You can usually tell the technology department at any large agency: while the consumer team’s pod is typically piled with chocolates, bottles of fancy booze, and high-end toiletries, the tech desk is unadorned except for a scattering of branded USB sticks, stacks of industry whitepapers about “the Cloud”, and squeezy toys picked up from a hundred trade shows.
Perks for B2B technology PRs are few and far between. Long lunches, evening champagne receptions, photoshoots in exotic locations, celebrity endorsements – these rarely trouble the hard-working tech specialist. The annual highlight might be a trip to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress: a budget flight, a cab to a hotel in the suburbs, followed by three days pacing through the cavernous exhibition halls trying desperately to find an elusive journalist for the two o’clock briefing.
Glamorous it ain’t, but B2B technology often inspires fierce loyalty from PRs who have made it their trade; and it only takes a minute’s conversation with them to find out why. They are less motivated by the fun and freebies that is such a large part of consumer PR, but rather by a deep curiosity about a rapidly-changing world, and by the challenge of wrapping their brains around complex new concepts and inventions that are set to shape our lives in the future.
Perhaps surprisingly, your typical B2B tech PR isn’t a gadgets freak with a background in computer science; as often as not, they have the same PR or liberal arts degrees as anyone else in the profession. For many, B2B technology is a discipline that they fall into rather than actively pursue, which means that they face a very steep learning curve in the early part of their career.
While a food and drink PR needs an intimate knowledge of their industry, they don’t necessarily need know the finer points of whisky manufacturing (for example); for tech PRs, it takes time to acquire the specialist knowledge to bluff their way through meetings with software engineers and highly-technical journalists.
The perception of B2B tech as a “geeky” and unglamorous field is certainly one of the reasons for the dearth in candidates, as is the reluctance of agencies to let go of the top tech talent they’ve spent so long training up.
So how can employers attract these elusive technologists? There’s no easy answer, but it helps to understand their psychology. As we’ve pointed out, they tend to be particularly curious, but they also crave variety in their work. When we ask our candidates what they most enjoy about their job, they always cite the huge range of disciplines and sectors it involves. Technology touches every aspect of our lives, which means that tech PRs gain an enviable knowledge of such disparate sectors as retail, financial services, education, telecoms, travel – the list is practically endless.
Along with their rareness, it is their versatility that makes tech PRs so valuable. To attract the very best of this special breed takes more than the offer of gym memberships and duvet days: employers should recognise their urge for constant mental stimulation and a variety of challenges, and design job specs that suit a particular candidate, rather than trying to shoehorn them into rigidly-defined roles.
Hire a good B2B technology expert and you won’t want to let them go. They are an important addition to an agency’s pool of knowledge, and they tend to be a funny, irreverent, but hard-working bunch, too. Just don’t expect them to fix the server when it goes on the blink.
Hartigan represents some of the most exciting B2B tech PR agencies in and around London, so get in touch if you’d like to find out more about the roles we’re recruiting for in this ever changing industry.