How PR is done to large tech companies and startups
If you used to think that only representatives of show business, music and film stars most often turn to PR, then this is not entirely true. In the age of high technology, companies have to literally fight for new clients and additional investments, and they increasingly resort to PR services.
The editors of Tempting.Pro talked with a professional in this field, we tried to find out how PR in the field of technology is done, for what purposes large companies and startups come, and how much it can all cost.
Dina Mostovaya, an international strategic communications consultant, founder of Mindset Consulting, answered our questions. Her work experience includes both Fortune 500 companies including Microsoft, PayPal, and eBay, as well as world-changing startups and venture capital funds. Dina's clients at various times include Gett, Skyeng, Ecwid, Target Global, MEL Science, Genotek, Fermata, Karfidov Lab, Prisma Labs, and others. Companies that work with Mindset Consulting are published in The Wall Street Journal, Techcrunch, Forbes, Inc, Business Standard, etc.
Let's start from the very beginning: what is PR and why is it needed at all?
Public relations is the communication of corporate and personal brands (companies and people) with their target audience. Public speaking, organization of events, presence in the media space - all this is done by PR.
Moving away from encyclopedic definitions, PR is the reputation and meanings that a company or an individual expert conveys. For example, it could be a coach or financial advisor with ideas and experiences that he wants to share with the audience.
As for the meaning, I always ask my clients: "What would you like to be said about you?" This is a very important question! Someone needs personal recognition - accordingly, the emphasis should be on informing and developing loyalty. And someone wants to increase sales - then you need to focus on product PR.
As my lecturer at the university used to say, “if you don’t do your own PR, others will invent it for you”. In order for people to perceive key messages and see the brand through your eyes, they need to be told about it. While you are in the shadows, the audience thinks about who you are, what kind of company you have, what its cultural code and values. This is where speculation and false images begin, which the client does not need at all.
«We pay for advertising, we pray for PR»
What is the difference between PR and regular advertising?
The main difference is that you have to pay for advertising. PR is never paid. All publications mentioning the brand in the media, opinion leaders on Facebook and Medium appear for free. If the information provided is useful to readers, journalists are interested in posting it.
In English there is an aphorism on this topic: for the ad we pay, for PR we pray. So advertising needs money, but PR needs faith :)
Previously, the word PR was mainly associated only with the stars of cinema, music, and show business. When did tech companies turn their eyes to it?
It is normal that PR is primarily associated with show business. It's just that this sphere is one way or another on everyone's lips. Relatively speaking, the Oscars are followed by many more people than the Stevie Awards. But PR in entrepreneurship is not a new phenomenon. For example, in 1900, Harvard University already had its own press office. In the 1920s, companies began to think about their own image. They were prompted to do this by the movement of “mud rakers” - journalists who publish exposing articles. At the same time, public relations departments and agencies specializing in PR began to appear.
Why should tech companies work with the public at all? For what purposes do they come to you?
The answer to this question smoothly follows from the previous one: most often, companies come to PR specialists to declare themselves.
Again, requests can be different: brand awareness, increase in sales, the formation of loyalty to the company, assistance in entering the international market, creating investment attractiveness of the project, and so on.
PR builds the positioning of the company and its communication strategy. First, the PR specialist studies the market: its capacity, features, global and local trends, competitors, and customer needs. It is necessary to understand the specifics of the client's business, monitor the media field.
Also, a PR specialist works to increase the recognition of a product or an expert among its target audience, conveys its media potential to the client, and explains what a business needs to get into the top media.
PR person can increase the investment attractiveness of a startup. For example, he knows what numbers and project criteria need to be emphasized in a publication so that a potential investor would pay attention to him.
Entrepreneurs often ask me to introduce them to venture capital funds and help with fundraising. One such acquaintance led to a chain of meetings that attracted $ 2 million in investments into the logistics project.
Do startups turn to your service more often or mature companies are also regulars of various PR events?
80% of my clients are startups. The rest are large technology companies (enterprise companies) that have been on the market for over 15 years.
Is there a black PR? Or is it used as a last resort?
There is black PR - it is directed “from the outside” against your brand, this is deliberate harm to your reputation. And then there is black self-promotion - it can be effective, but it is always fraught with risk. It attracts attention and sells attention. People are so arranged: they focus on negative information, they are happy to "turn on" it, and are ready to argue that everything is exactly as they think. This is why this method works.
