Think of PR as Public Relationships- Tech’s Hot Trends Panel Recap

For me, Boston and PR have always been synonymous with technology. With some of the world’s top colleges located here, large technology vendors on the 128 belt in the past and present and now start-ups populating the innovation district in the Seaport- Boston is the tech hub in my mind.

The Publicity Club of New England hosted the top tech trends panel at Lois Paul & Partners on Tuesday night. Fortune, The Boston Globe, InformationWeek, ReadWriteWeb and BostInno shared their thoughts, insights and overall views of the industry. This night provided not only insightful for the PR audience but for anyone who’s looking to what’s next in technology.

If you want to see what people are really talking about, take an hour or two and sit with this diverse panel – often with all different viewpoints and different experiences.  Michael Farrell, the Boston Globe’s newest technology reporter, Gregory Gomer, the managing editor for the ever-increasingly popular BostInno,  Eric Lundquist, vice president editorial  for top-IT trade InformationWeekDan Primack, top business magazine Fortune’s senior editor and  Dan Rowinski of the very popular ReadWriteWeb  spent time on the PubClub’s panel moderated by Matthew Lloyd, Director of Communications for Bedford, MA-based iRobot.

One of the most important comments of the night came from veteran Eric Lundquist and was later reiterated by Dan  Rowinski – “think of PR as public relationships.” At the end of the day, it is all about relationships and this panel proved that with example after example.

Big Data

First and probably the biggest trend that all of the panelists are seeing across the industry is “Big Data.”  Gregory Gomer was first to speak up on the top trend question and said that Big Data will be a major tech trend moving forward while Dan Rowinski thinks  "data is the oil of the Internet - it makes it go” and that Facebook's 'like' graph is underrated' as an innovative data producer.

West Coast vs. East Coast and VCs

Boston is changing. With more collaboration than ever before, Boston is becoming a bigger hub for startups. There is more of a community and sense of camaraderie within the local startup community. It is no longer just local startups spun from larger vendors but college grads staying in Boston after finding this community.   However, Dan Primack stated that biotech and life sciences are receiving half if not more of the VC funding out there—it’s just hard to get anyone to read about it.

Practice what you preach

Time after time, we’re saying to clients: use video, use Twitter, comment on articles, create content, etc. We SHOULD be doing this as well as PR practitioners. From the panel, we heard that ALL of the panelists pay attention and try to reply to comments on their articles and check out their retweets. If you’re passionate about something, say it!

As for pitches, don’t be afraid to be creative- Eric Lundquist would love to see more video.  He suggests that you learn the new technology – such as skype interviews-- to better leverage your PR efforts. We talk tech all day long- we should be using it.

Think about whether or not you would want to read what you’re pitching. The biggest trick according to Mike Farrell is figuring out how to position the stories on these companies (think enterprise software giants) as interesting and readable. Gregory Gomer thinks about how to get his friends to read his blog posts on BostInno.

Eric brought up a great point about the trend of creating a community. Everyone wants to do it, certain groups (salespeople, marketing, etc) are fighting for it but it should be PR that is empowering that content.

Some notes for your clients

When you attend the PubClub events, provide some insight to your clients on what you learned. Some of the top comments from the panel to share with your clients today:

  • Clients are sitting on mounds of usable data. Encourage them to use that to angle and pitch a story. You should be speaking directly to the person on the client side that may notice changes and trends (even high traffic on servers) that can help in bringing this data to fruition.
  • Don’t break huge news when your executives, especially CEOs, are traveling or unable to speak.
  • Exclusives and scoops are the best way for relationship building with top contacts.
  • For big events, such as the Boston Blackout last week, so much is real time for news. if you're pitching 2 to 3 days after a major event, that's probably too late unless you have a major wow factor (think of the data example above).
  • Reporters love the customer story- provides a customer who is using the technology to better show how it works and the value.

Every pitch, every approach differs

What works for one reporter won’t work for another. I’ve been attending the PubClub events for some time and each time a panelist answers the question “how best do you like to be reached”  or “how do you like being pitched” differently.

While I’m not giving away the exact answer from last night’s panelists—they did tell us which one likes the phone, who strictly looks at emails,  what type of email gets noticed, what gets deleted, who won’t pick up the phone ever, who uses Twitter and who has over 13,000 emails in their inbox now, etc.  Going back to the most important comment of the night- it’s all about relationships—when you develop this, you’ll know the best way to approach and pitch.

For more insight into the event—check out #pcne on Twitter from last night—there are some great tweets from the audience members trying to keep up with the panelists insights.