Like many, I’ve spent the last few months reading, watching and listening to various opinions regarding generative AI and ChatGPT, a large language model trained by OpenAI. This technology takes immense amounts of data, looks for patterns, and becomes more proficient at mainly generating accurate and probable outputs. The buzz surrounding the tech today is primarily around the humanlike language and thoughts it can generate with only a few inputs from you or me.
More specifically, I’ve naturally leaned into how AI bots like ChatGPT affect the marketing industry and our future as a SaaS PR agency. Through this journey, I’ve realized that many of us are asking the wrong question. It’s not about whether or not ChatGPT will replace marketing jobs. The reality I’ve come to accept, and excitedly so, is that marketers who embrace ChatGPT will replace those who do not. And I believe this holds for every company across every sector.
The businesses that are quickest to adopt and refine this technology will win.
If you’re still on the fence about generative AI, I get it. It’s a lot to digest. To help potentially reframe your thinking, I’ll tackle a few overarching takeaways from the hours of material I reviewed, including insight from academics, technologists, marketers and analysts.
The technology reflects us
There will be ChatGPT champs and chumps, as ChatGPT starts with a human entering a prompt for a specific outcome. Suppose a particular human is apathetic about their job, takes shortcuts, and is generally lazy before using ChatGPT. In that case, there is a good chance ChatGPT will be used in a way that reflects poorly on the technology and its output. The output quality will depend on how much attention and time is spent on the input and refining the results. The lazy human will take the first draft received from the bot and run with it as the final.
On the flip side, if one approaches the technology from the viewpoint of being a beginning point, an idea-starter, and a tool to be more efficient, the strength, value and perception of the technology will be positive. The intuitive and intentional use of ChatGPT can result in helpful and valuable outputs if you approach it the right way.
Bots can’t be “forwardists”
AI bots like ChatGPT are limited to replicating what they’ve learned from what already exists online. And the training set currently only includes data through 2021. For example, ChatGPT won’t be able to create language around a new SaaS category, introduce a future concept or promote a new product because there is likely nothing accurate online about it yet from which to pull data.
Creating new points of view and introducing fresh concepts or unique predictions will still require human insight and creativity.
If you’ve played around with ChatGPT, as I have, you’ll see both the impressive value and the limitations of the technology. For example, I noticed very confident falsities in the output, “facts” that were inaccurate or not cited. In addition, most results were fairly general and baseline, even with intentional and detailed inputs.
ChatGPT isn’t good enough (yet) to be a competitor
The technology isn’t good enough yet to be seen as a competitive threat or a viable replacement for human creativity and common sense. Rather, it’s just another new tool in the martech stack. It’s insanely helpful at cranking out a “crappy first draft” when staring at a blank page, writing alternative headlines or email subject lines, and revising content in another tone or voice.
Think of ChatGPT as adding a new instrument to the band. It enhances the overall sound but doesn’t replace or compete with the other instruments.
Bot bias is real
One of the key challenges with AI-generated content is the risk of bias, which shows up for a couple of reasons. First, the AI has trained on a biased sample set because the internet inherently is limited with a general lack of representation in its content. Second, humans are biased, so human-created content is biased too.
Marketers need to be trained and more attentive to bias and take steps to minimize it in their communication. It is not a simple tech fix, but it requires a conscious effort on the part of marketers to ensure their communication is unbiased and inclusive.
Modern marketing teams will adapt ChatGPT; it’s inevitable if you want to survive. But it’s up to us humans to use it effectively and creatively. As with any tool, it’s only as helpful as the person wielding it. So, let’s become highly skilled at our technique and use it when needed and for the proper purpose.
We’re bringing back our media connections series, and we thought what better way to kick us off than with Alex Konrad, senior editor at Forbes. He’s worked at Forbes for 10 years, covering venture capital, cloud and startups. Additionally, he edits the Midas List, Midas List Europe, Cloud 100 list and 30 Under 30 for VC. You might have also caught him in a Hulu documentary 👀
While Alex covers what some consider a ‘sweet spot’ in SaaS, he can’t cover every startup story. We sat down with him to discuss his PR pet peeves, how he comes up with story ideas, and what topics he’s hot about right now.
How do you choose what you write about? What elements make a company interesting to you?
