It’s a legitimate question to ask. Especially for B2B tech businesses looking to hire a tech PR firm for the first time, or ones that have little experience dealing with them.
Indeed, I would say that the notion of even having to hire a tech PR firm and work hard to get positive media coverage is a completely foreign concept to some tech executives. (We actually wrote a white paper on that topic entitled “Why B2B SaaS CEOs Struggle with PR and Marketing” in case you’re interested.)
The truth is that there is no one right answer to the question. That’s because every company is unique, and PR engagements often vary widely based on budget and services rendered.
To come to an understanding of how much media coverage a tech company can expect from a given engagement it’s worth noting that coverage comes in different forms and sizes. The kind of news coverage most tech PR firms refer to is called ‘earned media.’ It’s a simple way of saying that the media willingly covers your news as opposed to you having to pay for its placement.
- Articles: in longer form, almost exclusively about your company news
- Mentions: brief mentions in content pieces that may cover topics
- Quotes: your executives quoted in variety of produced content
- Short summaries: company news coverage that takes a shorter form (1-2 paragraphs)
- Contributed content: these are articles written by your company or PR firm and submitted to a media outlet for consideration and subsequent publication.
Before covering how much media coverage you can expect, here are a few general rules to keep in mind as you look to hire a tech PR firm or analyze how well your current one is performing.
Also called the Pareto principle after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, this rule of thumb is useful to keep in mind when trying to determine how much media coverage your business should receive out of the total amount of media coverage produced about your industry. At Swyft we include this baseline assessment in our engagements as part of our initial media audit.
To put a finer point on it, there is a finite and fairly defined amount of media coverage available to a company in a given industry based on the number of media outlets and the average amount content they produce in a given period of time (for this article, let’s assume that period spans 12 months).
The 80/20 rule comes into play in that over a year’s time around 80% of the total amount of available media coverage will go toward the top 20% of companies in the industry, almost always the dominant players (think Facebook in social media, Tesla in electric vehicles, Huawei in 5G technology).
To figure out your company’s media potential, and even before you hire a tech PR firm, you should follow Swyft’s approach by conducting a comprehensive audit of your industry media coverage. It will help determine how many pieces were produced for each competitor (and you) over the past 12 months and what numbers to strive for over the coming year.
Not surprisingly, you will see the largest players in your industry racking up close to the 80% mark. Maybe it’s 70-80%, but it should be a significant majority. You can then measure the percentage of media coverage the other (smaller) players captured. If you are currently a smaller player and just starting out your PR program, then it’s not reasonable for you to be in the 80%. It is reasonable, however, to build your ‘share of ink’ in the coming year provided you pursue a more ambitious PR track.
FYI, you can apply this methodology to media coverage at a major industry trade show (e.g., HIMSS for healthcare IT) as you seek to increase your brand awareness and drive booth traffic.
If your company is somewhere in the lower or middle part of the pack when it comes to getting media coverage, then you could reasonably expect that a larger investment in PR (or even if you hire a brand new PR firm) would almost always lead to more media coverage.
One huge factor involved in determining how much news coverage you can expect is how many newsworthy announcements you will have in a given year. What do I mean by a newsworthy announcement? Below are some examples, or you can read a detailed post we published on the most popular tech PR campaigns we’ve observed at Swyft over the past 10 years.
- Product launch: it’s one of the best opportunities to get covered in multiple industry-specific media outlets.
- Growth: when you expand to a new market, lease a larger office, pass a certain level of revenue, you can often count on media coverage.
- Funding events: closing a round of funding from VC firms is usually a hot news item.
- Major client wins: if you win a major deal with an impressive client, then that could win some media coverage either in a trade publication or a local business news outlet.
At the end of the day, it takes action and positive news momentum on your part to generate publicity. If you are a fairly sedate company resting on the laurels of small product offering that rarely changes, then you are less likely to win the lion’s share of available ink.
Size of PR investment
It stands to reason that if you fail to fund your PR initiatives, then you will fail to win much publicity. Favorable articles in influential media outlets don’t grow on trees. It takes a good amount of work on the part of PR and marketing professionals to capture and articulate your news in a way that will make it easier for journalists to find your story worth covering.
For many companies, spending more on PR will almost always yield a greater amount of media coverage, especially if they started out with a small budget. Granted, finding the balance between PR spend and more media coverage may take time. But, if you do hire a competent tech PR firm and work closely with them as we recommend, then you should be able to discover it and optimize your results.
Word of caution: no amount of PR hocus-pocus will magically get your company into a sizable number of media outlets. As noted above, that only happens if your company is actively growing and doing the things that interest the media. Obtaining stellar results always comes at a cost. PR firms or internal communication professionals have to capture, articulate, package and distribute your news announcements. They help you develop long-term communications strategies, develop relationships with the media and continuously monitor results to recommend new ideas. Only then will your PR investment start paying dividends.
How much media coverage you can expect:
To better make my case, I am using the scenario a SMB B2B tech company with plans to do up to five product launches/product upgrades and budget to invest in a booth at a major trade show. It also assumes you hire a top tech PR firm and allow them to package up case studies to take out to the media, and to aggressively pursue thought leadership (contributed articles, speaking opportunities, panels) and business awards.
Given this scenario, the answer I came up with is that you can expect an average of 4 to 8 media pick-ups per month, and close to 48-100 unique pieces of media coverage that range from one-off quotes to full-blown articles.
How does that compare with what you have today? Is it lower, higher, or just about right?
After you do your media audit and discover how you compare to the competition, you may discover you’re part of the 20% that controls 80% of the media ink. If so, well done!
More likely than not, you will fall among the 80% of companies lagging behind the big players.
I have some good news for you, regardless of where you land in that continuum. There is always room for improvement!
The key is to hire an experienced tech PR firm and truly partner with them. Bring them into a close orbit with your marketing team so that they can help you seize on every PR opportunity possible. The more you invest into a relationship with your PR firm, both in dollars and time spent, the greater the amount of news coverage you can expect.
There is no reason why your company can’t become one of the 20% that dominates 80% of the total publicity for your industry.
(Full disclosure: Swyft always develops a variety of KPIs to measure performance. Counting articles is just one way to approximate success; it should be factored in with other valuable metrics that you set up at the start of every PR engagement.)