What niche does your company occupy? Do you do web services projects or content management? Do you cater to the medical market or the financial services market? These may sound like obvious questions, but it is amazing how easily they are overlooked. The answers to these questions will provide the basis for your PR strategy.
Once you identify your niche, you can start planning how best to communicate to your audience. What are your customers’ preferred sources of information? The easiest way to find out is simply to ask them. Once a year Presto Vivace sends out an email to our customers, present and former, asking what are their preferred news sources. More recently we have begun to ask which, if any, blogs they read.
It is also necessary to ask what your customer’s customer reads. That is why I attend so many meetings of local tech groups. This is the audience my clients are trying to reach.
Participating in IT standards discussions offers a great opportunity to meet the players, both competitors and customers. A good standards committee will prevent any single vendor from dominating the standard; but participation will enable you to both keep abreast of emerging trends and ensure that your product is not blocked. Participation in a standards committee is also an opportunity to advance your industry. If that isn’t part of your PR plan, then you don’t have one. Wanting to do the right thing for your industry is part of what separates PR from snake oil.
It is not only useful to participate in your industry’s trade associations, but also to follow your customer's market. For example, if your company provides litigation support software, not only should you be a member of AIIM, you should also buy advertising in your local bar association’s newsletter and even attend an occasional meeting.
Of course, the best PR is to make your customer look good. Almost all the trade magazines have annual “Best of” issues. Resist the temptation to nominate your company; nominate your customer. Nothing is more likely to cement your relationship. If you learn of a “Call for Participation” in a trade conference or seminar, forward it to your customer and encourage them to apply. What do you think would be more persuasive? Giving a presentation on your view of your industry? Or your customer explaining how your company solved their problem? Understanding this is the difference between simple promotion and strategic public relations.