Alex: One important thing to remember is that a good company does not equal a good story. Sometimes the best stories are because companies are not great, and sometimes great companies don’t have a great story. It’s OK not to have a great story yet, but it can be difficult to force it if nothing is interesting or dramatic.
As reporters, we’re looking for a compelling narrative that speaks to a bigger lesson, trend or warning. We must think about each company we look at and consider if it embodies something bigger. What is the exciting narrative? That might be a David vs. Goliath story, overcoming the odds as a founder or someone with a surprise second career or a quirky passion.
A fun story I once wrote was about a midsize tech company at the time called Appian. It’s not the most exciting company in the world, although it did go public, but its CEO is an elite board game designer and has designed and commercialized multiple board games. Every year he goes to the world boardgaming championships. Going with the CEO of a public company to watch him compete and understand his leadership style from his board-game play was the kind of thing any reporter would want to do once. It’s a good example where the story might be more compelling than the business itself.
I noticed crypto and Web3 were common themes in your stories last year. Is that a personal interest, or is that a macro trend that performs well that led to stories written about that?
Alex: Journalists want to write about the hot-button topics of the day because they want to write useful information that people will plausibly read. There are topics that I’d love to spend more time on, but it’s hard to find my angle or justify why people would care about them.
It is a business. We have a lot of autonomy at Forbes, and in some newsrooms, there is a lot of trust in a reporter, but it’s never a good feeling to spend a lot of time on a story that only a few people care about. At Forbes, we’re not judged by our pageviews, but still, if you create something, you want it to matter.
With something like crypto, we at Forbes try to follow the money, especially me as the venture capital editor. If that industry has lost its mind about a topic, I need to have a point of view on it, explore it and look where the money is flowing. It’s not necessarily a great thing, but it’s meaningful, and if you’re a founder, or you work in the tech industry, or you want to learn about it, you need to know what that buzzy topic is on some level.
Are there any other tech trends or technologies that you’re personally interested in right now that you think will be a focus in 2023?
Alex: I am looking at AI, where we recently published a feature explaining the field. I wrote a cover story a couple of years ago on UiPath. I’ve written a lot about work software companies like Slack, Notion, Asana and Canva. The future of work is always exciting, and how generative AI could play a significant disruptive player in many of our workflows is compelling. I’ve enjoyed meeting companies that are trying to build on top of these tools.
Climate is something my team is interested in. There is more appetite from investors to put money into climate startups again. There is a bit of a sense of urgency by some people in the industry that now is the time to work on solutions there, but at the same time, climate companies face a high bar for success: they’re capital intensive, and historically we haven’t had that massive breakout climate tech company. So we might be cautious about not overhyping or over-promising.
I continue to write a lot about representation. We love looking at underrepresented founders doing great things or companies coming from unexpected places. Our 30 under 30 summits have spent the last few years in Detroit, and now it will be in Cleveland. We love at Forbes to try and break out of the bubble of Silicon Valley and New York.
Are there any other hot spots you’re seeing companies come out of that you’re interested in?
Alex: I think Seattle will become more relevant in the future, especially with this passion for AI. They have the Allen Institute and smart folks coming out of the big tech companies.
I’ve spent a lot of time understanding the European market. I haven’t done all the homework, but all the signals point to Paris being a surprisingly great place for entrepreneurship. I’m open to looking at other areas that are outside the so-called west of Europe and the U.S. as well.
What is the best channel and time to pitch you?
Alex: Emailing me politely during work hours is the best chance of success. I don’t appreciate when people try to gain creativity points by reaching people in unusual methods like my personal social media accounts. I don’t like cold calls because my day is usually chaotic. If I’m getting a call from an unknown number, I’m only answering it because it might be a source on a story, and for it to be a non-super time-sensitive pitch or hail mary pitch is inefficient for me.
I have a lot of empathy for PR professionals, but there are a lot more PR people than journalists. It’s hard for me to feel we owe a response on every pitch. I can spend a whole day just responding, and I still wouldn’t get to every pitch in my inbox. That said, I try to respond to exclusive offers because I know the person is waiting for my response before going to someone else. I will be very unlikely to respond to something that misrepresents anything. For example, we recently had an exclusive offer sent to my entire team. That’s not going to make us feel good that we all got the same email, so that will put them on the untrustworthy list.
Otherwise, emailing me a general pitch and sending a follow-up email is reasonable, but I will not have time to respond if I haven’t responded to one follow-up. Unfortunately, sending three more messages doesn’t make anyone happier.
