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Crisis Rewrites The Playbook For Enterprise Tech Storytellers

Technology vendors are having to compete for attention amidst the pandemic crisis and are adopting new ways of reaching the hearts and minds of potential customers — reports Alex Shapiro

Crunchies Awards 2013

 Without events and conferences -- IT vendors are having to change how they reach potential customers. Above: Crunchies Awards 2013

Guest Post by Alex Shapiro  @AlexShapiroPR

The battle for influence and attention by the big vendors can’t stop just because of a crisis. So how are the big names of tech reaching their audiences in a time of media and industry upheaval?

The fact that you’re even reading this article at such a crazy time, shows how unpredictable the tech media landscape has become since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Having to focus on work, customers and productivity, while being supportive and empathetic to family, friends and our communities has been difficult for everyone.

By this point, everyone has also felt the effects: a lot of the people in the world lucky enough to be working remotely right now are stressed, online and eager to demonstrate value and productive-ness through pushing themselves and each other to do more. "According to Bloomberg and the findings of NordVP, Working From Home Means Working Longer Hours for Many. These added hours also seem to be showing up in the volume of announcements tech vendors are pumping out. 

This has hit the tech media world in a unique way. Many reporters shifted around to covering the endless flood of news breaking in every sector, including many like Frederic Lardinois at TechCrunch, who shifted to covering just Covid news. Though March now seems ages ago, back then, even Larry Dignan, the Editor in Chief of the venerable ZDNet, told Sam Whitmore, of Sam Whitmore Media Survey for his article ZDNet's Larry Dignan on Covid-19's Long-Term Implications, and What to Pitch | Sam Whitmore's Media Survey, "We don't want to become the Coronavirus Channel -- though some days we are... and some days we aren't."

It also seems like every company, think tank, expert, open source project, analyst and influencer has a platform around Right Now, what went wrong and where it's going. 

With everyone online, there’s no shortage of attention for news and views around tech. After all, isn’t there something soothing about the relatively low stakes of clouds and APIs, compared to the very real, real news? Some vendors have even reported huge turnouts at the Virtual Summits.

With more news and fewer writers to report it, vendors are upping their game in tipping the balance of attention in their favor.

As New York Times reported, in The Art of the Pitch in the Midst of a Pandemic - The New York Times, PR folks are also doing anything but leaning back during this noisy time.

So here are some highlights of tech storytellers’ clever tactics to cut through the noise and reach tech decision makers like you!


AWS Flexes its Muscles with AppFlow News

AWS isn’t even known for big splashy announcements. Instead, they typically pull out substantial, technical blogs and keep on rolling to Re:Invent, where Andy Jassy might show off a slide marking the staggering number of these updates, which spawned its own piece of great coverage back when I was in the cloud trenches. For a brand that’s known more for doing than talking, this 2016 vintage visual is a rare demonstration of the giant flexing its muscles (back when physical events were a thing).

Amazon re:Invent/Business Insider

That track-record makes it all the more unusual that AWS seemed to do an old school media push behind the launch of AppFlow, which was announced not just with a very visual blog post, but a combination of explainer video and video demo that made it to the editorial video sections of fine outlets like ZDNet’s. The results were a whole slew of prominent pieces in tech press, beyond usual AWS reporters, which seemed to create a bigger PR spike than the typical AWS product announcement. 


Google Explains AI Tech by Showing Instead of Telling

Google Cloud in the meantime has followed up their massive April push to get their bold multi-cloud Anthos support noticed by every tech trade publication, starting with this fine one, in glowing pieces such as Google Cloud's Anthos for AWS generally available, Microsoft Azure in preview.

A priority so strategic that it took actual robots, powered by AI, to follow that act. AI Algorithms are hard to explain because most people don’t have a PhD in what might as well be science fiction. So, when Google needed to explain ‘Deep Reinforcement Learning with Concurrent Control’ they did it by simplifying the heck out of what it does.with the unveiling of ‘Thinking While Moving’. This is a landing site white-paper that resembles a developer-style Medium post, with illustration, diagrams, animations and video of actual side-by-side robots and all the glorious technical detail that the AI community will need to bring. This announcement exemplifies how showing instead of telling together with demystifying jargon can bring even the most technical topics in the world to life for a broader audience. 


Oracle Shows Off Its Friends and Timeliness

As a popular journalist motto goes, ‘names make news’ and the Oracle Product Team certainly took full advantage of the opportunity to be associated with Zoom as that brand becomes a household name. The announcement that, “When the World turned to Zoom, Zoom turned to Oracle” achieved what few customer-selects-vendor announcements can do, securing prominent media coverage for a story that, by definition doesn’t yet have a middle or an end. Of course, it didn’t hurt the story’s appeal that Larry Ellison himself made maybe a first-ever YouTube appearance promoting the relationship entitled, Larry Ellison: Staying Connected - YouTube. (full disclosure, I’m a proud, Oracle Product PR alumni) 

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Alex Shapiro is an enterprise IT PR and Marketing consultant.