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Tick the box or kick the bucket: getting tech PR surveys right

TickThe headline-driven research survey is chief amongst the many weapons in the technology PR arsenal. Initially, it’s a great way for us to help our clients create a newsworthy story that will resonate well with the media and win that all-important coverage. It also creates more long-term advantages by providing clients with a means to test the waters for their IT services and solutions. Research results can even form the basis of industry whitepapers, infographics and other broader marketing collateral that can be used to drive additional value across our clients’ business.

However, it’s not just a case of banging out a few questions and sitting back to revel in the results (thankfully, or we’d be out of a job!) A lot of thought and planning needs to go into the creation of a PR survey; along with a good amount of blood, sweat and tears. As with any craft; there are some very distinctive dos and don’ts to take into account:

  • Do: Create a win-win – tech journalists won’t want to cover a story that just plugs one of our client’s services without offering a meaty story, but our clients will be understandably averse to investing in a research project that offers little else than media mileage. The knack is to find a happy middle-ground; which is why in tech PR it’s so important to combine an in-depth knowledge of the major issues of the day with a detailed understanding of how our clients help to solve them
  • Don’t: Create a ‘no sh*t Sherlock’ survey – the market is now so crowded with research surveys that an already cynical media is becoming even more so whenever the word ‘research’ is uttered. As a result, tech PRs can’t afford to be plaguing them with surveys that just tell them what everybody already knows; or worse still, what another survey ‘revealed’ weeks ago. Taking the time to do some research into what other surveys have been conducted, the levels of coverage they achieved and then spending a while thinking about how the debate can be moved on is crucial to success
  • Do: Think about the story – your intricately crafted research questions might sound like the most insightful thing that man ever uttered, but if the endgame is to give clients a platform from which to voice their message then that’s the best place to start.  Thinking about what questions need to be asked in order to create a clear and concise story that builds that platform is far more effective than just plucking questions out of thin air, or asking them because they sound intelligent!
  • Don’t: Ask pointless questions – I can’t stress this one enough. Not only do questions cost clients money (so you don’t want to be wasting one on ‘setting the scene’) but they can also have unforeseen consequences. For example, it’s fairly standard in consumer research to make demographic comparisons, but when it comes to B2B tech is it really that necessary to highlight what sex the survey respondents are? Fairly innocuous you might think, but then a recent headline in Cloud Pro suggests otherwise. It’s difficult to imagine any modern business that stands to benefit from a touch of overt sexism, so it’s a safe bet that they didn’t take this line in the press release! At the end of the day, any journalist worth his (or her!) salt will be looking for the juiciest story in the research findings. Unintentionally creating an angle that sheds clients in a negative light is inexcusable

When handled right, a good research survey can yield some fantastic results; providing our clients with a gramophone to make their voice plainly heard, whilst giving our colleagues in the media industry a decent story to really get their teeth into. So let’s focus on getting it right.

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Should you be transparent in your communications?

transparencyMore and more organisations are now conscious of being transparent in terms of how they run their business and who they do business with. Increasingly, this is becoming a significant PR exercise for some big tech companies who are being more transparent regarding their business activities.

Last year, Google and Facebook both released its facts and figures regarding the efficiency of their data centres; indeed many technology writers were surprised by the levels of efficiency each company claimed it had achieved.  Google even stated it has the world’s most efficient data centre. Joe Kava, senior director, data centre construction and operations for Google said, “In the same way that you might examine your electricity bill and then tweak the thermostat, we constantly track our energy consumption and use that data to make improvements to our infrastructure. As a result, our data centres use 50 percent less energy than the typical data centre.”  Facebook also recently released a tool which shows live updated efficiency figures from its data centres. The reaction to both Google and Facebook was positive and many saw it as the first step towards greater data centre transparency.

Another recent example of using transparency to gain media attention is a social media company Buffer who used a blog post to reveal their pay structure right from the CEO down to the secretary. The company was then inundated with CVs from prospective employees.  The media reaction was a little bit more mixed, with many people questioning whether it was an invasion of privacy.

Twitter also recently published a report on the diversity of their workforce. The report revealed that 90% of tech jobs at Twitter are filled by males. Twitter stated that “By becoming more transparent with our employee data, open in dialogue throughout the company and rigorous in our recruiting, hiring and promotion practices, we are making diversity an important business issue for ourselves.”  Companies such as Twitter and Google have been under pressure to do more to address diversity in their workplaces. However the reaction towards Twitter was quite negative, with many stating that the lack of diversity at Twitter was not surprising with over 90% of their workforce being male.

