The PR Show: How tech PR has come to the fore during the COVID-19 crisis

Technology communications specialists are reporting solid growth after an “initial wobble”, as the modern cliché that ‘every company is a tech company’ insulates this sector of the comms industry from the economic downturn.

Tech PR panel: Adrian Ma, David Lucas, Ilona Hitel and André Labadie.
Tech PR panel: Adrian Ma, David Lucas, Ilona Hitel and André Labadie.

In the latest edition of PRWeek's podcast The PR Show, a panel of tech PR leaders shared their views about growth during the pandemic, the broad range of tech PR briefs, how technology has helped businesses adapt during COVID-19, concerns about privacy, and whether the pandemic has helped restore faith in technology after recent years of ‘techlash’. 

“We've seen inbound briefs from all sorts of sectors regarding technology, whether it's smart cities, prop tech, customer service, technology, HR technology, and of course healthcare,” Comms Co founder and managing director Ilona Hitel said.

“We've grown revenues by about 20 per cent in the last six months, which is pretty phenomenal, and we've hired three people… there was an adage that every company is now a tech company, but I think it's more true than ever.”

Fanclub PR founder and managing director Adrian Ma said his agency is anticipating “modest growth”.

He describes the pandemic period in different phases. Initially there was shock: “Every single time I got a text from a client saying ‘Are you around for chat?’ my heart was in my mouth,” he recalled.

In the early months Fanclub won briefs in healthcare, micromobility – particularly supporting people who don't want to use public transport – and ecommerce. 

“I would say that is a different story between agencies and in-house,” he added. 

In October, Ma said he has seen a lot of people being made redundant as the initial furlough support period was running out and teams were being restructured.

“We do need to approach it with a bit of caution – especially where redundancies are being made, the optics don't sit very well,” Ma warned. “If you have other overheads and suppliers, who could be cut – and PR is one of those.”

3 Monkeys Zeno has recorded solid organic growth in its tech division, head of technology David Lucas said.

“It's been nice to see that technology brands have had a good story to tell. And what's interesting is they've been able to show how they're bringing value to people and [share that narrative] for the first time,” he said.

Lucas said 3 Monkeys Zeno’s clients are thinking about 2021 with new briefs that focus on areas including internal comms and social, and different ways to communicate with consumers and stakeholders.

“As we get into the next year, we're probably not going to have the same cycle of events that we might have had in previous years. We need to be quite agile… and not just focusing on one particular content or channel.”

The fourth panellist, Brands2Life business and technology managing director André Labadie also reports “strong organic growth”, with only a handful of clients making sweeping cuts to marcomms budgets.

He said COVID-19 has provided tech clients with a rare opportunity to “put out the stories that can tell their story around how they're helping organisations and people get through the pandemic, and use that as a platform for continued growth”.

Labadie added: “It's been really cool working with some of those brands who've really come to the forefront during the pandemic and are making a difference to their customers and the world beyond.”

Listen to the full episode of The PR Show below.

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