I know that’s difficult because I know some clients want PR professionals to have a hard answer, but I would encourage my friends in PR to be that go-between for the journalists and the client and feel empowered to speak on behalf of the journalists and say, “It’s a pass from Alex, calling him isn’t going to improve the situation. We should graciously move on.” There have been times when I’ve been hounded to get a hard no, and it’s not helping anyone. The goal for a pitch should not be just to get a hard no.
What are other pitch pet peeves?
Alex: The relationships I value the most with PR professionals are the ones where they can guess how I think and act as a go-between between a client and me on an idea. They can anticipate when something won’t be a good fit or, at most, ask whether I think this will be a fit for someone else on my team.
One other pet peeve is if I go out of my way to pass on something or explain why something isn’t going to be a fit, an unfortunate number of times the person feels like they’re in the middle of a live conversation with me and can bring up something else. Given asynchronous communication, that is not the case. Now you’ve sent me another email, and you expect another response. What it’s doing is training me not to respond because if I politely pass, you’re going to pitch another client, and it’ll take more time out of my day to help you.
The last thing I’ll close on is conveying that the best relationships are back and forth. Some folks have brought me great stories in the past or tips, and then it does feel more like a back-and-forth. Other people feel like we’re old friends because they’ve pitched me for years unsuccessfully, and I’ve tried to be polite back, but we’ve never met. They’ve never actually helped my career, so the idea that we’re some partnership is misguided. I’ve helped them by passing or doing whatever to check a box, but no box on my end has ever been checked off.
That’s something to remember: unless we’re writing a big exciting story, agreeing to meet is not a win for us. What comes out of the meeting can be a win. Just the act of going to a meeting puts us in the red. We’ve invested time in this that we could have used elsewhere, and we need to deliver on that eventually. Earlier in my career, I agreed to a million meetings. I didn’t do a good job of converting those meetings into conversation-starting stories, so now I am more thoughtful about why the meeting would be helpful.
Do you have a list of go-to sources that you reach out to? How did those people build that relationship with you?
Alex: Companies and people who punch above their weight or are willing to give us a perspective that isn’t the known public perspective are ones that I will remember, and I am more likely to trust them generally in the future.
Let’s say we’re looking at AI, and we’re talking to all these huge companies. A small startup says, “You may not want to write about my small AI startup today, but I used to work at Google, and I can tell you pretty confidently the behind-the-scenes of how Google is approaching this.” OK, so maybe you’re a source on Google’s AI perspective, and then as your company gets bigger, I’m more likely to think of you and know you’re legit and potentially cover you down the road. But you have to give me something to trust you when you want something.
People think that meeting has built a relationship, but the journalists want something to come out of that relationship. My best go-to’s are people who are sources. They tip me on things. I’m writing a story about X. Do they know anyone with inside info about that topic? They’ll say yes or no, honestly. They won’t try to shoehorn a client in. There are a few people in my head, whether VCs, founders or PR professionals, who are good at understanding that flow, so I go to them first.
Are there other things that make a pitch stand out to you?
Alex: I’m looking to be surprised. I’m looking for something contrarian or that teaches me something that will get my attention. Any facts that speak to that compelling, personal story might be interesting to me, or any breadcrumbs that can allow me to think that this speaks to a bigger story. If a pitch was basically like:
Hey, we’re a climate tech company, and we’re doing this alternative to carbon capture. It’s very early, but we worked at the leading carbon capture startup, and we got disillusioned that it’s not effective.
Communicating that in some way might interest me because it’s a two-for-one. I can learn what you’re doing, but I’m also interested in why carbon capture is not working. They can punch above their weight. That’s something we look for.
So, a founder’s background is a defining factor?
Alex: It’s helpful if they’re compelling. If they’re not relevant, then you need to try something else. The more companies can be evaluated beyond just how much they’ve raised, who their backers are, and what scale they’re at is going to be important. The reality is few companies will pitch us, hey, you’ve never heard of us, and we have $100M in revenue — and if they do, they’re often 30-year-old private equity-owned companies that will not excite our readers either.
Can you give us an overview of your editorial process?
Alex: It’s very different based on the type of story. If it’s a quicker, exclusive story, I can call the shots on whether or not it makes sense, and then I get approval from my editors. Forbes trusts its reporters a lot to know their beats and understand what’s story-worthy.
