Simplifying Technology PR: An Interview with Richard Fogg

Richard Fogg, CEO, CCgroup, a specialist consultancy for B2B technology PR.
Richard Fogg, CEO, CCgroup, a specialist consultancy for B2B technology PR.

Technology PR is challenging. Whether you have a tech startup or a matured B2B tech brand, sustaining media interest, in the long run, is not easy. So, what’s the best way you can approach technology PR for your business? Let’s find out in this interview with Richard Fogg, CEO, CCgroup, a specialist consultancy for B2B technology PR.

With over 15 years of experience in B2B technology PR, Richard Fogg has worked with some of the world’s largest tech companies and a host of specialist players. He thinks the latter are more fun – they tend to listen.

You can connect with Richard on Twitter and LinkedIn!

What is SEO-focused PR? How crucial do you think it is to integrate an SEO plan with a technology PR strategy?

We live in a search-driven world. Google (or Bing – yeah, right) is frequently cited as one of the top three sources for B2B tech buyers longlisting suppliers, based on the audience research we’ve conducted over the last few years. At CCgroup, for example, we receive almost half of our leads via SEO.

As Google continues its crusade against ‘black hat’ SEO, it’s decimated many of the ‘shortcuts’ – link farms, poor content etc. Once you’ve dealt with on-site side of SEO, it’s really all about developing quality content and gaining high Domain Authority links back to your target landing pages. Media sites have very high Domain Authority, and thus using PR programs to place stories and content with backlinks is the best way of boosting your visibility in search rankings.

CCgroup analyzed the SEO performance of more than 250 B2B tech publications, helping marketers to integrate SEO with tech PR. It’s available for free, here.

How important is content marketing for PR success of a tech brand?

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of content marketing within contemporary technology PR. It’s gold dust for driving awareness and lead generation. We’ll typically run two to three content marketing campaigns per clients per year, centered around a downloadable content asset, which is gated to capture lead details.

The content has to be strong and ‘high value’ – usually based on brand new data or insight – and we’ll start by pitching it to the media to drive earned media coverage (with backlinks). We’ll then launch owned content assets, such as blogs or infographics, and amplify both earned and owned content via social channels. Finally, to squeeze the value out of the content, we’ll use paid media – social advertising, media distributions etc, to reach the widest possible buying audience.

What are the most common PR mistakes B2B tech brands commit? How is CCgroup empowering its clients against making those mistakes?

Lack of resources tends to damage tech PR programs. That might be financial investment, but it could also be lack of access to client personnel and subject matter experts.

However, I’d say that the biggest issues emanate from using non-specialist agencies. B2B tech is complicated and deep sector knowledge is absolutely critical. The result of using non-specialists is that they have to be ‘fed’ with news and can only ever be reactive. If you have an agency that really knows your space, you’ll find they are more proactive and creative.

CCgroup insulates its clients from these issues by being very clear on budget requirements, ensuring regular access to key personnel and, critically, by investing a great deal of time and effort in continually learning about the B2B tech markets we work in.

Can you recommend some DIY PR tactics that tech startups can take up in-house?

Most important is to understand your objectives and your audiences.

A lot of companies (not specifically start-ups) fail to set objectives and run into PR because they feel they should be doing it. Are you trying to get funding? Sell more product? That will define your audiences.

When it comes to your audiences, and assuming your objective is sales-driven, you need to know three things: how they long list suppliers (the sources they use), how they shortlist suppliers (the content they rely on) and what messages resonate in the sales process. This can be difficult in B2B tech markets, so CCgroup has conducted a lot of primary research in this area, and made it freely available. We’ve looked into enterprise technology buyers, retail bank technology buyers, capital markets buyers and telecoms buyers. Help yourselves!

After this, the tactics you need to take to influence your target audience will be self-evident and you’ll waste a lot less time.

What is the best way to engage with journalists at industry events?

Simply put: plan ahead. Get a media list from the event organizer. Figure out who you’d like to meet. Research what they write about and how you fit into their coverage. Develop a story/pitch along those lines. Approach them (this sounds easy, but you’ll have to try many, many times as most media are deluged with requests to meet at events).

Share with us the top 5 trends in PR and marketing that you expect to see in the next couple of years.

I’ve written about my feelings on the top five trends in tech PR and marketing at length here. But to summarize:

  • Customer insight: B2B tech brands do not know enough about their customers and prospects. This means that B2B tech marketing and sales programs and messages do not resonate with their audiences as much as they could. But thanks to recent evolutions in business psychology and data collection techniques, and the emergence of B2B planners who can turn these inputs into insight, tech PR will play a leading role in the collection and use of customer insight.
  • Automation & Augmentation: PR is ripe for automation and augmentation. This view doesn’t make me popular in PR circles, but it’s true. We can be more efficient and transparent, and scale and improve our performance with the right investments.
  • Media relations: it’s become very uncool in PR circles to shout about the importance of media relations, but I predict a renaissance. With so much competition for the attentions of a diminishing pool of journalists, media relations is gaining in importance.
  • Integrated marketing: PR is in pole position to lead integrated marketing efforts in tech. As a result of our superior market and customer insight, inventive storytelling, the further proliferation of channels and measurement tied to business outcomes, PR will be the most important marcomms game in town.
  • Growth: Many areas of PR – corporate, financial, consumer and industrial – are suffering from intense pressure and a downturn in fees. But tech PR is flourishing.

Enjoyed reading this interview? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

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