Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Why PR graduates should consider careers in the tech industry

This article originally appeared on PR Daily in September of 2017.

Attention PR pros and people new to the industry: Technology startups and established organizations are looking for communicators.

You might think tech PR is too hard for someone without an engineering degree. If you don’t understand the technology, how could you possibly interpret news and trends about nanotechnology, microchips, financial technology or cloud software?

However, tech organizations hire communication experts to explain their technology in ways that potential customers, investors and consumers can read and understand.

They also sorely require the very attributes that you already possess, including writing persuasively, distilling facts into key messages and crafting PR stories to gain reporters interest.

Too often, tech startups and organizations suffer from the curse of knowledge. Their leaders are too close to the subject and know all the ins and outs of their software or mobile app.

What’s required is an outsider’s viewpoint.

Communicating tech messages to journalists and analysts requires a broader perspective and a storytelling framework—not more detail on the product’s speeds and feeds. Here’s a quick litmus test: If describe what your organization does to your mother and she doesn’t understand it, go back to the drawing board.

In his book, “ You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education,” veteran journalist George Anders argued that “creativity, curiosity, and empathy are the job skills of the future.”

Anders used an example of working for IBM and having to explain block chain to non-technical corporate clients. He wrote, “You don’t want an engineer on this.”

A bachelor’s degree in communications or another humanities subject gives you a well-rounded liberal arts education, and many communications degrees also provide added training that can give you a leg up in the technology industry. As a PR lecturer at San Jose State University, I remind students that Silicon Valley’s tech organizations are seeking employees with communication and writing skills.

Technology is a hot topic

If you think that working in technology communications isn’t exciting, think again.

There are the major announcements happening on a regular basis in the tech world that affect practically every organization. Every day, reporters write articles about how artificial intelligence is changing businesses; how sophisticated machine learning replaces the jobs of several people; and how the Internet of Things connects door locks, thermostats and ceiling fans for easy access via an app.

The sports world, hospitality market and even Hollywood movies are touched by technology. Organizations worldwide use technology to connect and innovate.

[RELATED: Get the most up-to-date PR know-how for your whole team with our PRUniversity Membership.]

David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times columnist, said,

The roots of great innovation are never just in the technology itself. They are always in the wider historical context. They require new ways of seeing.

That is why journalists continue to cover technology topics.

You could find yourself in the driver’s seat with a job in tech PR, and many technology firms also have “Help Wanted” signs up.

Rene Shimada Siegel, chief executive and founder of Connext, says clients consistently look for people to help with crucial projects or to fill in for employee leaves of absence.

“Engineers can invent the most exciting, game-changing technology, but nobody will know about it without great marketing and communications pros,” says Siegel. “There’s a huge demand for people who can bring those stories to life.”

As opposed to the so-called glamorous PR jobs in entertainment or the sports industry where there are only open slots for a select few, the vacancy signs in tech are prevalent. Every organization can benefit from communications expertise.

The tech industry is great for beginners

Tech startups tend to have small marketing communications budgets, making it difficult to hire PR pros with years of experience. Instead, these organizations can—and often do—hire new college graduates or communicators who jump into tech PR from another career.

You might not have lots of experience launching products, conducting content marketing campaigns or tracking analytics of an organization’s social media, but don’t be intimidated. Think of your first tech PR job as a slightly higher-paid extension of a college internship. If you are transitioning to PR from another career, your experience in another industry gives you a valuable point of view to bring to the table.

There is also a wealth of resources, both paid and free, such as professional development training classes that can walk you through the more technical details of modern PR. If you don’t know how to track social media analytics, turn to Google and sign up for training.

Many young PR pros don’t realize that to move ahead in their careers, they often must have what they don’t yet possess—seasoning and life experience. If your dream is to work in a big city such as New York, Chicago, Boston or Los Angeles, you must gain experience. What better way to achieve it than by working in Silicon Valley for a technology startup?

The organization you work for might become the next rock star, such as Twitter, Lyft or Snapchat. In the meantime, you can hone your skills at many different communications duties while the startup pays you to learn. You can conduct product launches, pitch story ideas to editors, write multiple blog posts and contributed articles and post brand messages on social media channels.

A position in tech PR is fast, the expectations are high and your chance to learn is great.

Colleen Martell is the chief executive and chief strategist of Martell Communications, as well as a PR lecturer at San Jose State University. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks .

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