It’s a question almost every prospective client asks us. How can we pitch tech to journalists, if we’re not scientists, programmers, or quantum physicists ourselves?
We don’t have the same level of in-depth knowledge around the exact science or the tech behind your business. But we know enough to uncover and pitch the stories about your company that journalists are craving.
On this episode of the Mind Meld PR vlog we chat with account executive Shani Kotecha. She discusses how we can talk about tech, without being a technologist.
Read the following excerpt to get her insights on how we describe our clients’ tech to journalists so the story gets picked up. Or watch the full video to reap the benefits of this insightful interview.
JN: Our topic today is how to make tech make sense. What does that mean exactly? Well, let me lay this out.
One of the very first questions that companies ask us (and again, we work with innovative tech companies doing leading edge things in the realms of medicine, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, clean tech, all kinds of cool stuff) either before they've signed us, or maybe a week later is, “How do you know how to explain technology in a way that reporters are going to be interested in it? And, that will accurately represent what we actually do, in a way that’s going to do justice to the cool, leading edge factor of what we're offering, while at the same time not misleading people.”
Some people think PR people are spin doctors. They think we’re hired monkeys, who will say whatever it takes to make a pitch land with a reporter. And that is not the case. We are trained professionals. And I know I'm smiling and it looks like I'm joking but I assure you that we know what we're doing.
So we have an answer to this. Shani, what's our answer?
SK: Quite obviously, the more you understand it, the easier it is to talk about. So one of our clients works with quantum computing. And although we don't need to spell out what quantum computing is in an article, we have to sort of know how and when they're using it and the benefits.
And that's just one of the few things that I had to read about to ask questions about. So I think that's, that's a big part of it is just asking the client questions, and not being afraid to sound a little bit stupid sometimes. Or to do your own research and watch YouTube videos or read articles or, look on social media for what people are writing about it.
So sort of building your own frame of context of that area of tech, even if you're not getting into the nitty gritty, helps you sound like you know what you're talking about, at least as a start to then ask more questions.
JN: The key is that the more we know about a company and its offerings, and its technology in depth, the better we can represent them. The truer we are in what we're saying and how we're representing some kind of innovation, the better it is for our clients, the better it is for reporters, and to the reporters we're reaching out to so they're not repeating misinformation.
So as you say, it's about asking the right questions. It's covering the who, what, why, when, where, and maybe how, of not just a technology product, but understanding what is the company about? What's their mission? What's their vision? How did they get started? Who were the founders? What's their deal? Why are they even interested in doing this work? They have such big brains, they could have done anything. Why are they doing this? What is interesting? What is new? What is timely?
SK: What are their competitors doing as well, because I think that's something that only the benefits of understanding that have only recently dawned on me is, “Oh, what are the competitors doing and they will be doing something slightly different.” So we work with a health tech company, there's other people that have created a similar application, but don't have it exactly the same. So it’s about understanding the nuances and how that sets the company apart. Those small differences are good as is understanding the pros and cons of the technology.
JN: Right. Perfect. So it's about asking those right questions, getting to the heart of what the technology does in terms of a benefits kind of a paradigm.
So what do I mean by that? It's the old marketing trick or technique of focusing on what is actually important to the end consumer, whether that's businesses or individual users. How are they using it? Are they even using it in the way that the creators intended? Because that's often not the case.
Often, users or customers will make use of certain features that do certain things to get a certain result. And as long as they're, they're getting value from it, then it’s worth whatever they're paying for it.
So I think from from the perspective of how we, as non-specialists and as non-technical people talk about tech and pitch reporters, it's about understanding what your technology does and who it benefits, very specifically. Not in a generic kind of a sense of, it's just better or it's more convenient. Well, how convenient is it? It’s 50% more convenient than the leading product on the market or it's 80% cheaper than the next available service from a competitor.
Or they're in very, very rare cases, there's literally nothing else on the market that does what this does. And it's going to change your life in a very specific way. It's going to free up two hours of your life every day.
SK: Tying into the last point you just made, when you're talking about the benefits, that's exactly what you need to do is “Yeah, it has this feature and it has this feature.” But at the end of the day, what your audience and what the media wants to know is what are the actual benefits? What's the problem it's solving?
