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The PR challenges for a technology company reaching out to Tier 2 cities

28th November 2013


Have you ever done a technology PR program outside Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai or Bangalore? Bless your soul if you have because if there is one thing that makes media in semi-urban or Tier 2 cities of India wince, it is the thought of getting a product announcement press note/release from an IT company. ‘It’s one hell of a waste of time’, I have heard journalists say. ‘Don’t PR guys know that we will not publish this?'

And, this is not about consumer durables that get categorised as IT products and are easier to communicate, experience and write about. What we are referring as Tier 2 city media nightmare is about reporting on business software and beyond.

These are some of the questions and responses that PR professionals/agencies often come across when they try to push an IT product announcement to Tier 2 cities.

In the hope of a good story and brand visibility, PR works zealously to provide the hassled and at times irritated journalist with the required information, but the outcome leaves a lot to be desired. To a large extent and much to the dismay of PR, the announcement goes unreported. Few of the publications that take the pains to report the announcement get the facts all mixed up. And at the end of the day, PR blames the ignorance and indifference of the country cousin journalist and moves on to the next Tier 2 city destination without even slightly tweaking their modus operandi.

Why is it then so challenging for tech PR to cut ice when they head to upcountry markets with PR activities? Here’s probably why the going gets tough.

Lack of Local Relevance

Tech PR people often forget that the key role for media in smaller cities is to largely cater to its readers with important news happening in their city. The more a story is relevant to the local people and businesses, the better are the chances of media publishing it.

Having local statistics or any form of local connect that can help people of the city to identify with it is of great benefit as well. Also, it’s important to note that technology related PR campaigns are not for all and sundry. Choose the most read media in Tier 2 cities to go out with your outreach. That way you increase your chances of being in the news.

Transactional Interactions

When it comes to Tier 2 cities, tech PR reaches out to the media only when they are in the process of announcing something. Purely transactional, nothing before and nothing after. The media in Tier 2 cities is well aware of this need-based interaction and treats you and your news with equal indifference. We all know that out of sight is out of mind and so much can be achieved if the interaction with Tier 2 city media is more frequent and objective. By doing this you are allowing the media to at least have familiarity with your business.

Generalist not a Specialist

Most media materials that tech companies create and release in Tier 2 cities are best suited for English language media in Tier 1 cities. The sentences, the jargons, the overall messaging is structured assuming the recipients familiarity with technology- in this case a technology reporter from Tier 1 media in Tier 1 city.  

That assumption gets thrown out of the window the moment that press material lands on the desk of Tier 2 city journalist. And this is because most of the times you encounter a generalist in Tier 2 cities versus a specialist in a Tier 1 city. By generalist, I mean a person who would cover all beats.

So, here is a journalist who covers real estate, politics, and entertainment and guess what even ‘technology’. Mobiles, Tablets, Computers, Printers are easy pickings, but anything even slightly more complex like new software can be challenging to write about.

Tech jargons

PR guys think it is a given to include fancy tech jargons in their messaging materials, while the recipients think of it as more of an annoyance, largely because the jargons are tough to explain to the ‘lay man’ i.e. the reader. Even translation services are of not much help since more often than not they offer a completely different meaning of the original word. PR teams need to take the effort especially for Tier 2 markets to simplify press materials as far as possible. Also, if possible during your Tier 2 city engagement have a spokesperson who can speak the language of the region.

Partnering

Let’s face it. In a market like India, not all PR agencies have the wherewithal to cater to Tier 2 city markets. They simply lack the understanding of media in Tier 2 cities. While every agency claims that they can provide coverage in Surat as good as the cover they provide in Mumbai, a closer look will reveal that so is not the case. Most PR agencies do not have a presence or connect in Tier 2 cities. They have to rely on stringers and local agencies to bridge the gap. The lack of a good local agency diminishes the chances of a successful outreach. It is thus imperative to work with the right set of agencies during Tier 2 city programs.

Finally, as one initiates PR activities in Tier 2 cities of India, it is vital to understand that no two cities are alike. Technology awareness varies from city to city. Ludhiana is different from Madurai. There is no one size fits all sort of scenario here. One needs to invest time to understand these markets and their peculiarities. That’s essentially the key to a successful PR Tier 2 city PR program.

Sagar Desai, Head of Corporate Communications, India, internet security firm, Symantec Corporation


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