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How good PR can give your tech startup a competitive advantage

Blog post   •   Nov 21, 2013 14:23 GMT

Rose Ross, Managing Director of OMarketing and Chief Trailblazer, explains why PR is so importance for tech startups and gives her top tips for getting their comms plan right.

Can you tell me a little about yourself and what you do?

I usually describe myself as a technologist who has specialised in PR. 

Raised in Cornwall the pioneering spirit of the Cornish Miners who moved far and wide to share their mining expertise must have rubbed off on me. I studied and worked in Germany and the US during my time doing a BSc in International Business and German. 

Since Uni, I have been kicking around the enterprise tech startup space for two decades and love the buzz and the people. My first job was marketing for a small British startup which was developing OpenVMS software in the early Nineties. Sitting with programmers who tried to explain Digital Command Language DCL coding and NetBIOS meant I learnt tech by osmosis but I love it. I founded my tech PR consultancy, Omarketing, 15 years ago.

Outside work, I usually spend time with my 9 year old son bodyboarding, swimming or hanging about a Games Workshop as his Space Marines do battle. He is a Warhammer 40K fanatic.  

How important do you think PR and marketing is for start-ups?

The value of it was brought home to me very early on in my career. The startup I first worked for was working on a networking OS which competed with Novell’s NetWare. Novell’s product was not technically superior but they were very active in PR and Marketing so that allowed them to win the race at that time. 

It has been incredibly valuable for so many of the startups we’ve worked with as they need to win the hearts and minds of customers, staff, investors and the community at large. You know it makes a difference when a client sends an email they received saying “I saw the coverage of your work with xxx in xxx. I used to work with him and if he likes it then I need to take a look at it myself. Can we set up a time to chat?” There is a lot of satisfaction helping the little guys. And with Tech Trailblazers, we’ve found a way to help even more!  

What is Tech Trailblazers?

The Tech Trailblazers is a global startup contest for enterprise tech startups. To be eligible the startup must be 5 years old or younger and privately funded (angel, seed, VC up to and including Series C or any other private funding). It has eight technology categories; big data, cloud, mobile, networking, security/infosec, storage, sustainable IT and virtualisation. 

We also have a category for the emerging markets, geographically speaking, which is to ensure that startups in the BRICS region and most of APAC, Africa and LatAm have a dedicated category.

Why did you decide to start Tech Trailblazers?

I have always worked with startups in the enterprise tech startup space and entered them into contests. However, I saw them disadvantaged in technology specific awards as often the incumbent big players seemed to be able to clean up here and in a tech startup contest they were also not seen to be as sexy as some of the consumer tech offerings. So I’d seen it as a gap for sometime.

Rose's 8 top tips for startups on handling their own PR?

1. Know who writes about your space and your competitors 

Follow them on twitter, read their blogs/articles. Build up a relationship with them.

2. Always think about your next big story

Think about what you are doing in your business and at each step is there a news story or would a reporter (No 1 in their market ideally) see an angle here?

3. Be interesting and sociable 

Reporters are pitched by a whole stack of startups so make it as easy as possible to be written about.

4. Make regular announcements 

Seems pretty straightforward but you’d be amazed the number of startups which don’t issue news releases regularly

5. Enter awards

I am biased here obviously, but aside from our awards, there are a whole raft of great ones to consider. Our media partner GigaOM runs one to pick the hottest startups to get a place at their Launch zone at Structure:Europe. Our friends at CODE_n are doing one for the big data space. There’s also the likes of Techcrunch’s The Crunchies and The Europas, Red Herring is still good although a little pricey and you are competing amongst a lot of other players. And then CRN, CIO ( via Mr @Startup50 -The lovely Jeff Vance) run top lists of emerging vendors. If you have the resources, it is always worth being in the running.  

6. Influence the influencers 

Think about people with big followings such as Robert Scoble (AKA @scobleizer) and others in the industry like some high profile analysts and bloggers - I can think of some of our lovely judges that are worth courting, for example James Governor (@Monkchips) from Redmonk, Simon Robinson (@simonrob451) from 451 Group etc.

7. Rich content 

Visuals, video, voice - V to the power of 3, are really useful to include on your website, in your media outreach and in social media.

8. Do think about using a PR consultant or a consultancy firm 

If you find a great one they are worth their weight in gold and at the Tech Trailblazers we’re working with a lot of great ones.

To find out more about Tech Trailblazers and the recently announced finalists then check out their website and their newsroom here.