So I think a lot of our press releases, well not all of them but a lot of them, start with addressing the macro problem and saying, “Look at what's going on. How are we going to fix this? Here's how you're going to fix it.” So what's the problem? What's the solution? And then lower down, we'll sort of get into exactly what it does. And this is the little feature that you can toggle that gives you this. But that sort of large scale, outside macro look.
JN: Now, I don't want to give the impression that we just focusing on benefits and what the product does for consumers so that we can just write product pitches all day like, “check out this cool thing people can buy.” That's not really what we're doing. There's nothing wrong with marketers who focus on that. But in PR, we have to hook in something newsy which generally does not include, “Hey, this company has just launched product X that is selling for X number of dollars. And it's coming out next week.” That's not a PR thing.
Public Relations is about making the news happen. For example, how does this technology that people are selling tie into a current swarm of news stories? So this is kind of like beating a dead horse in 2021. But the COVID vaccine rollout is an ongoing story of not just, yes, it's fantastic that there's a vaccine but “Oh, look at how the vaccine distribution channels are kind of breaking down. And our government's actually following the health advice of the manufacturers.”
And so one of our one of our health tech clients, you know, this is a news swarm that their technology fits into quite well. It's all about helping that supply chain, not get all messed up. I don't want to get into too much detail about our clients. But you're always looking for the news angle, not just, “Hey, this is a cool product, check it out.”
SK: Yeah, and that's a good way to communicate it, I guess, is newsjacking. Because reporters might not be fully aware of what this particular health tech thing does, but maybe half know. You’re giving them a story, “Hey, you already know about this. Here's my new thing.”
So they're already half in the story, they already understand most of what you're saying. And they're already brought in and they're already engaged, because you've given them something familiar. And then you're adding to that instead of cold pitching. Just “Hey, have you heard of this?” and “No, we haven't heard of it. Why do we care?”
JN: Right. I'm gonna make a little tangent here, just for a moment. The word newsjacking obviously comes from the word hijacking. You're taking over a news swarm. And of course, I stole this great idea from Todd Maff. And he's a digital marketer, I think he's still based in Vancouver. And so Todd, if you're listening, thank you. I believe your phrase is just leading this form. And so it's an idea you came up with over 10 years ago, and I never stopped using it. So thanks.
There is one other aspect I wanted to cover, which ties into this idea of how to make tech make sense. This isn't just for tech companies that are trying to get news out there, it's for any company using PR but it applies again to tech. The story that you think is cool for your consumers, may be of interest to the general public or to a news reading or news listening audience.
But it might be that you're dealing with two different kinds of audiences. Did you want to get into this little bit, Shani?
SK: I was just thinking of a conversation I had with someone while we were talking about content and the exact same way -- which is, just because you want to say something doesn't mean that's what people want to hear. And that's definitely happened a lot with our clients when they say, “Oh, we've got this piece of news,” and we're like, “That's not news. That's a blog post. That's a pitch but it's not a release. This is what you should be focusing on.”
So if someone says, “This is our news,” don't take it at face value. Don't just accept that it's news, because someone says it's news. Look further and ask more questions. And I look at news stories that are sort of similar to that company and see what kind of thing they have.
JN: Well, let's move on. So I think we've covered that topic well. The reason we're even talking about how to make tech make sense is this is literally a question we get the first time a company is talking about us and asking about PR services, or they sort of clue-in in the first day or two is like, “whoa, wait a second, we have to help you guys. You're not technology experts.”
Well, we, we kind of are. Well, we don't make technology but we are experts in talking about technology and helping people understand what the important stories are here and how it relates to their everyday lives and how it becomes news.
Your PR team doesn’t have to fully understand every line of code or circuit board in your tech. That’s your job. As long as they can translate the unique benefits to your end customers, and the journalists that’ll get it there.
But if your current PR agency just doesn't get it -- maybe it's time to switch to the Mind Meld PR firm!
If you’re looking for a Vancouver PR agency to help you translate your tech into winning content, give us a call.