|Edward M. Yang|
Let’s be honest. In today’s age of content saturation, it’s getting harder to stand out from the crowd through public relations. Spamming press releases and pitches to reporters have all but made it impossible for most companies to get legitimate press coverage.
That trend is converging with another trend: the growth of software-as-a-service, commonly referred to as SaaS. In fact, SaaS—or the cloud, as it’s also sometimes referred to—has now become so much of our work and personal life that we don’t really think much about it any longer.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '19 Technology PR Magazine.|
Moore’s law, or the notion that the number of transistors in a processor doubles every two years, has been broadened to also include the impact of continued growth of cheaper storage, faster networks and more technological adoption of devices such as smartphones. All this means that SaaS products continue to explode, both for consumers and businesses. Gartner predicts that SaaS revenues will reach $85 billion in 2019, with total cloud revenue hitting $278 billion.
SaaS companies often run into a problem when they launch a new product or unveil features: they find out the hard way that it’s much more difficult to get press coverage than they thought. This is due to the nature of SaaS products. By definition, it’s basically software that’s delivered over the cloud. And frankly, software isn’t that exciting. It’s also intangible. Unlike a physical product, SaaS lives here, there and everywhere. Physical products can be held, examined, tested and reviewed. They can be photographed from different angles, or in different use cases. SaaS, on the other hand, can show only screenshots.
Through trial and error over the years, we’ve learned what works best when trying to get media coverage for SaaS products.
Figure out your “one thing”
Anyone who’s studied branding will tell you that in order to stick in the minds of your prospect, you need to hone your positioning. In one of Seth Godin’s earlier seminal books, Purple Cow, Godin touts one simple message for success: be remarkable. Similarly, as it relates to SaaS, don’t fire a list of bullet points to a reporter and think that will get your message across. Instead, focus on the One Thing that you want them to remember about your product.
Even if you feel it’s an unremarkable product—say, project management—identify one key thing that makes you stand out and is also memorable. Yes, SaaS may seem boring and unglamorous. But figure your One Thing: slick user interface, integrated chat, killer APIs.
Focus on benefits by telling a story
This is also Marketing 101, but it’s amazing how often press releases and pitches seem to be taken directly from sales collateral. You’re not going to move a reporter with speeds and feeds. Instead, tell a story. Reporters are there to tell stories to their readers, so it would make sense that your chance of success goes up if you tell a story to the reporter. Stories bring home the benefit of your SaaS product in a real way.
The story can be about how you came up with the idea for your SaaS product, or how your clients transformed their lives or businesses by using your product (i.e., use cases). Every SaaS project started with the goal of improving on something. Start there and brainstorm all the benefits. Make it a habit to write press releases or pitch emails that tell stories with a structure of framing the problem, how you came up with the solution, and finally, what the concrete results were. Be sure to back up your assertion with data wherever possible.
Rely heavily on thought leadership
Because SaaS is so intangible, one PR tactic that works particularly well is thought leadership. Thought leadership includes activities such as contributed articles—sometimes referred to as guest posts—question and answer interviews, radio or podcast interviews, award submissions, speaking engagements and analyst relations.
Basically, the idea is to elevate your CEO, founder or executives as thought leaders in whatever space you’re in. Topics could include controversial industry discussions, educational material, how-tos or anything else that your target market is concerned about at the moment. Teach them instead of selling to them, and they’ll come to view you as a trusted thought leader.
Expand your media opportunities
Sure, everyone wants to be featured in BusinessWeek or the Wall Street Journal. The unfortunate reality is, due to the nature of SaaS that’s probably not going to happen unless you’re going public or some other earth shattering news. But with the plethora of content publishers, there’s a media outlet that’s right for every cloud service.
Each industry has their own magazines, bloggers, email newsletters and influencers. They have their own trade association groups, trade shows and meet ups. They likely have LinkedIn Groups where discussions occur, or even sub-Reddits where like-minded professionals interact. Check Quora and see if prospects are asking questions related to your field. Seek out YouTube influencers. “Media” today is wherever your prospects are. Meet them there.
Successful PR for SaaS companies is possible, but it does take more effort and creativity. Done right though, the long-term payoff can be enormous, making media relations a worthy component of any SaaS marketing plan.
Edward M. Yang is Managing Partner of Firecracker PR, an agency that specializes in helping technology companies rapidly scale awareness through their proven “Ignites” process. Yang is author of “RepGold: A Step-by-Step Guide to Successfully Repair and Build Your Online Reputation.”