Public relations for new technologies - how to work with IT journalists?

The constant increase in value and considerable competition in the IT market means that more and more companies in this sector of the economy are deciding to launch public relations activities. For this reason, the group of media dealing with this industry is becoming increasingly important. How do you cooperate with them so that all parties benefit?

According to PMR analysts, the Polish IT sector is currently characterised by stable value growth. In 2019, it was valued at more than PLN 34 billion and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3 per cent in the near future. On the one hand, this is influenced by the ever-increasing demand for CRM, ERP or Business Intelligence systems, and on the other, by the emergence and growth of IT start-ups that bring the latest technologies from the fields of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence or the Internet of Things to the market. The dynamics of the industry's development can be seen in many fields, one of which is the activity of companies in the area of widely understood PR. In order to stand out from the competition and attract the attention of potential customers, both large IT companies and start-ups are increasingly turning their attention to PR agencies.

When communicating high-tech projects, one of the most important audiences is the trade media. The journalists working there are able to understand and describe often very complex technological issues. The cooperation between PR specialists and journalists is extremely valuable in this industry, as these media rely heavily on the information they are provided with in order to be able to describe the news and changes occurring on the market. Karolina Marszałek, a journalist from the industry monthly Computer Reseller News Polska, when asked, is of the same opinion. - I very much appreciate working with PR people, especially in the context of getting information and answers to questions from IT manufacturers. The same goes for distribution companies and system integrators. These are the companies to which, as a journalist, I turn for an opinion, describing the current situation in a given sector of the IT market.

Long-term cooperation pays off

Whether we are talking about the corporate print sphere or the mobile phone market, cooperation between IT journalists and PR professionals is indispensable. In this aspect, both journalists and PR professionals value long-term cooperation. - I work best with people who have been serving a particular company for years. They can sometimes be approached 'on a moment's notice' for some information, with the feeling that they will do - if not everything - a great deal to help me. More often than not, it is a matter of speaking to a specialist, usually a busy and busy person. Those in charge of PR, who have been working for a given company for years or have been working for a given company for years, know its business and its attitude to particular issues, and have such knowledge that they are even able to suggest to a journalist what he or she might need to know in order to supplement their knowledge and write a better text. - Karolina Marszałek of CRN points out. Such cooperation is also of great value from the perspective of the PR specialist. For long-term cooperation allows for a much more effective process of communication with the journalist himself. The PR specialist's work is much easier when he or she knows exactly what is needed to make the person interested in the topic or to use information about the company in the created material. Due to the high specialisation of the IT media, it is often the case that a given topic (such as broadcast technology or programmematic advertising) is only really covered by one or two people nationwide. Therefore, establishing and maintaining positive relationships with key journalists is an absolute priority. There is no room for collective, ill-considered dispatches. On the other hand, the benefits of long-term cooperation are very great and are one of the main reasons why a company should bet on long-term PR strategies.

Who is a good IT PR person?

A good IT PR person is one who knows at least as much about the technology being described as their client. A lot of knowledge is needed because the basis of cooperation with the media is the information and press materials provided. The account not only has to obtain and send them to the journalist, but should also be able to verify them and identify those that will be of real value to the medium. After all, the IT media are among the most substantive and providing them with unverified data or "marketing gimmickry" puts the relationships they have built up over many years at risk. Every PR practitioner should remember that the journalist they are talking to usually has many years of experience and/or is passionate about the subject they are describing. IT journalists are people with extensive and detailed knowledge, so they are able to very quickly verify the information they are sending for veracity and timeliness. Therefore, both when talking to them and in the press materials you send them, you should avoid trying to 'colour the reality' and instead focus on what is most valuable to the journalist in question - concrete data about the product and service, reliably documented case studies of implementations or interesting facts about the company's activities. Although such situations are rare, journalists admit that they still encounter PR professionals who fail to properly verify the accuracy of the information sent. Such situations usually occur when a person who is just starting out in the industry is responsible for communication. - Sometimes the "commissioned" information that PR specialists provide is saturated with marketing and often unsuitable for use in an editorial text. "The journalist may be tempted to avoid using marketing slogans in the article, which is disadvantageous for all parties: for the company for which the person is responsible, for the PR person and for the journalist, who, after often a long wait for answers, is left with nothing. - Karolina Marszałek of CRN points out. - It even happens that in the authorisations of interviews sentences are inserted which contribute nothing of substance and, in addition, disrupt the logic of the conversation - adds the journalist.

Mutual understanding key to resolving difficult situations

When creating and implementing a PR strategy, it is important to remember that each party has its own expectations. Clients usually count on the most valuable mentions and media interest in their activities, while journalists count on interesting topics to which they will have the earliest possible access. Therefore, there are situations in which a PR specialist is unable to meet the needs of both parties or difficulties arise in the course of cooperation. For it is not always possible for the client to organise in time the materials requested by the journalist or to disclose certain information about the company. On the other hand, there are situations in which, for example, a planned publication is postponed or does not take place at all. At such times, both parties should rely on clear communication to avoid misunderstandings. If I know that for some reason I am not able to provide the journalist with the promised information, I have to postpone/cancel an interview, the client is pushing for major changes in the authorisation process or other 'difficult' situations arise, I always rely on transparent and open communication with the journalist. Thanks to this, I have always been met with understanding and, ultimately, these problems did not impinge on further cooperation. - One of the most unpleasant situations is when a journalist is invited to a conference just a day or two before, sometimes in a different city. It is then difficult not to feel treated as an object. Companies and PR people also don't always understand that a journalist, having attended a conference, is not interested in making a story about it straight away. On the other hand, I hear from PR people I know that journalists are increasingly confirming their attendance at conferences and then not coming to them. This is why I believe that mutual respect is important when PR people and journalists work together. Journalists also need to understand that PR agencies are often "between the hammer and the anvil". - Karolina Marszałek of CRN concludes.


Author of the text: Krzysztof Rojek


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