Once you get into stories requiring travel or more time, there will be more dialogue between the reporter or several reporters and our editors. John Paczkowski leads our tech team. He used to run the tech and business reporting at BuzzFeed News, and before that, he was at Re/code with Kara Swisher and that whole crew. He’s very smart and plugged in, so as the story gets more ambitious, I’m more likely to be dialoguing with him. We also have a deputy editor under him, Katharine Schwab, who might be editing our stories and who works closely with John. Typically, I tell them I’m planning to write this online story, and I’ll need an edit. And if I’m saying I want to fly to Europe and meet every company in Paris, that would require a much larger conversation!
Do you have a monthly or quarterly story quota?
Alex: We do not have any hard quotas at Forbes. As a best practice, my team aspires to write at least once a week. We want to put points on the board and don’t want any pent-up pressure that we feel we haven’t published in a while. We also want to stay in the conversation with our sources and the topics we care about.
Publishing a story is the best way to get more people on that topic to reach out to you. That is our goal. It can often not be the case. Leading into the holidays, I got married and went on my honeymoon, and I went two months without publishing a story; this week, I plan to publish three stories. So it can vary.
Forbes likes to think of itself more on the once-a-week cadence, which is very different from the daily places or multiple times-a-day places. It’s also very different from the New Yorker, where you show up every three months, I assume, with a 30,000-word magnum opus. Our stories never get longer than 3,000 words, so it’s a bit different.
Where do you find the idea for most of your stories?
Alex: Most of my stories are not pitch driven. Often the pitch-driven stories come from an existing relationship. For example, a VC I’ve met before with an underrepresented background has a new fund. As they talk about their announcement plan with their PR representatives, they say, “I know Alex at Forbes; let’s see if he’s interested.” It’s a warm intro-type situation where I’ll give real feedback.
It may occasionally be the exclusive offer, or it may be that I come back a year or three months after a meeting and say, “I want to write about this company now.” That’s what happens with the bigger stories. For example, take the cover story I wrote on Flexport. I met with the CEO five years before that. I think I had a catch-up a year before the story that came from an inbound from their agency. A year later, that holiday season, the supply chain was top of mind, and I knew I could reach out to that agency and say the time is right to spend more time with him. They were very helpful in making that happen.
Industry experts also pointed to the ill-timed and jargon-laden press release SVB issued about its strategy as a contributor to the bank’s demise.
For those leading communication for software companies, we’re looking at what we can learn about communicating effectively in a crisis. Clear, transparent and timely communication keeps stakeholders calm in a proverbial storm. Below are critical components of a crisis communication strategy.
Know your internal team and protocols.
Senior management, IT, legal, HR and PR should all understand their roles and responsibilities in a crisis. We can’t anticipate every possible situation, but teams should have a plan around problems that could cause concern for software companies, such as outages, layoffs and data breaches. In the case of the SVB collapse, we advised our clients to rally senior management, including the CFO, to help understand each client’s possible exposure to the bank failure and what it could mean for employees, customers, investors and partners.
Outline stakeholders and possible impact.
Every crisis plan should include key stakeholder groups and the most effective communication method for each. For example, know your customer base and how they best receive communication: is that through your customer success team, an email blast, Twitter or another medium? With SVB, lists of companies who bank with SVB started circulating over the weekend, so some of our clients proactively communicated with customers about their continuity plans. We also helped leaders with messages to their employees, ensuring they wouldn’t see an interruption in payroll, a possibility most tech workers were worried about Friday.
Monitor media coverage and social media.
Whether through a PR agency or an internal team, every SaaS company should have a system for media monitoring and social media management. Especially paramount in a crisis, media monitoring helps companies understand what the public is hearing about a situation and what the sentiment is in the market. As an agency, we are not only monitoring the SVB media coverage as it unfolds at a macro level, but we’re also tracking for mentions of our clients and flagging those in real-time.
The day SVB failed will be a day those of us in tech and communication will remember. While the demise of a key component of the tech ecosystem has been disheartening and scary, seeing the tech community rally around startups in exposed positions with capital and advice has been inspiring.
If you’re a software company needing assistance with your communication, contact Lindsey Groepper to chat about how BLASTmedia can help.
