Dealing in Futures and Fortunes: Valerie Christopherson is the founder and CEO of Global Results Communications (GRC), an award-winning public relations firm trusted by both entrepreneurs on the cusp of new discoveries and multi-billion-dollar enterprises breaking new ground. Renowned for her expertise in high tech, she is the driving force behind GRC’s targeted communications strategies that dramatically enhance client market presence and performance on a global scale.
For PRontheGO, Valerie talked about the challenges and advantages in PR Tech, where PR professionals are called on to think beyond today’s reality and step into the future.
How do tech companies perceive PR firms nowadays?
A lot of people outside of our industry have preconceived notions and critical opinions about public relations — and rightly so. In our profession, we’re tasked with doing something that seems so natural and simple: building relationships and trust through engagement. But we all know that isn’t the case. Of course, what we do isn’t exactly rocket science. But what many of our clients do is. That’s why they need the support of an agency that can not only quickly grasp their groundbreaking products, solutions and services, bringing their messages to multiple audiences and platforms, but also help them achieve their organizational goals, whether it is market expansion, IPO, leadership elevation and influence or reputation management. This can present as many challenges as it does advantages, particularly for a firm like ours, which is focused on technology and everything it touches.
Please let us know more about your background in technology communications.
I began my career in telecommunications in 1995 at time when telecom wasn’t even considered “tech.” Since then, most would agree that telecom is foundational to most technological innovation. Simply put, without an advanced communications network, the delivery of today’s technologies would be stagnant — or nonexistent. Even in the 1990s, success depended on the ability to interpret complex ideas with clarity for multiple audiences, including media. That’s no easy task for communications professionals who were educated to think in the written and verbal world but expected to think in the world of zeros and ones (010101). So, the real challenges in the 90s and early 2000s were directly related to a steep learning curve in understanding these emerging technologies well enough to present them to the world in a thoughtful and engaging way. And there were lots of new technologies, apps and platforms being introduced in that time period — the Dot.com era — which is when tech really made its mark.
So technology companies need a PR consultancy that can keep up with the fast track of the tech evolution.
Today, technology changes so fast, but there’s no arguing that we have allowed our lives to revolve around and depend on it. That’s why companies are upgrading or expanding rapidly into other verticals either to solve evolving problems, offer more convenience or deliver innovation to meet customer demands. It’s necessary for staying competitive in the market. Having been in tech for 24 years now, moving at the speed of light is a requirement not an option. Technology pushes PR professionals to think beyond today’s reality and step into the future. And by future, I mean decades down the road. Consider the 1962 television cartoon The Jetsons. They lived in space, which seemed lightyears away if at all. They had robotic dogs, flying cars and tech-programmed maids. Here we are just 60 years later, and we are preparing to colonize Mars! We already have remote-controlled drones, semi-autonomous cars — with self-driving vehicles on the horizon — and we have robotics in nearly every industry, including healthcare and hospitality, where some hotels are staffed entirely by robots. Even pet rocks have been converted to virtual pets via technology! More to the point, tech clients are constantly moving forward at warp speed, and PR professionals need to move just as fast or get out of the way.
From your experience, what are winning strategies in Public Relations in technology?
There’s more to PR tech than promoting products and services. Often, tech companies wrestle with issues that at first glance appear unrelated to their offerings. But at the end of the day, it is critical to see that everything is intertwined — and essential for raising visibility, building trust and reaching new markets, influencers and opportunities. That’s the turning point where one can take those challenges and flip them into advantages.
What are the advantages of a PR firm specialized in technology against a general PR consultant?
One of the greatest benefits in focusing on tech PR is that we get a glimpse into the future well before it arrives. But we also have the incredible opportunity to help position brilliant entrepreneurs and organizations by developing imaginative strategies and stories to place them in the present. We do this through outreach that allows people to read and hear about them, as well as watch and try live demonstrations when appropriate. It’s always about developing a visual story through content that engages the senses, taps into emotions and triggers a favorable response. In our case, we get to script the next chapter of life before it happens because we know our clients are shaping it.
Specializing within a sector under the tech umbrella also affords the opportunity to master an industry, which informs the application of the technology to all aspects of any given market. The brain just starts thinking in those terms. GRC, for example, got its start in mobile, and we were arguably one of a small group that only did mobile/telecom. This enabled us to apply everything we learned from clients and make noise within an industry, while providing strategic counsel based on knowledge of that industry not just PR knowledge. Because of that, GRC can now take its mobile/telecom heritage and apply it to all aspects of tech. And, let’s face it, mobile has touched everything from phones to medical devices and everything in between.
Technology companies struggle with measuring PR — What is your take-on to reaching goals?
Most important, the results of any PR campaign must meet a client’s goal. That’s how impact is measured. I have often been asked, “What is the secret in using challenges to your advantage?” I tell people, it’s like taking one’s greatest weakness and turning it into a strength. Today, too many of us try to harness attention and dull the active mind. But it’s really about focus. When presented with a challenge, learning to laser focus on an outcome will provide a roadmap or blueprint leading to the desired destination for both the client and the agency. It’s a win for everyone.
GRC is an award-winning firm and recipient of more than 25 Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) PROTOS awards for its media relations, writing credentials, expertise and overall excellence. For more information about GRC, visit www.globalresultspr.com.
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