Your high-tech PR sucks because media are just like bookstores
Spreading the word about your product is incredibly hard. PR experts focus on creating a great story that appeals to both journalists and the audience. For my friend, who sells amusing pet toys, it is quite easy to come up with such stories. For me, someone who is working on a vertical DSP platform with machine learning driven by proprietary DMP…well, let’s just say it is challenging.
This post is for the folks who have hard times attracting journalists’ attention to their nerdy high-tech B2B products.
PR efforts take up a lot of your time. Creating content, talking to publicists, modifying content, talking to publicists again, re-writing the rewritten content, looking for publicists, who haven’t heard your story yet…It is an exhausting, unfulfilling and worst of all unresultful process. And why do you put yourself through this? Think about it. You are trying to engage publicist, who in turn are trying to engage journalists to write about you. Wouldn’t it be easier to write about yourself on your own, using a blog, like I am doing right now? It would, but then how do you attract readers? So here it is you need journalists for their readership. Although it seems obvious at first, it is crucial to remember this. The importance of this fact will become very clear by the end of this article.
Journalists have their audience and that’s why you need them. However, if you work on a niche technology product, you can do amazing things and while your customers admire what you are doing, it is not going to make an exciting story for a journalist. The thing is, journalists are trying to appeal to a broader audience and your story is just too nerdy and too niche for that. And it is not that journalists are mean, it is just that the more readers they attract, the more money the media they are working for makes.
So, to get published, your story has to be simple enough to attract a very broad audience. However, do YOU want to reach a broad audience? Or do you want to reach your potential customers? Your customers are smart enough to understand your story. They need your sophisticated product to solve their sophisticated problems. Your reader understands the matter far better than the average mass-market reader that journalists are trying to reach.
What do media and bookstores have in common? A business model. Brick-and-mortar bookstores had a limited capacity of bookshelves so they had to choose popular books to attract customers. The physical presence was a tremendous barrier to the entry of competition. If there is no other bookstore within a walking distance and you are good at placing popular authors on the right shelves, your business is rock solid.
And while this model worked great for best selling authors, niche writers were the ones who suffered. Just imagine, you wrote a fascinating book on alternative theory in quantum physics. There might even be 100,000 physicists in the world who could understand and appreciate your book, they might even be willing to pay $10 for it, but that will never happen because no bookstore will ever put it on their shelves.
So, when you are pitching a niche technology product to a journalist, you are like the author of that fascinating book on quantum physics. Those who can appreciate it won’t be able to see it, because those, who can publish it don’t see any monetary value in it. Don’t get discouraged though.
Bookstores’ business model was challenged by resources like Amazon. There are 12 million titles on Amazon — this number is probably three digits bigger than any brick-and-mortar bookstore. As a result, as Chris Anderson vividly explained in The Long Tail book, the long-long tail of niche writers reached their readers via Amazon.
Media’s business model was altered by online resources too. Niche-content creators got blessed with social media. SM is quickly acquiring the function of delivering content to the end-reader.
Back in 2006, Twitter was the first to combine a social network with content distribution. Facebook quickly followed by implementing the news feed, which now accounts for over 40% of the traffic for popular media. LinkedIn launched articles to attract the business audience. There are other hybrids of social networks and online media, such as Medium, Tumblr, etc..
By posting your content on social networks, you can reach YOUR readers, those 100,000 physicists. You don’t need to convince journalists that your content is amazing. Even a techy article that is super-boring for an average reader could become the-best-read-ever, if it reaches the right people. Now the problem is, how do you make sure that your post, your content reaches the right people? That is when you learn what targeting is.
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew those 100,000 physicists and could target them name by name? That’s what we asked ourselves before we came up with Influ2. Can we help nerdy folks like us — who have their own amazing stories — to skip the incredibly hard and largely ineffective PR efforts and get in front of their prospective customers? The idea of showing your own content straight to prospective customers sounded like magic to us, and we love to bring magic into real life, so we rolled up our sleeves. When we saw the initial results, we felt like Harry Potter when he first used his magic wand. In fact, you are very likely reading this article thanks to an Influ2 engine that showed the content promo to you, knowing that you are one of those 100,000 physicists we would love to get in touch with.
Conclusion: Media business challenges are similar to those of the bookstore business. They need to focus on content production and leave the distribution of content to social networks. This means that journalists will become more like bloggers, some media will look like a hub of bloggers, and others will vanish entirely or they will become extremely lean organizations.
For high-tech companies, this opens up an opportunity to produce their own content that talks directly to the hearts of their customers. However, it also creates a new challenge: As professionals in the field, we need to master the art of storytelling and drop the habit of using marketing lingo, buzzwords and being too technical, which in many cases hides the fact that the story itself is not good enough. And, finally, we need to routinely search for new content distribution channels to get the word out in front of our own potential customers: We need to experiment with publishing platforms, social network advertising, content promo vehicles, account-based marketing tools, etc.. What do you think?