Tech practices need to think in consumers' terms

Those steeped in technology have always connected with techies who understand the cyber terms spoken by program designers and engineers. But as the average consumer becomes more tech-savvy, tech practices at agencies have had to become more consumer-savvy.

Those steeped in technology have always connected with techies who understand the cyber terms spoken by program designers and engineers. But as the average consumer becomes more tech-savvy, tech practices at agencies have had to become more consumer-savvy.

Speaking in consumer-friendly language, going where consumers are, and creating a targeted message are three ways firms can bring a customer-centric approach to tech practices.

"Our whole program is based on communicating the core value a company brings," says Rich Williams, president of North Carolina-based Connect2 Communications. "That value transcends whether their widget does X, Y, and Z.

"Certainly, there are some technical elements in press releases and conversations," he adds, "[but] we try to guide our clients in terms of who they are talking to, what their technical level is, [and] what they want to talk about so we can match the conversation to what that reporter cares about."

GolinHarris' tech practice, Gadget, has a KIST - Keep It Simple Techie - mantra for dealing with consumers and the press, says Stephen Jones, EVP of Gadget.

"You see traditional tech-based communications still focusing more on 'speeds and feeds' than benefits and not really putting technology in real-world terms," he adds. "[Companies have to] not only speak the language of your target demographic, but also participate in the communication on a daily basis."

That is where consumer outreach and social networking come in. Jones says Golin uses Web sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to reach out to the online community.

For one client, phone manufacturer VTech, Golin partnered with the Satellite Sisters, a Web program, community, and blog. This allowed the firm to work with influencers and those who have an impact in various social circles to promote the ideals behind the products, in the case of VTech, staying connected.

"What do these [consumers] care about? Where do they spend their time? And how do we engage with them?" Jones asks. "First, showing that we walk in their shoes and we know what their lives are about, and then figuring out if we have a logical product connection."

Tech companies that don't sell directly to consumers can still take a page from their consumer colleagues in order to reach the increasingly digital customer, says Steve Marchant, EVP of Brodeur Partners' b-to-b practice.

Marchant worked with the glass company Corning, which provides products for use in LCD TVs. Seeking a different target audience, the PR team promoted the benefits of LCD TVs to consumers, who wouldn't know that the glass in their TV came from Corning.

"There's a way to reach the end customer by talking about what the application does," Marchant says. "By reaching not just your customer, but your customer's customer, to [help them] understand what the application is, that gives us a good way to move things forward."

Key points:
As consumers become more digital-savvy, firms must adjust PR efforts

Altering the message to target consumers in ways that resonate with them can help tech practices get more consumer-centric

Meeting consumers where they are, including social networks and via influencers, helps improve firms' consumer outreach

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