The UK has long been and is still a hotbed of innovation. The sheer volume and diversity of disruptive businesses being started, invested in or sold here is testament to this.
London is often the epicentre, but I’ve had the fortune of meeting – and discussing growth strategies with – firms up and down the UK, from Cambridge to Cornwall, Edinburgh to Derry. It makes tech PR a hugely dynamic and exciting place to work in 2018.
Communications consultancy is one of those strategic support services that must be considered as to whether it’s relevant for businesses of all sizes, but it’s a particularly important question for businesses in scale-up mode for many reasons. Not least because it is a major investment for firms that might be far more inclined to put money towards R&D, staffing or premises first.
The first question any fast-growth tech company should ask themselves is “what do I want PR to achieve?”. This may sound a fundamental question, but too often it is ignored by businesses that embark on a PR campaign because they feel they should, or they have been told to by people outside of the company to do so. Worse, it often results in sending out a press release every once and a while to journalists who, with the best will in the world, have never heard of said company, receive (honestly) hundreds of similar news releases, and are therefore are far less likely to report on the announcement.
This creates a vicious cycle.
With no coverage generated, leading to no inbound phone calls, PR can be viewed as a waste of spend, and effectively kill any debate around ramping up budget for some time. For any marketing professional joining these firms, it can be a frustrating experience.
We believe there is a better way, as our credentials below explain. The starting point for all our campaigns is to define business objectives – and this is where it gets interesting for fast-growth businesses, as we believe PR should be fundamental to achieving that growth.
We have worked with clients looking for very specific outcomes; building towards their Series A funding, creating a pathway towards an IPO, looking to double sales or increasing the number of channel partners on their books – and sometimes, all of these goals at once. Each of these objectives would require a very different set of tactical recommendations, using a number of different channels – not just PR. Importantly, by being far more targeted, the ability to measure outputs attributable to PR increases exponentially.
What’s more, the robust, reader-centred content needed to generate results in traditional PR, including media relations, should drive the content chosen across the marketing mix, including web content, social media and sales materials. This adds value to the business and increases overall return on investment in PR and marketing communications.
But don’t just take my word for it. Simon Draper, a serial entrepreneur who has grown and sold tech businesses for over a decade, co-founder of our client Hastee Pay, which is revolutionising the way individuals are paid and access short-term finance. He told me: “PR is a significant investment for Hastee Pay and has a tangible impact on our business goals, which is why Whiteoaks’ approach appealed to us. It isn’t just PR for the sake of it.”
For Hastee Pay, PR needs to be extremely targeted at the HR sector, leading to a specific set of tactical recommendations that deliver on this aim. Cyber security leader, Glasswall Solutions, meanwhile, has become known for its ability to provide unique protection against advanced and zero-day targeted cyber threats, and dominates the national and broadcast media whenever there is a cyber attack.
For businesses at an aggressive growth stage of their maturity, the perceived lack of transparency around what they are getting for their PR investment is also a huge stumbling block. These types of companies aren’t interested in buying a certain number of hours on a retainer; it just isn’t the language they speak.
This is why our approach of set fees for set deliverables, linked to clear performance commitments underpinned by a formal service level agreement, continues to resonate so well with the UK’s fastest growing tech firms.
Working on the business development side of our business, organisations we speak to tend to have had one of two experiences regarding PR:
- They have never invested before – and therefore like the certainty that we can offer in terms of transparency and commitment to results. Oh, and if we fail to deliver what we said we would, they get their money back;
- Or they have invested in PR before and been burned by the retainer-based approach, for all the reasons outlined above.
I would encourage any fast-growth firm considering PR investment to first ask themselves how it can aid their growth plans, not accepting any set of recommendations until the agency can directly prove a link between what they are doing and the company’s goals. It sounds simple, but fluffy PR justified through filling out a timesheet simply doesn’t cut it any more.
To hear more about the fast-growth tech firms Whiteoaks represents and discuss how we could help your organisation, click here to contact us.
Bekki Bushnell, Head of Business Development