Over the past few years, the French technology ecosystem has witnessed exponential growth driven by a new generation of entrepreneurs, investors, engineers and many others.
It’s not just that the number of startups is exploding. The entire tech landscape, from VC to specialized media, is also maturing, and big names such as OVH, DBV Technologies and Criteo are emerging as major international players. But, despite this growth, many companies are still reluctant to enhance their visibility in the French market.
The French media landscape may be small, but the business opportunities certainly aren’t. Investing in a proper communications campaign for France will ensure that you can make your voice heard in an oversaturated market where the tech companies far outnumber the journalists, and over solicit them. The smaller the media landscape, the harder it is to be heard, but the bigger the results will be for those who do make it into the headlines. After all, France's IT services market is the sixth largest in the world. In 2017, it accounted for around 4.4 percent of the global IT services market and is expected to exceed $44 billion by 2020.
A growing tech business landscape
The place to start when talking about the tech landscape is the workforce. France’s tech worforce is the fastest growing in the EU, up 7.3 percent in 2018, well above the four percent growth seen in Germany.
The FinTech sector provides a good example of this trend. In 2018, €365 million was raised in the sector in France, representing a growth of 15 percent over 2017 and up 185 percent since 2016. This can in part be explained by the fact that France has a high number of skilled employees to fill positions in the sector, ranking 12th in the human capital and research pillar in the global innovation index.
And the FinTech industry is just one example of the many tech sectors that have skyrocketed in France over the last year. Overall the business value of the French tech sector is constantly rising, as 2018’s funding surpassed 2017 totals by 8%, reaching $3.5B. This was marked by several major $100M+ rounds to French tech companies, including a $200M investment in mobile games publisher Voodoo.
A small media tech landscape
It’s important to remember that despite these numbers, the French tech landscape is still relatively small. A fair amount of national publications still don’t have proper tech columns, but instead populate their tech sections with articles on stories such as Bezos’ new spaceship. Deep tech publications aren’t numerous and are solicited by a multitude of actors, but also by non-specialists wanting to be featured as industry experts. For example, according to a survey from London venture capital firm MMC, 40 percent of European start-ups that are classified as AI companies don't use artificial intelligence in a way that is “material” to their businesses.
This shows that the French tech landscape is not just small, it’s also over solicited and contains a questionable use of buzzwords. Communicating, therefore, requires a proper approach.
Breaking through the noise with PR
As is true in many regions, placing features in the French media is a real challenge. It requires a long-term approach and investment. Firms rarely have an impact on editorial calendars, so they have to be at the right place at the right time. This requires them to be known by the journalists and available when they reach out for comment, and to also have a proper narrative to offer, with a clear message that’s different from the mainstream – or at least different enough for the company to stand out. Remember, PR in France is a marathon, not a sprint. Overcommunicating will lead to the same results as any bad communication strategy.
The French media landscape will treat PR like any other investment. If properly executed, it will provide long-term returns and add value to the brand in a sustainable manner. But, it also requires time, preparation and a calculated implementation. Although it can sometimes have immediate results, the bulk of the benefits can only be measured on a long term basis by aggregating them with other marketing and sales KPIs, such as sales growth or gross turnover.
Brands that put these processes in place will be able to capitalize on the growth potential the French market is set to offer over the years to come.
Ghislain d’Andlau is a PR executive at Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.