Signs that we are in a down economy abound. This is especially true for the tech sector of the economy, which according to Crunchbase has shed nearly 270,000 jobs in the U.S. since the downturn began in 2022. While it’s not all doom and gloom for the tech economy (AI and a few other verticals continue to enjoy large capital raises), the times are indeed tough, forcing many in tech to cut their expenditures to the bone.
Nevertheless, the show must go on for tech companies. Moving forward is the only hope tech companies have at maintaining market share and positioning themselves for rapid growth pending the eventual rebound. Since a tech PR agency can have an oversized impact on reputation and brand awareness, not to mention its ability to augment the SEO strategy with organic backlinks, it’s never a good idea to completely eliminate PR from a marketing budget.
To give you some help during these uncertain times, we put together some practical tips on how to stretch your PR dollar in a down tech economy.
Keep investing in PR
The most indisputable piece of advice we can offer is to not give up on PR during a down tech economy. Doing so runs the risk of ceding your credibility as an industry leader to the competition and will hinder your ability to drive traffic to your website. Positive mentions in the press give you badly needed social validation that can help your sales team close new accounts, which are harder to come by in a tough economy. If you’re not sure how to pursue an effective PR strategy during a downturn, read our article on a related VC funding topic.
Talk with your PR agency
If you are using a tech PR agency, now is the time to have a discussion with your account manager about the budget and ways you can start trimming back without sacrificing the overall strategy. The relationship between you and your agency is not carved in stone, nor is the engagement contract. Or at least it shouldn’t be. During the early days of the pandemic at Swyft, we met our clients halfway by agreeing to lower our engagement fees (sometimes by as much as 40%) in order to continue our relationship and add value to their marketing strategy. Your agency might be willing to do the same. If they aren’t, it may be time to look for another option.
Shop for a nimble PR agency
Looking for a new, more nimble tech PR agency may not be the preferred outcome if you already have a PR partner, though it may become necessary if your current agency is having trouble meeting halfway. If, however, you don’t currently have a relationship with an agency, now might be a good time to think about engaging one. The value of media coverage only grows in times of economic hardship. Your ability to tell stories about your startup’s products and services and related growth successes will plant seeds that come to rapid fruition when a recovery is in sight. Plus, it will keep you top-of-mind when others in your industry are pulling back from communications initiatives. There are many capable and nimble PR agencies out there that can deliver you the results you need, often at a value price point relative to larger agencies. The key is to shop for agencies that have leadership and senior account managers with deep PR experience in the tech startup industry. You may be better off searching in markets outside the Bay Area and NYC/East Coast given the higher cost of doing business in those markets.
Hire fractional PR help
With so much uncertainty, you may decide that committing to a larger fixed-fee retainer is not in the best interest of your startup. Fortunately, there are many ways to find and work with senior PR talent without signing an agency engagement agreement. There are plenty of PR experts who either prefer to work on a fractional basis or are in between jobs. Those professionals may have exactly the kind of knowledge and experience needed to help move the needle on your PR initiatives, for as much as 50% of the cost of an agency. That said, the savings may come with a hidden tax, a reduced amount of work ouptut for instance, or bandwidth that a freelancer can bring to the table compared to a fully staffed agency.
There are a bunch of talented PR students out there ready for an opportunity to put their school learning into action. The trick is to find them, and then figure out which ones have developed their writing and critical thinking skills enough to actually be productive for your startup. In the era of ChatGPT, you might think that writing is not as important a skill as it would have been in the past. In actuality, the opposite is true. The pros and cons of using ChatGPT for your strategic communications would require a whole other article, but trust us when we say that an intern needs to show talent as a writer (and editor) to be effective in their role as a PR intern. However, keep in mind that taking the intern approach may only work if you have someone with enough previous PR knowledge to effectively guide the intern. Most lack much of the real-world experience it takes to develop and execute successful PR campaigns.
For any questions about how a tech PR agency can work flexibly and affordably to help your startup maximize its results when it counts the most, drop us a line and let’s chat!