'PR – you’ll have free rein to organize and conduct radio interviews and get our name out in articles, the news and across the web'.
I am the first to admit that PR is not rocket science. Even so, I was somewhat surprised when I recently came across this in a recruitment ad from a tech firm, which was seeking to ‘hire’ an intern. Firstly, I was surprised the company in question was prepared to entrust their critical outbound communication with some of the most influential people in their industry to an intern. And secondly I was surprised how little experience of actually dealing with the trade media this advert shows.
Here’s the thing: just like most professional people, including the engineers and entrepreneurs behind most companies, leading trade writers and editors are serious individuals, many with more half a lifetime of industry experience behind them, and as such they expect respect. And deservedly so: in my experience, tech industry writers and editors really are experts in their field, and their publications trade on giving a considered and objective view of their industry formed over many years of writing and questioning business leaders and technology innovators. This is why their opinion is so valued.
So I would personally advise against sending an intern in to contact them – many are likely to take hostile insult at such an approach. And why wouldn’t they? How would you, an entrepreneur, react to an interview being set up, time allotted out of your busy schedule, PR people at the ready, only for the reporter to turn out to be an intern on subsistence level work experience? Would you think that you were being taken seriously? Remember, writers and editors in the leading vertical publications really are significant influencers - right up there with ‘word of mouth’ among the critical C-level purchase decision makers in terms of reference and recommendations. They expect to be respected.
(None of this is to disrespect interns by the way, though I personally believe that if you want someone to take even a junior role in marketing your organisation to your customers, you should pay them accordingly, in the same way that you pay your engineers and developers. And you don't pay them subsistence, do you?)
Unlike ‘growth hacking’ (also not rocket science, by the way) and all the other ad hoc quick fixes being offered to startup firms today, tech PR is played as a ‘long’ game, and is based on carefully building fruitful professional relationships with the writers that count. If it is to be done properly, it requires experience and judgement, as well as hard work, persistence and yes, a little bit of expertise. Most editors I have dealt with are very polite, but are to be treated very seriously.
A good PR will quickly identify these key individuals in your industry media, and go about contacting them in the right way, building a relationship over time based on a professional respect that should begin to yield results for your firm over time in the form of coverage, and eventually contribute to a focussed SEO for your segment, and a credible digital footprint in your industry. Firms I work with are regularly contacted by topline editors seeking industry comment and feature contributions, all based on this careful approach. The editors know they will always get a timely response, or if no such response can be offered, then that will be communicated to them too.
Like I say, not rocket science. But not really a job for a rookie either. And good news opportunities don't come around that often.