Asking Your Tech PR Agency the Difficult Questions

Oct 11, 2017 Ed Harrison
Throughout the month of October, members of InkHouse’s B2B technology practice are taking control of the Inklings blog. Ed Harrison continues the series today.

Earlier this month, I literally bumped into Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the noted (and diminutive) sex therapist, at a VIP event client General Catalyst held during Forbes’ “30 Under 30” conference in Boston.

(Two asides: 1. I am probably two feet taller than her; 2. the 1985 version of me would have been very, very impressed.)

Each year she expands her counsel to include business relationship therapy. Forbes highlighted her address from last year, and one particular quote stood out to me:

"Some of the issues you are going to face are like with couples," she said matter-of-factly in a recent session. "You have to be honest, and you have to trust each other."

The relationships between enterprise technology companies and their agencies are quite similar. There will be challenges that require difficult conversations, transparency and honesty from both parties.

Like any relationship, when it works, it’s wonderful. And when it doesn’t, it requires the tech company to explore some difficult questions, and think about finding a better fit.

We’ve previously explored some of the complexities inherent for tech companies choosing an agency partner.

Today, I recommend some questions to help you identify if it’s time for a change. Throughout the remainder of the month, we’ll explore themes that map back to these six important questions.
  1. How do you measure the success of your PR program? You’re using analytics and data to measure your marketing efforts. Is your PR program? Your firm should use the latest measurement tools and analytics instead of relying on tropes like “ad equivalency” or worse, stating, “PR just can’t be measured.”
  2. Is your PR program aligned to your company’s business goals? “Having more press releases than the competition” or “generating buzz” are not business goals. However, “getting more leads at the top of the funnel”, “generating local press coverage to drive employee recruitment” and “expanding our software partner program” are measurable business goals that PR can help you to reach. 
  3. Are you still using press releases and product news to reach potential buyers? We’ve talked previously about the waning importance of the press release as a means of generating earned media content. Taking it a step further, can you trace any revenue, or even just quality website traffic, solely to a press release? Can your agency suggest content marketing plans, solutions-focused collateral, videos or other design elements? 
  4. Has your agency equipped you with the ability to describe your company’s products and services to someone “outside the tech industry”? We’ve traced the evolution of B2B storytelling from speeds-and-feeds to features and benefits to emotional drivers. So picture yourself at that cocktail party: can you nail it in a few sentences, or do you inevitably get blank stares as they desperately look for someone to save them from the conversation?
  5. Are you getting a series of excuses or “no responses” from your agency? We’ve talked about the challenges of breaking through cluttered newsfeeds in a changing media environment that cares little about product features. Your agency needs to use creative approaches to help get your company and customers noticed.
  6. When great coverage does appear, what happens next? There’s no better feeling than when that long-awaited article finally hits. Make sure that your PR firm can extend the value of earned media coverage, instead of letting it disappear into the ether.

We’ll dive further into these six questions throughout the remainder of the series.

Topics: Enterprise Tech, B2B, Technology PR
Ed Harrison

Ed Harrison is a senior vice president for InkHouse and leads the east coast's enterprise technology practice. He has led B2B tech PR programs for clients large and small since 1996.

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