POV: You know the importance of investing in brand, and you’re looking for a SaaS PR agency. Whether you are switching agencies or hiring your first one, there is likely a different onboarding process and expectations with each.
Every agency does things slightly differently, but the fundamentals of building a strong PR program should be the same: research, planning, outreach and results. If you’re like most SaaS companies, you’re anxious to jump to the last stage and see results (aren’t we all?). But without a strong foundation and time to build pipeline, your media relations program is doomed to fail.
So, what can you expect when you begin a new SaaS PR agency relationship? We believe in transparency through every step of the process, and we’re happy to share our onboarding process with you as a means of comparison:
Every BLASTmedia program starts with a discovery call with the marketing team and, often, the CEO/founder. We tell you about our team and processes, and you tell us about your value proposition, competitive landscape, ICP, founder story and business goals. After this meeting, we get to work on our media landscape analysis and strategy foundation.
You want to work with a PR agency that understands your market. We work within the B2B SaaS industry, so we know the right questions to ask, who to speak to inside your organization, how to work with your customers and determine the most newsworthy stories from your execs. Even so, the media appetite for stories from HR tech companies vs. marketing tech companies is unique. That’s where our media landscape research comes into play.
We dissect months of media coverage and releases from you and your competitors to determine the following and more:
What narratives dominate your space? What isn’t being discussed?
Which spokespeople are most commonly quoted from your competitors? What are their titles?
Which media outlets most frequently cover your competitors?
What is the average news cadence in your industry?
Are there known thought leaders in the space? If so, what are their stances?
The research phase concludes with two key elements: story-mining calls and a product demo. You can read more about our process for story mining with execs from our VP of content, but it’s exactly what it sounds like. We chat with your sales leader, chief people officer and other identified SMEs to dig out ideas we believe will make a solid thought leadership campaign. Next, we get to planning.
The two biggest deliverables during the first month with BLASTmedia are the strategy foundation deck (SFD) and our 60-day plan. The SFD includes the results of our media landscape analysis, along with our top recommendations on target media and reporters, talk tracks to reach your buyers and speak to their top pain points, a SWOT analysis, a competitor deep dive, ideal cadence of news and bylines, trending news to watch in your space and established benchmarks.
With that research in hand, we set our sights on building your PR OKRs (objectives and key results). Based on the activity in the space and where you currently are in terms of output, what does “good” look like for you? What about “great?” And once we establish that objective, how will we get there?
Enter: Your 60-day plan — I know you’ve been waiting for it! This is where you’ll see all of the research put into ideas, established OKRs and our plan for getting it done. In addition to three “pillar” thought leadership campaigns for the quarter, we lay out topics for reactive opportunities, competitors we monitor for share of voice measurement, trends to latch onto, any customers we can leverage in media relations and what company news we can support with outreach. Then it’s go time.
PR isn’t like a faucet — you can’t turn it on and off. It can take months of building a pipeline (like in sales) to consistently realize the fruits of your labor. At the beginning of any client campaign, we focus on quick-turn opportunities where we can — we know it’s crucial to showcase early wins to your executive team.
At the same time, we’re making introductions to key members of the media — those we already have relationships with and those we want to build relationships with on your behalf — to get that pipeline filled as quickly as possible. Every campaign is different, but in general, if you do not have news (a press release) in your first 90 days, you should expect to see the following:
Between months 1 and 2, you should start seeing interview requests come in
In month 2, you should get your first piece of contributed content for review
In total, you should see around 10 pieces of coverage in a variety of trade, podcast and (yes, sometimes even) top-tier outlets (if you have news, this number will be significantly higher)
After the first few months, we’re off to the races. We’re an anti-black-box agency, so I will share our actual client result averages with you. Each quarter I look at all-up coverage across our client roster and average it out. We hand this to our teams internally to use as a guideline for performance. We also share it with our prospects so they understand what to expect when running a PR program with us.
After tracking KPIs and coverage types for 10,000+ pieces of coverage over multiple years, I am confident in sharing these numbers with just about anyone. And any PR agency that won’t (or can’t) do the same isn’t as data-driven as they might claim.
