Having worked both in-house and agency side, I know only too well how difficult it is to find the right agency partner. There’s a talent dearth, not just in the technology industry, but also in PR and Communications. And, as I will come to explain, these are two sides of the same coin.
So, when you’re searching for the right strategic B2B tech PR and Comms agency, what skills should you be checking they have? I put this question to some of our team here at Resonance to explore what they believe are the skills any potential partner agency should demonstrate.
- A true interest in B2B tech
Jonathan, Resonance Account Manager:
"From the Strategic Director to the Junior Account Executives, everyone on your account needs to have a passion for technology. You might just think this is common sense, but B2B tech isn’t for everyone. While in some professions, an apathetic attitude may go unnoticed, but a passion for the tech and the job is critical for success in our field.
Make sure every person on your account team has knowledge of and takes an interest in your market. Passion drives curiosity and curiosity drives expertise. Without this, your team won’t be proactive enough in a fiercely competitive market. They won’t be able to work with journalists, analysts, and influencers to find that unique angle that gets you the best results."
- Competitor and market knowledge
Nadia Nizar, Director of Influencer Relations:
"It’s amazing how many companies just navel gaze. It is the role of your external agencies to help you see what is happening by delivering insights beyond your product and organisation. By having your agency keep a finger on the market pulse, you’ll not only get better results from your PR spend, you’ll also produce better campaigns that strategically place you in your target audience’s minds. By working with a partner agency that takes the time to know the market, and to know your competitors, you’ll gain share of voice quickly and find new and exciting ways to communicate what you are doing. This helps marketing, sales and, ultimately, helps deliver growth for your business."
- An agency that understands you
"There are two threads to this. You need an agency that understands your product and an agency that understands your target market. You also need an agency that understands the workings of an in-house team. This will ensure your agency is always thinking about the value add you can bring as the person responsible for PR to the business. Whether that’s utilising coverage for sales, pushing it in new ways for lead generation or squeezing research being done in other areas to get tier one press. An agency that “gets you” is your true PR partner."
- Business acumen
Claire Williamson, Resonance Co-Managing Director:
"Understanding business is not just for the management team of your agency. In B2B tech, everything is about business. By having a real understanding of how business works, your agency can create campaigns that move the needle, not only with a niche tech audience, but with a wider business audience.
Agencies are there to provide strategic counsel on the pressing issue of reputation. If your agency doesn’t understand the nuances of business - how it works, the different stakeholders, your competitors - you won’t get the right advice to boost growth in your organisation. Having a partner that understands the workings of your business means that you can keep impressing your key stakeholders."
- An unrelenting focus on placing you at the heart of everything
Laura Brockbank, Resonance Senior Account Executive:
"It’s turned into a bit of cliché, but client-centricity is critical for success. At the centre of every successful PR programme is a committed relationship between client and agency. Every client is different – cookie cutter approaches to establishing good working relationships don’t work. Your agency needs to know and understand how you work and pre-empt your desires.
On the flipside, it’s just as critical that the client is willing to listen and take advice, that they are prepared to work with the agency as a partner rather than a supplier. If you view your agency as a commodity, as just another chink in your supply chain of content, take a deep breath and think about what you could be achieving by working together in partnership."
Seb Goodman, Resonance Senior Account Manager:
"The world is in a state of information overload: there’s so much information, and far too little time for audiences to consume it. For businesses’ PR efforts, this is a serious problem. In fact, standing out from the crowd in this digital era has never been so difficult.
Now more than ever, PR agencies need to be empowering their clients to say and do something new, something original, something thought-provoking. Only in this way can an organisation truly differentiate itself from competition."
"A great PR agency needs to be able to make the news – not just follow it. All too often, agencies adopt the latter, but it’s a lazy approach that creates little coverage and produces few leads.
Rather than sitting on their hands waiting for a press release, PR agencies need to go above and beyond. They need to be news generation engines, devising innovative campaigns, stories, and angles, that speak clearly and directly to clients’ audiences."
- Data skills
Tom Fry, Resonance Co-Managing Director:
"We live in an increasingly data-led world, where statistics and quantitative research are king. Data gives journalists a firm foundation on which to establish a story, and so it falls on us as PRs to give them these building blocks.
Data can be obtained from many sources – open data sets or tools, Freedom of Information Act requests, surveys or even using a company’s existing data. The key is to ensure it is unique, interesting and relevant to your client. But good data skills combined with an eye for a story will give you the tools to rise above the noise and be heard.
What skills do you think a B2B tech PR agency needs to succeed today and into the future?