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What are the key PR challenges that you have observed, especially in the case of tech firms?
PR is about creating awareness and tuning perceptions in favour of a firm by using communication as a vehicle. It is challenging to communicate in a manner that the target audience can comprehend and form a connection with the firm or its products/services. The challenge is accentuated when the technology applies to a saturated market -- one that has stopped seeing the growth that it may have experienced a few years back.
How different are these challenges for tech start-ups?
The challenge is totally different for a start-up company. Bigger and older companies that have been around for a while are aware of the need for a continuous PR programme to connect with their target audiences. However, some start-ups rely too much on word-of-mouth publicity or the personal connections of the founding members. The lack of a communications programme can cause a disconnection between the firm and its probable interest group(s), adversely affecting the growth or adoption prospects of the start-up.
A start-up typically doesn’t have any image that it inherits. It usually starts with an empty canvas. It is very important that it paints the right picture for the target audience to see. It is simpler to build the correct image right in the beginning, rather than build a wrong perception and attempt to correct it later.
A start-up usually addresses a unique business or mass market need that is relatively easy to comprehend and represent. The challenge in this case is to project the start-up in the right light, establish its focus in the technology domain and build its credibility.
How can these challenges be dealt with in the case of big firms?
For a technology company operating in a saturated market, the opportunities are limited. Nonetheless, it’s very important to tap them. Firms need to constantly monitor industry trends and play the role of a thought leader in the domain and communicate in order to reinforce their strength in the domain. Large companies have vast experience to share, often becoming good data points and creating an opportunity to be positioned as industry leaders.
Should the strategy be any different for start-ups?
Start-ups, on the other hand, need to shed the stealth and start communicating. It’s a myth that someone may steal an idea. Statistics show that only about 4 per cent of ideas get converted into real action and only about 1 per cent, eventually succeed. There is a lot that can be communicated to generate interest before a service or product is launched. Start-ups are known to go into stealth mode, giving the impression that nothing can be talked about the offering. However, this is the preliminary period that can be best utilised to ignite interest and gather initial feedback to fine-tune their offering, and hence, better the chances of success when the product is launched.