Ask someone what a PR professional does on a daily basis and they’re likely to rattle off high-profile activities like attending a cool restaurant opening or trying to get a client mentioned in the glossy pages of a fashion magazine.
But, the truth is, most companies seeking PR aren’t walking a red carpet every night — they come from industries like telecom, software sales or health care IT. Making these types of clients interesting and accessible to an audience is the true mark of a skilled PR pro, because it’s not an easy undertaking.
Companies in technical industries face a number of difficulties when trying to communicate the benefits of their product or service, which often appear highly technical and overly complex to the average person. Creating content that generates conversations is a crucial part of any successful PR campaign, no matter the industry.
On that note, here are some tips for turning technical subject matter into understandable content that creates awareness for every company — not just the glamorous ones.
1. Spare the details. Focus on impact.
Say you’re working with a cloud computing company looking to sell its software to businesses across the country. While it’s obvious that the mechanics of cloud computing are highly technical, it’s your job to create the bigger, much simpler picture.
No one really needs to know exactly how the cloud computing process works in order to understand what the impact of using that product could be on his or her business. In this example, you might emphasize how using the software boosts employee productivity and collaboration by making it easy to share files and information across the company’s network.
2. Use those SAT analogy skills.
Analogies are an effective tool for creating a bigger picture because they break down a technical process into something familiar to the audience. Doing so makes it much easier to cut out confusing technical language.
Take, for instance, a company trying to explain the importance of bandwidth to prospective customers. Using a traffic analogy would be helpful here: Imagine you’re on a highway at rush hour. Traffic will move more quickly on a highway with more lanes. The same goes for bandwidth — having more bandwidth is like having more lanes on the highway.
3. Identify niche reporters.
If you’re trying to get publicity for a company with a highly technical product or service, it’s going to save a lot of time — for both you and the contacts you’re pitching — to identify those journalists who already have expertise in that industry, or who have written about similar products in the past.
If you’re pitching a story about the value of health care data analytics software, identifying someone who has experience covering that topic ensures that they already have some idea of how to successfully illustrate its value to readers. Pitching the same story to a general business reporter could result in time lost explaining unnecessary details and a less accurate write-up of your clients’ product or service.
4. Talk to the sales department.
The sales department is an excellent resource for learning about how to talk about a company’s product or service in the simplest form. A company’s salespeople are often those with the most practice explaining exactly what is a company is trying to sell, and more importantly, identifying why it is of value to their audience.
For instance, they might be able to tell you if using the word “solution” instead of the word “tool” is typically more effective. Or they can give you a sense of what kind of feedback they’re getting when they explain their product in a certain way. Talking with the sales department at the company you’re working with can give you a better idea of what kind of language has resonated with prospective customers so that you can craft successful messaging for your client.
5. Keep it light.
The topics might be uninteresting on the surface, but that doesn’t mean you can’t inject some humor into blog posts or newsletters. The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising found that 47 percent of people agree that using humor in advertising created ads that resonated the most strongly.
Blogs, or other less formal content, can be a place to experiment with GIFs or funny anecdotes. Even self-deprecating humor can help with making a technical industry seem approachable and human. Openly acknowledging that the product or service is not something that will likely be talked about at the dinner table is a good way to establish authenticity.
While working with industries like telecom and software might not fit the stereotype of what PR pros do, it is unsexy businesses like these that are growing fastest today and can benefit immensely from a strong, strategic public relations effort. By humanizing technical language and making it easier to understand, you can turn even the most technical industries into campaigns that get your audience talking.
Gina Gallup is the Vice President & COO of the Bradford Group, a Nashville-based PR/marketing firm that integrates public relations, inbound marketing, outbound marketing and social media.