We Get Tech PR

Technology PR is in our DNA. Our first client was a CD-ROM publishing company called Meridian Data.

Our first global client was Hyundai Electronics (now called Hynix).

By virtue of executing literally hundreds of product launches and public relations campaigns for technology companies, we know the tech sector. Whether it involves an enterprise security system, a gadget, an app or the atomic structure of a chip, we’ve worked across the technology continuum.

Really, our core competency lies in “making sense of complexity” in communicating to the outside world. This expertise is particularly valuable for B2B companies that want to build brands, not just generate visibility in vertical trade publications.

Of course, our tech campaigns today look nothing like our work from even three years ago.

The Commoditization of the Tech News Release

Everyone accepts this idea as true.

Few truly understand this phrase though.

History of the News Release

In the timeline above, you can see that the news release was invented in 1906. With minimum effort, journalists could write stories based on a news release, and those stories appeared fresh because their readers couldn’t find the information elsewhere. This advantage disappeared in 1996 when news release distribution services started flinging announcements to the masses via the Internet.

It took some time to erode the status quo. Muscle memory doesn’t change so easily in the world of journalism. Now, almost 20 years since news releases made their way into the public domain, we can safely say that the commoditization of the news release is complete.

Yet the PR industry, not just those toiling in tech PR, continues to invest an inordinate amount of money in news releases. Our rough calculations put the number of news releases distributed in the U.S. a few years ago at 722,000. Figuring around 30 hours per news release — sourcing, writing, review cycles and editing — at $200 per hour translates into a $4,332,000,000 investment across the public relations industry in the U.S. No doubt, the investment in news releases has only grown over time.

Hoffman Agency believes PR industry shelled out over $4B on news releases last year

That’s a lot of money for a form of communications that often has the impact of wallpaper in your Aunt Zelda’s house.

Don’t misunderstand us.

We’re not anti-news release. Our client PR campaigns do include news releases for major announcements, elevating the customer’s voice and disclosure (for public companies). But we minimize the use of news releases for technology product information that journalists rarely cover.

Instead, the PR emphasis is on one-off storytelling and thought leadership. We still secure media coverage across all client programs, including the technology accounts. We’re just not solely dependent on the news release.

Aligning Tech PR “Supply” with Journalism “Demand”

The supply versus demand equation doesn’t play in favor of technology PR campaigns.

In short, media properties offer five ways to secure visibility: news, industry features, corporate features, op-eds and bylined content. Zeroing in on the stories penned by journalists, the typical approach by PR when it comes to news, industry features and corporate features doesn’t align with the needs of journalists.

Tech-PR Supply Journalism Demand

As noted earlier, a conventional tech PR program puts an inordinate amount of effort into news when journalists have devalued the news release. That’s why thought leadership often serves as the door opener to media coverage and why we’re striving to develop content with a storytelling bent that fits in the upper quadrants in the chart below.

Hoffman Agency Public Relations Chart

Back to the supply-demand equation in the tech PR domain, we aggressively supplement media coverage with bylined content because this is the one category with strong demand from technology publications as well as more mainstream publications.

Confessions of a Tech Journalist

This tango between technology PR and journalists requires both smarts and finesse.

Bekah Grant spent nearly two years at VentureBeat covering various market segments within the tech industry. After leaving VentureBeat, she published a story on her experience as a tech journalist on Medium. While we don’t agree with all of her points, there are instructive passages for those in the business of “selling” stories to journalists that follow:

“I wrote an average of 5 posts a day, churning out nearly 1,740 articles over the course of 20 months. That is, by all objective standards, insane.”

PR Upshot: Ironically, journalists (tech journalists are no exception) more than ever need the “right” pitch that can provide a shortcut to a finished story.

“In a perfect world, important stories would attract the most pageviews, but that is not the world we live in. Miley Cyrus and cat videos get more pageviews than stories about homelessness and healthcare.”

PR Upshot: Story pitches with an entertainment dimension increase the probability for success.

“We the tech media do not owe you (or your clients) coverage. My job is to cover the news, not to promote your company.”

PR Upshot: The ideal door opener starts at the industry level and then moves to the client part.

“Newsworthiness is defined by timeliness, relevance, significance and prominence, and human interest. The fact that you want articles about your company does not constitute newsworthiness, and disseminating pitches that meet none of those criteria is likely a waste of time.”

PR Upshot: Takes us back to the commoditization of news and that most product announcements miss the mark from a journalist’s perspective.

“It is important to be succinct, yet also provide actual information. I received emails so obtuse, vague and laden with jargon, I couldn’t understand what I was being pitched.”

PR Upshot: This is where our storytelling expertise comes to the fore, thinking out like a journalist, not a promotional flyer.

By understanding how journalists construct their stories and creating content that fits this construction, our media relations efforts help journalists do their jobs.

Holistic Approach to Building Tech Brands

We have devoted a considerable amount of real estate to media relations because we know it’s a critical success factor for any tech PR program.

Still, we’re increasingly executing campaigns that blend both earned media and owned media with an eye on online presence and specifically organic search.

You can read more about this in the “Our Story” section, but the idea is that a content bureau drives communications across different channels: blogging, social media, journalists, etc. This way, we gain synergy in optimizing owned media for search.

We’ve evangelized this approach with talks such as “PR and SEO, No Longer a Match Made in Hell.

Industry Recognition

We won the Holmes Report “Tech Agency of the Year” in Asia in 2019 and have been shortlisted for the sister award in the U.S. multiple times. The Holmes Report wrote: “The work that Hoffman does is among the most sophisticated and creative in the tech sector.” Who are we to disagree?

This past year saw our work ranging from product launches to social media earn accolades from PR News, the dotCOMM awards, the Hermes awards and the Innovation SABRE awards.

Expanding the timeframe, a campaign for Alcatel-Lucent (telecommunications) celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “Big Bang” earned awards from PR Daily, Hermes and the Holmes Report. Even PR Week reported on the campaign. And our content marketing work for Sony — campaign called, “Sony Music Site Hits the Right Notes” — won the MarCom Platinum Award for both web content and corporate blog as well as a Holmes In2 SABRE award for SEO/content distribution.

You can find a full list of industry recognition on our PR Awards page.

We’d welcome a chance to continue the dialogue with you.

Lou Hoffman, MD, North America
Mark Pinsent, MD, Europe
Caroline Hsu, MD, Asia Pacific