Of course, there are exceptions to these numbers based on client participation, approvals and spokesperson availability. And, if you are a public company, these numbers could be wildly different. But, based on our data, here are the results you should expect from your SaaS PR agency each quarter:
Around 25 pieces of coverage
About half of all coverage should have a backlink to your website
15 of those 25 articles should be driving traffic to your website
Quarterly coverage breakdown
2 – 4 pieces of contributed content
1 – 2 podcast placements
2 – 3 quote inclusions
5 press release postings
3 – 5 features
5 – 10 other mentions or syndications
Choosing the right PR partner can be challenging. But taking your time up front to find one that will be open and honest with you about their process, team and results will yield dividends for years to come. As will taking time to properly invest in and trust their need for proper ramp-up time.
I’ll leave you with this. If I were hiring a PR agency and I wanted to know how they were going to get up to speed during the onboarding phase and what kind of results I could expect from them, these are a few of the questions I would ask:
On average, what kind of results are you generating for your clients each quarter?
Tell me about a time you worked with a client where you had never worked in the space before — how did you get up to speed?
What is the #1 thing that determines how much and what kinds of coverage you can generate?
How do we make the most of our onboarding process?
What is your process for monitoring competitors and trending topics?
In this special episode of SaaS Half Full, host Lindsey Groepper sits down for a fireside chat at BLASTmedia HQ with Mike Fitzgerald, Partner at High Alpha — a venture studio and VC firm specializing in early-stage B2B Saas companies.
2021 saw an influx of VC money poured into scaling SaaS companies and higher valuations than ever before. Fast-forward to Q1 2022, which saw a nearly 40% decline in investment deals in the sector coupled with signs of a pending economic recession. Mike visited BLASTmedia HQ to talk about what’s causing the changing B2B SaaS investment landscape and signals to look for in your SaaS business to drive decisions during an economic slowdown.
Then (2021) vs. Now (2022)
Before examining what has contributed to today’s downward shift, Mike delves into what drove the 2021 investment influx: cheap money and sky-high public-company valuations.
“[Those two things] are markers for our proxies in the way that we would think about investing in a company, because if public companies are valued at 20 times revenue, then I can justify paying ten times revenue for your new growth business when you have some revenue,” said Mike. “In an environment like 2021 with money being cheap and valuations being high in public companies…I’m making long-term bets.”
When valuations are high and interest rates are low, investors base their bets on what the portfolio company will do in the next 24-36 months in terms of growth, not immediate gains in the next 12 months.
On the flip side, the start of 2022 brought these two proxies down to earth. Valuations are now based more on profitability versus growth, and interest rates have soared. As a result, investors are looking at shorter-term gains and positive signals in the next 6-12 months from investment.
When signs of a recession surface, a natural reaction is to halt spending and cut costs. While this may help some SaaS companies get in front of a recession, Mike cautions against buying into the sky-is-falling mentality too quickly and instead advises you read the signals inside your business, starting with pipeline and closed new business.
Success in those factors is what Mike sees in High Alpha portfolio companies that he believes will perform well in a recessionary environment. And while he understands SaaS companies will have to make some cost-cutting moves, he also recognizes each business is unique.
“I don’t think you can apply [cutting spending] universally,” said Mike. “It’s going to be more difficult to raise money. It’s going to be more difficult to borrow money. You may indeed have some customers who go out of business. Those are all cautionary things, but you have to read the signals of your business in this particular economy.”
Product-led growth (PLG) models have exploded into the SaaS industry, with tech brands like Slack, Airtable and Calendly becoming critical components of our new hybrid working environment. Defined by Openview Partners, who coined the term, PLG is an end user-focused growth model that relies on the product itself as the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion and expansion. It’s no surprise, then, that PLG brands make up over half of the companies on the 2021 Cloud 100 list.
Developers are the backbone of this model, as these pros build, ship out and improve upon the platforms we use every day. As a marketer or PR professional, if you’re looking to reach developers, you’ll need to keep PLG’s tenets in mind to convince and convert this savvy (and skeptical!) audience.
Skip the buzzwords and go straight to the results
Software developers are experts. They’re deep into the complexities of their own software and will undoubtedly be aware of the challenges and opportunities available to others in their field.
If marketers are building external copy for a dev audience, take a red pen to any mention of buzzwords like world’s first, unprecedented, life-changing, or new paradigm. We’ve all seen late-night infomercials make outrageous promises. The importance of avoiding this dials up to a ten for developers.
Instead, author Adam DuVander told TechCrunch how successful messaging to developers includes, “clear documentation, help getting started and use cases to spark creativity.” The quicker we are to the point, the faster devs will dive in and tinker.
