What connects the launch of a digital tech cluster at Sci-Tech Daresbury in Cheshire with tech business communications and media reporting in southeast Asia?
What’s happening in technology – and especially concerning communications and reputation – on the other side of the world is instructive for ambitious tech developments in the UK.
The sky-high technology investment in “Asian Tiger” countries has put tech companies firmly in the spotlight. Jeremy Seow of agency Allison + Partners in Singapore, speaking on a CARMA webinar, described how tech businesses are now the “poster children for economic activity” in the region.
But this level of attention on tech businesses has its downsides. Editor of Techgoondu.com, Alfred Siew – a veteran technology journalist – has seen tech reporting shift from mostly product reviews to a broader perspective of what tech means to society: “The way people look at tech is different now – there’s a much darker view,” he said, referencing issues that tech touches such as sustainability and how surveillance affects privacy.
Innovating in tech? It comes with scrutiny
CARMA’s report into tech brands, communications and reputation in the region reveals the effect that workplace culture in tech businesses and related HR issues can have on companies. Also, the need to demonstrate real commitment to ESG (environment, social, governance) has become a “fundamental component of reputation”.
However, as CARMA’s Khali Sakkas explained, product launches and innovation have also been a major media focus, suggesting an appetite to know about “the next big thing” and how tech “can improve our lives”.
So, why does any of this matter to the newly-launched digital tech cluster at Sci-Tech Daresbury or to any technology businesses with ambitions to grow and be the next big thing?
It matters because the level of scrutiny that comes with operating in technology means being better prepared to communicate as part of building and protecting business reputation.
New tech + effective communication = reputation
The ambition for the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Digital Tech Cluster at Sci-Tech Daresbury is significant and, according to Dr Barbara Ghinelli – director of clusters at STFC – is about “becoming a catalyst for digital growth” and “supporting the innovation journey from start-up to scale-up and supporting large corporates to innovate”. The aim is to make the UK a global hub of innovation by 2035 – something akin to what southeast Asia is now.
It also aims to create 100 new digital technology companies at Sci-Tech Daresbury, with 300 more across the UK. That’s a lot of new tech businesses introducing innovation and needing to “shout from the rooftops” as suggested by Naomi Timperley, co-founder of growth strategy innovation and Tech North advocates.
And an important part of this initiative is about retaining tech talent in the regions rather than letting it drift – either physically or remotely – to London and the southeast.
None of these aspirations would be easy without the power of the cluster, allowing companies to collaborate and get access to specialist support. However, for the new companies and their technologies to thrive and gain wider recognition, they need to pay attention to reputation and communication.
So, what can fledgeling – and even more established – tech businesses learn from the southeast Asian experience?
- Having a clear PR strategy
Businesses should have clearly defined PR objectives, though this isn’t necessarily about sales. Rather, it’s about building a consistent reputation that assists sales, marketing and recruitment/retention activities while being authentic in communications that are relevant to the company’s audiences.
- Preparing to have a point of view
Consumers and B2B IT decision makers are more discerning than ever before, so companies need to make sure their audience knows about them inside out. Jerermy Seow says: “You need to plan ahead and have a point of view about what will affect your sector.”
The interest in companies’ ESG policies has become “a really hot topic”, according to Khali Sakkas, who notes the importance of showing “what great looks like”. She said: “From being in annual reports, ESG is now front and centre because employees [and customers] care about companies’ ability to give back, believing in purpose and meeting corporate social responsibility promises.”
This has led to companies wanting to measure their share of voice specifically in ESG, along with having internal metrics for employee satisfaction.
The more recent focus on the bigger issues in technology has meant companies, according to Alfred Siew, “Missing the nuts and bolt of explaining what’s happening behind the tech and the excitement of what’s new”.
As a journalist interested in sharing with his readers news about the next big thing, he suggests companies need to communicate how a new technology will affect people’s lives: from a person buying their next phone to an IT director buying a B2B system.
Generally, the important metrics need to be simple and relatable to anyone in an organisation. These can include share of voice, the way CEO/leadership teams carry themselves on social media liked LinkedIn, how the company is quoted in the media, the key messages delivered and understanding what’s driving either positive or negative views.
A more in-depth approach to measurement would involve looking at the outcomes of communications activity – essentially the impact on the business overall and its reputation.
Alfred Siew noted the “hollowing out of expertise” in newsrooms when it comes to science and technology reporting. This places an even greater responsibility on tech businesses and their leaders to tell stories that explain new technologies in both a journalist and reader-friendly way – especially if they want their stories to land in the media and stand out among the tech noise.
Are you a technology business that needs to build reputation through better communications? Contact Metamorphic PR