Public relations in the technology industry

By Mallory Cromer

“Advertising is necessary for competition…but good PR educates.” – Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder

When thinking of the technology industry, Apple is almost inevitably the first company that comes to mind. The company has seen unparalleled revenue growth over the years, from $8 billion in 2004 to more than $260 billion in 2019, according to the Apple 2019 Annual Report. Known as one of the most valuable brands in the world, Apple’s success can largely be attributed to its strong brand loyalty. 

But how did this company, founded by college dropouts in a garage, perpetually revolutionize the technology industry and create such unparalleled consumer devotion? The answer to this question has multiple explanations, but perhaps one of the more surprising explanations is that public relations was a substantial part of that success.

The company raised $250,000 designated for its first mass market product back in 1977 from angel investor Mike Markkula. However, prior to spending any money on hardware, Steve Jobs used these funds to hire the best PR professional in Silicon Valley: Regis McKenna. The years that followed marked a new standard for the role of public relations in the technology industry.

As we know, public relations is a significant aspect of effective communication in any industry. The purpose of public relations is to generate favorable public opinion about a company and its offerings, and this is especially important for the ever-changing field of technology. 

In the last 10 years, we’ve seen remarkable innovation in technology, and with the arrival of artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, we’re likely to see even more remarkable advances in the coming decade. So how does PR play a role in this? 

In order to promote all of these innovations, technology companies need good PR tactics, not only to translate industry jargon but more importantly to build brand loyalty. Such rapid and often unpredictable changes in this industry create the need for PR professionals who can think beyond today’s reality and effectively communicate the benefits of new innovations, which is not always an easy task.

An example of someone who has undertaken these difficulties facing tech PR is Keely Sulprizio. She serves as the director of communications for one of the world’s most innovative companies – Tesla. Most who have previously held Sulprizio’s position have not stayed long, with the average time in the post being about two years. The rapid changes at Tesla come with lots of press inquiries, but Sulprizio has taken on the challenge. Have you ever noticed that you’ve never seen an advertisement for Tesla, yet it is still one of the most well-known technology companies in the industry? Yep, that’s the power of good PR.

Thinking about pursuing a career in technology PR? According to Valerie Christopherson, the founder and CEO of award-winning public relations firm Global Results Communications, the advantages of working in this field far outweigh the challenges. 

“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,” Christopherson said.

Whether you’re aspiring to be the next Steve Jobs or simply want to pursue a career in technology, it is clear that PR plays an essential role in this fast-paced, yet rewarding industry, and the demand for such communication skills will only continue to expand in the future.