This means one of the common aspects of PR strategies today, contributed thought-leader content, might not be the best approach to getting in front of your developer audience. These types of pieces might be too wordy or read as promotional.
But I’m not saying devs don’t want to hear your thought leader’s perspective. We need to reevaluate where the messaging is going.
Involve yourself in the (real) community
Look beyond the go-to channels to find your dev audience.
Press release wires have their own value, but issuing through PRNewswire and sharing a post on LinkedIn isn’t going to be enough to drive engagement. We’re not talking about underground, Matrix-style hubs, but whether on Twitter, in subreddits, Stack Overflow or DZone communities and Discord channels, you’ve got to dig deep into these communities to understand the day-to-day. This is where you should start having conversations.
And, once you’ve found your niche, your SME’s own voice won’t be enough to check the box. To alleviate any concerns about messaging being overly promotional, put your own customer use cases front and center and have them speak candidly.
This could look like coordinating a webinar where your core buyer sees and hears their problems unfold from the experience of another. You could also tap your customers for media opportunities where they talk about the best practices and tools, like your own tech, that help them do great work. Do this time and time again, though, as your dev audience is going to need proof.
Take the feedback in stride
If you’re a PLG company trying to reach developers, you already recognize the value of feedback on the path to improvement. But, it’s easy to forget this mindset if your team gets negative feedback. Celebrate that as a win too.
Be mindful of what worked and what didn’t: Was the use case clear, or did we offer value? Are we engaging in the right channel? Do we have a community of partners who can help us educate and amplify the initiative?
And, like a developer does, it’s time to move forward and improve. Want to know how BLASTmedia can help you determine your product-led growth PR strategy? Contact Lindsey Groepper for more details!
While it has been more than ten years since the U.S. was embroiled in a recession, it can be easy to forget the destruction it entailed. In recent months, COVID-19 has caused distress and confusion, leading many to believe we are entering another economic recession. Businesses fear slipping revenue, one of the many factors that can trigger a domino effect of economic collapse within the business landscape.
As businesses reprioritize their remaining 2020 budget, advertising and marketing are typically the first on the chopping block. This is because they’re often viewed as non-essential costs, and when times get tough, businesses pick salaries and benefits over marketing. Yet, marketing and advertising hold the key to long-term growth — it just requires creative approaches to succeed.
Here are three ways SaaS companies are positioning themselves to thrive in the current market:
1. Do More With Less
Creating a tailored message at scale can be intimidating, especially when companies consider the impact it can have on their advertising and marketing budgets. What slows down brands, however, is that they create the concept of an ad and then pass the template to other markets to replicate the design at a local level. This can create excessive duplicate work, which in turn, increases hours and costs.
Anna Luo, VP of Customer Innovation and Engagement for Jivox, believes Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) can help brands automatically generate all types of ad formats faster than humans can manage, maximizing the customer experience through personalized ads. In a world where things are very uncertain, brands can turn to DCO to continue catering to customer needs, even with a reduced budget.
2. Implement Interactive Experiential Content
The phrases “the new normal” and “in this uncertain time” have become a part of daily conversations in both our professional and personal lives, says Ryan Brown, head of brand strategy at Ceros. While these messages are top of mind, digital marketers are struggling to cut through the noise and reach their audience.
Research from PwC found 59% of global consumers felt companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experience. In a recent article for 60 Second Marketer, Brown discusses how brands can create memorable experiences for their customers by leveraging experiential content to improve overall engagement while using visually-compelling components like graphics, interactive content and videos.
3. Utilize Emerging Critical Technologies
The current economic distress isn’t entirely preventing investors from evaluating new opportunities. Instead, they are seeking out what they think will be requisite technologies once the world emerges from the pandemic. President of Audio OOH and CSO at Vibenomics Paul Brenner recently announced a $6 million Series A funding round, with plans to use the capital to expand beyond retail stores and into essential businesses such as convenience and grocery stores. Once the pandemic abates, Vibenomics plans to continue utilizing Audio OOH within these verticals and connecting with customers in locations where they shop and are ready to spend.
For more information on how SaaS companies are responding to the current pandemic, please visit our BLASTmedia COVID-19 resources page.