We are talking about those cases when a negative news feed is formed around a company or an expert. Take, for example, the recent case when a man broke into the Russian Alfa-Bank branch, took hostages, and demanded a meeting with singer Olga Buzova. In response, Olga made several Instagram stories and stated that she would come to the place if it was required. In my opinion, this is just an example of how you can work out any informational occasion, even directed against your name.
In the classical sense, "black PR" is an informational activity aimed at discrediting an opponent, denigrating someone's reputation. This is often done in order to "steal" the audience's loyalty from a competitor and turn other customers into our own. As a rule, black PR is carried out anonymously. In this case, it must be worked out with the help of anti-crisis communications.
How to evaluate the effectiveness of a PR campaign?
When composing a strategy, we with the client "on the shore" speak out his expectations from cooperation and set KPIs. They may differ depending on the request.
For example, a famous billionaire can maintain his media presence even without 20 publications per month. On the contrary, he should choose events carefully and give no more than 2-3 major interviews a year.
But for founders of startups that are just gaining ground, it is vitally important to declare themselves and their product. For example, if a company operates in the B2C segment, for this it is necessary to develop an information agenda in the media, publish company news, collaborate with brands and opinion leaders, create its own community, organize press events, and so on.
How much are companies willing to pay for PR on average?
It all depends on the level of the company: its size, business goals, the industry in which it operates, whether it is a Russian market or a global one, and so on. The fork can be from hundreds of thousands of rubles to tens of thousands of dollars. Traditionally, financial corporations and banks, construction companies and developers, manufacturers of FMCG spend more on PR. They understand that customer confidence and loyalty to their companies must be at the highest level. The time when consumers were competing for a brand is over. The era of struggle, if not for the user, then at least for a second of his attention to the company and its product, has come.
Are companies more focused on one-time promotions, or do you work with them on an ongoing basis?
I focus on strategic communications, so I like to work with companies for a long time. I enjoy building a vector of the project, building on business goals, and then watching growth. One-off campaigns do happen, but more often than not they also develop into large joint projects. For example, a startup may contact me with a request to work out news about an investment. In 99% of cases, everyone likes the results and I am offered a long-term contract.
What tools do you use the most? Social media, bloggers, traditional media, or something else?
I have a classical education - I started working in PR in London, where media relations have always been appreciated. Therefore, I spend most of my time working closely with journalists and creating content. I write columns, work on the personal brand of the company's speaker, initiate publications for clients in the largest Russian and foreign media: Vedomosti, RBC, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and many others.
Working on the personal brand of the founders of companies, a lot of attention is paid to their social networks and blogs, so I also prepare a content plan. It includes message tone, key messages, key positioning topics.
PR in Russia and abroad - what are the differences and what are the similarities?
Each country has its own media landscape and its own principles of work for journalists and PR specialists. When entering foreign markets, it is critically important to consider this. For example, from my experience with Spanish journalists, I can say that they work much more relaxed than Russians. They need to call often and always fix the smallest agreements and every stage of the process.
The cycle of preparing materials in Spain is quite long. In Russia, a journalist gives speakers no more than an hour or two to prepare a comment. In Spain, you have at least 2 days for this.
But in America, there are about 30 PR people per journalist (this is 3-4 times more than in Russia). Therefore, PR in the States is longer and more difficult. A follow-up journalist sometimes needs to write 2-3 times. I tell you more about my cases in my personal blog at VC.ru.
What are the current trends in the PR sphere? Where and who sets the vector for the development of this technology?
Modern media are diversifying and launching their presence on different platforms: they create YouTube and Telegram channels, Instagram pages, and launch their own newsletter. Therefore, working with niche publications is becoming an important trend. For example, if a PR specialist collaborates with an educational project, his news stories are sent both to general media and to specialized publications.
As user-generated content (UGC) evolves, there is a strong focus on social media and personal blogs such as Medium, VC.ru, and Reddit. That is why, while creating the image of the company, it is important to simultaneously work on the image of the person behind it. As a result, the personal brand merges with the corporate one.
As for PR trends, in my opinion, globalization has erased geographic boundaries. For this reason, many foreign companies work with Russian specialists and vice versa. The vector for development is created not by countries, but by professionals - talented people and their successful cases.
Prepared by: Alexander Boltrukevich firstname.lastname@example.org