Required Reading: "Behind the Scenes" in Tech PR

By: Chris Michaels, Senior Account Manager, Fusion LA (@chrisamichaels)

Image Curtosey Jose Lopez

Image Curtosey Jose Lopez

“So they put over 820 million whosawhatsits on the thingy and provided 2.0 Gigasomethings, coupled with a gizmo that drives another doohickey! …And that’s why we’re the leader in innovation.”

Yeah. Right. What he said.

We’ve all been there at some point, sitting in a pitch, or a brainstorm or a strategy meeting that goes all loco. The kind of meeting where the architects or engineers or people that work in development, are flooding you with technical information that’s over your head. Better yet, they’re trying to push those features or specs into the communications message and strategy.

The kind of meeting where you just want to take 800 volts and shock yourself to make sure you’re still awake.

Just relax. Take a deep breath and remember that you’re not alone.

Let’s face it, we work in the tech industry and have an outstanding book of business because we’ve established a level of trust with our clients. And sometimes, it takes a meeting with the engineer to gain the trust of not only your client, but yourself.

I’ve had a wide-range of clientele,  but it is the high-tech clients that have taught me the most. I’ve learned from them not only how to be a better client representative, but also how to take a higher-interest in the “behind the scenes” development and innovation that gives us products and services to represent.

Years ago, I started doing an exercise with clients, so I could understand more about what they do, their user impact and how the end-user will benefit and make their preference choice. I sit in my office, and develop their brand architecture statements by answering the following questions to the best of my knowledge with as many responses as possible (we’ll use the shoes I’m wearing as an example):

  • What are the product features? (non-slip sole, strong arch support)
  • What are the product’s functional benefits? (Support, stability, non-slip)
  • What are the product’s emotional benefits? (Strength, comfort)
  • What are the psycho/social benefits? (When I use this product, I feel/am: secure; ready for the road ahead)

It’s a basic framework. But it gives me a better understanding of the top-level product pitch. Now comes the hard part.

Ask your client, “Why?”

Sometimes those “why” questions not only give us a better product understanding but lets the client know you’re interested. And if you don’t understand something that’s explained to you, have them try and spell it out.

One of my old clients was a medical implant company. They created spinal cord devices for chronic-pain, and I was in-charge of their re-branding campaign. Though tech savvy, I’m no biomedical engineer and I was completely in the dark. It wasn’t until I had them explain the system to me, teach me Ohm’s law, and show me the cadavers (yes dead people), that I finally understood the impact of their product – controlling electrical current and nerve stimulation. They got people off of pain-killers for a more functional life.

Moreover, because I took the time to learn, the team was more responsive to my future recommendations.

It sounds daunting. Heck, it’s down right scary sometimes to have these conversations with people more technically-savvy than ourselves. The good news is we’re not expected to hop on the production line and make the next chip. But, if you can build your knowledge and get through the gigabytes, semiconductors, and the nuts & bolts – you’re way ahead of the game.

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