There are plenty of examples of SaaS businesses doing what they can to help customers, employees and communities navigate these uncertain times — including offering free products and services to help the communities who need them most. Here area few SaaS companies with offerings to help businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak:
Boardable Boardable is offering its board engagement and management platform to nonprofits everywhere for free for up to 90 days in order to help board members communicate and continue board operations.
Mindsay The company, which focuses on the travel industry, is offering a complimentary three-month COVID-19 customer support chatbot for companies looking to help ease customer stress and reduce support costs by quickly answering customers’ virus-related requests.
Moz The leader in search engine optimization technology is offering free access to Moz Academy through May with promo code “wegotthis.”
Okta The security-focused cloud software provider is offering access to Okta Single Sign-On (SSO) and Okta Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
RedMonocle IT tools rationalization and consolidation solution provider is offering a free, rapid tools assessment for IT teams searching for ways to eliminate unnecessary software tools and save jobs.
Slack Offering free upgrades to paid plans for teams working on coronavirus pandemic research, response, or mitigation.
A number of publications, like Entrepreneur, Forbes and Inc., recently published lists of companies — including SaaS brands — offering free and discounted tools to help ease the burden of remote work. Here’s a quick round-up of some of those lists:
Over the past few years, we have seen many longtime SaaS companies go public, including industry leaders, Slack and Zoom. According to Gartner’s latest Cloud report, analysts anticipate the SaaS industry to hit $116 billion in revenue in 2020. As the SaaS industry continues to grow, companies need to align on strategies that can help increase their awareness. Which, in turn, can help companies stand out amongst their competitors. One way to increase awareness is by winning business or industry awards.
For any industry, awards are a way to celebrate those who have achieved remarkable results. They offer a different perspective in terms of looking at competitors and how your company stands out from the crowd. While awards may vary in terms of categories and praise, for companies looking to IPO, awards provide third-party validation to venture capitalists and private equity firms possibly looking to invest.
Awards to Consider Ahead of Going Public
While applying for awards should be a part of every company’s marketing strategy, it is also a way to boost a company’s reputation. An example of a company that developed a successful awards strategy and increased its awareness leading up to its exit is Pluralsight.
Let’s take a look at a few awards Pluralsight applied for and received before going public:
Pluralsight’s award strategy was likely intentional. Although the company was founded in 2004, Pluralsight didn’t receive its first award until December 2012. Since first presented with an award, Pluralsight has been named on the Great Places to Work and Forbes Cloud 100 lists for multiple years in a row.
Forbes Cloud 100 – Bessemer Venture Partners and Salesforce Ventures produce the Forbes Cloud 100 in partnership with Forbes. The Forbes Cloud 100 recognizes the best private cloud companies in the world. The companies included on the list stand out for their growth, sales, valuation and culture. Forbes Cloud 100 recognizes companies for their reputation score derived from consultation with 540 CEO judges from their public-cloud-company peers. In 2017, the year before the company’s IPO, Pluralsight was No. 20 on the list, up from their No. 36 ranking in 2016. This award is still around today and many Cloud 100 alumni have since gone public.
American Business Awards – Also known as the “Stevies,” Pluralsight received a gold American Business Award in 2015 for Most Innovative Tech Company of the Year. This award recognizes the achievement and positive contributions of organizations. Pluralsight received an award for its innovative approach to providing an affordable online learning platform. This award is great for companies to show their customer retention as well as highlight previous acquisitions.
The SaaS Awards – In 2016, Pluralsight won the Best SaaS Product for Web Development. This award recognizes solutions that clearly meet the needs of developers. The SaaS Awards accepts entries worldwide and celebrates SaaS solutions across public clouds, as well as alongside private, single-tenant solutions, off-premise or on-premise.
Great Places to Work and FORTUNE Best Workplaces – Great Places to Work routinely awards companies for outstanding company culture with a variety of workplace-focused lists. Ahead of its IPO announcement, Pluralsight was included on the Great Places to Work Best Workplaces list three times. Pluralsight received recognition on two other Great Places to Work Lists: Best Workplaces for Women and Best Workplaces for Technology.
The value of winning an award can increase your brand awareness amongst prospective customers. so it is important to have a variety of general business accolades as well as a few industry-specific awards. Awards focused on company culture and the advancement of products can help catch the attention of investors and stakeholders.
To learn more about how an awards strategy can benefit your company, reach out to Lindsey Groepper.