: If you end up being the most eloquent in communicating the benefits of the brand new tech, your brand could well end up a common name to describe the entire sector.
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