Opinion: How tech companies can make the most of the media spotlight 

By Kathleen Reid, founder and chief communications officer at Switchboard Public Relations.

If Oscar Wilde worked at Switchboard, his most famous quip would be slightly different: “There are only two things in the world worse than being talked about. One is not being talked about, and the other is not being ready to be talked about.”

Canadian technology companies are being talked about BIG TIME these days. And for good reason: British Columbia is a veritable unicorn rodeo, with startups in the province raising $926.2 million in the third quarter of 2021, up 195 per cent from last year. In Ontario, that Q3 number was even higher, reaching $1.6 billion. Eleven Canadian companies made the Global Cleantech 100 in 2021. Female-led ventures are having a breakout year, raising massive rounds and scaling across the country. Every time you read the news, another Canadian tech company is listing on the TSX.

As the founder of the first Vancouver-based PR firm to focus on the Canadian tech sector, I have a front-row seat to the explosive growth of our innovation economy. That’s why this recent tweet from BetaKit editor Douglas Soltys resonates with me so deeply.

This lack of preparedness is preventing this country’s emerging tech businesses from making the most of the sector’s unprecedented momentum. I’ve been working in tech PR for a long time, and I know that sooner or later — and in tech it tends to be sooner — the industry, government, financial and public audiences tuning into financial news will want to know more about the innovations they are following and supporting. Not only that, they will expect narratives ranging from corporate culture and hiring practices to R&D and M&A to be addressed.

That’s when a comprehensive media strategy pays off.

Grabbing the spotlight can be initially achieved with some head-turning dollar figures, sure, but holding that attention, and ensuring that it highlights a company in a positive, compelling and accessible way, requires media readiness in three key areas:

Ready to share

No high-growth tech company’s website is complete without a press page and electronic media kit designed to answer introductory questions clearly and consistently. A flesh-and-blood media contact is also essential for handling more specific, targeted queries and suggesting beneficial story angles. 

Etsy’s press page, for example, does a great job of this by providing contact information and quick facts about the company so media don't have to click off the page or open another tab to find what they need. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Etsy’s visuals are so attention-grabbing. Facebook’s newsroom, meanwhile, is organized in a way that is easy to digest for reporters given the volume of information presented. And last but not least, Clio’s press page smartly separates company from product updates with a drop-down menu. It’s also a good idea to have a pitch deck ready, and a one-page strategy document in place, should investors and members of the financial media come calling.

Ready to adapt

Tech companies that are going public need to reassess their protocols. A public offering is a bold statement, and companies need confident, consistent messaging to match. IPOs generate curiosity across the board — from friends, family, rivals, and of course journalists – so executives and employees may need coaching on what they can and can’t say. 

Ready to explain

Tech companies seeking mainstream media attention must be able to explain what they do to a mainstream audience lacking technical training. Take quantum computing — how could it be described to a 10-year-old? How about something like: “Quantum computing uses individual atoms, ions, electrons and photons to store and process information.” It doesn’t tell the full story, but when it comes to fostering public understanding of cutting-edge technologies it makes sense to start with broad concepts and then drill down as the narrative unfolds.

When it comes to mainstream media messaging, Oscar Wilde gets it right yet again: “The simple thing is the right thing.”

For more insights like these, please join William, Douglas and myself on November 9th at 3:30 p.m, PDT on Twitter Spaces to chat more about how tech companies can better prepare themselves for the spotlight and become PR-ready when their moment comes. Set a reminder.