Using the media can aid businesses in demonstrating how transparent they really are, for example it can give consumers a chance to show exactly how things operate. However, businesses need to be aware that becoming more transparent might be seen by some as merely a back slapping exercise, which could then risk in negative PR. Therefore transparency must be managed correctly by businesses and not used in the wrong way.  

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Coverage Cup round up

Coverage cupOver the last fortnight, we have been involved in some interesting news hijacking activity. The ViaSat team were able to offer comment on the discovery of a major four-year cyber espionage operation, which resulted in coverage in InfoSecurity. While the Trace One team sold-in comment around the French government’s proposal to enforce the traffic light nutritional labelling system on traditional confectionery, which resulted in coverage in both Food Processing Technology and Food and Drink Technology.

Elsewhere, we have also seen a number of excellent national pieces of coverage. For example, Verizon were included in an in-depth feature in The Guardian on how to keep children safe online, offering their advice to parents. In the meantime, we also placed a range of opinion pieces in publications ranging from TechRadar Pro to Drug Discovery and Development magazine! 

The Register – Whoops, my cloud’s just gone titsup. Now what?

The Guardian – How do I keep my children safe online? What the security experts tell their kids

InfoSecurity – State-Sponsored Hackers from the East Attack Former Soviet Countries

Food Processing Techology – French chocolate makers oppose government’s proposal for colour coding chocolates

Food and Drink Technology – French chocolatiers oppose health labels

Drug Discovery and Development – Unlocking the Power of Big Data in R&D, Part One

TechRadar Pro – The lake and the stream: analogies to assist your big data strategy

The Telegraph – Londoners ‘twice as likely’ to have their phone stolen

MyCustomer – Seven steps to optimising your site for mobile commerce

Computer Weekly – Compuware & the ‘horizontal’ Agile LoB DevOps dream

Computing – Analyse first, store second says big-data analytics firm Guavus

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Has there ever been a more perfect PR topic than the smartphone?

smartphoneIf you work in PR you get used to seeing the same themes cropping up year after year (cloud, anyone?), and while they are not quite old-hat for us PR bods, we are certainly becoming very well-versed in them indeed. What it means in reality is that a lot of people are talking about the same thing and the same issues, so you have to work extra hard to come up with more creative and proactive ideas for clients (which obviously we’re very good at here at Spark.)

But smartphones, well, they are just the gift that keeps on giving. Recent news from Ofcom shows they are more popular than ever with internet use on smartphones growing seven times faster than on laptops and desktops. And in a business sense, they are now deemed the most important tool for running a business. Smartphones are also one of those rare B2B technologies that actually cross the business-consumer divide which makes them even more interesting to readers. So, although it sometimes feels like every business in the world is talking about smartphones and mobile devices (they probably are), their ubiquitous nature means there is always plenty of stuff for us PR folk to talk about.

Being so pervasive therefore results in the vast majority of our PR content and campaigns having a strong mobile angle. It also further opens up areas we can talk about because smartphones are so important to the business world. As a result, they give rise to lots of other, linked issues like data security; which is a shape-shifting constant companion of the smartphone. As smartphones continue to get harder, better, faster, stronger, the issues constantly change – which for PR purposes is great, as it gives rise to emerging topics such as second-screening.

Smartphones are one of those technologies that we all here at Spark personally use on an hourly basis so we can get even more excited about them than normal (and we get excited about the weirdest technologies, let me tell you). The beauty of mobile is that it has so many facets we’re never short of something to say about it; like whether consumers prefer mobile apps or mobile websites, the average number of workers using their own smartphones, the security of mobile wallets, or the importance of a mobile first strategy.

So, after my paean to that perfect PR technology, it does beg the question – what’s next? Will Google Glass be the next indispensable business tool, will devices we can swallow become the next omnipresent technology or will driverless cars be the de facto vehicle on driveways around the world? Whatever the answer, it’ll certainly be fun finding out and we’ll no doubt have plenty to say about it too.

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Coverage Cup round up: fortnightly edition

Coverage cupWelcome to the Spark Coverage Cup round up from the last fortnight – here are the highlights.  The Elsevier team secured opinion piece coverage in Information Age on the topic of Big Data, while Verizon were featured on BBC News Online as part of an in-depth article looking at data breaches.  Furthermore, as a result of the JDA team’s ongoing business press pitching activity, the supply chain company was featured as industry experts on Channel 4‘s Dispatches looking at the ‘Supermarket Wars’ – the episode is available to Watch on 4od now

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