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Tech hype cycles are shortening, and that's a headache for PR pros

Updated: May 27

The Web3 newscycle was supplanted late last year by AI [thanks to ChatGPT], and now with Apple's Vision Pro announcement, the AR/VR newscycle is now vying for pole position. How does the PR world keep up?

No, you’re not just imagining it. Economists have known for some time that this is an inevitability. The Economist has a great piece about how disruptive innovation cycles, which used to take decades to ebb and flow, are shortening.

Prior innovation accumulates, accelerating tech progress and leading to an exponential increase in the rate of innovation. As a direct result of these accelerating and converging innovation cycles, the tech news cycle is also getting shorter. And that’s a headache for tech PR pros. If you think our always-on lifestyle is hectic now, well, it seems timelines are only decreasing.

As a case in point, Web3 hype outlasted the pandemic but was swiftly replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) panic late last year, induced by the media blitz surrounding the launch of ChatGPT. But AI’s dominance in the headlines is already being tested by a shift in focus to augmented reality (AR) following Apple’s launch of Vision Pro. Without getting all holier than thou about “attention spans these days,” the main question that tech PR pros face is, how does this impact how we do PR? 

Use the latest tools

First up, and perhaps the most obvious, is to leverage the newest tools to keep up with the quickening pace. The best example that comes to mind is also apparent: using generative AI to create copy, presentations, and graphics or illustrations. There’s a discussion to be had here about the output quality, but where new tech sets a new pace, it’s generally wiser to join in than sit it out.

It’s also worth considering the likelihood that AR and Web3 will become integral marketing strategies soon. PR and marketing teams must be as native to these technologies as we are on Instagram and TikTok.

Sure, we can’t learn the ins and outs of every new technology that blunders across our newsfeeds – looking at you, 3D TVs – but we do need to keep an eye on those which end up having staying power. After all, even if individual startups or tech trends die off, innovations often linger. For example, you probably don’t use Clubhouse but have listened to a Twitter Space.

Tech PR agencies will need to diversify across verticals; For in-house, it’s time to get creative

Next up is a trickier topic: consider diversifying across verticals. For example, at my agency, we had many opportunities to focus solely on the Web3 industry. At times, crypto clients provided most of our revenues, which seemed like a no-brainer. But as everyone knows, the market cycles in crypto tend to be violent.

Following the upswings come quieter periods; for Web3 PR agencies in particular, that means fewer clients.

As tech cycles shorten and disruptive innovations come along more often, keeping your eggs across multiple baskets will, for many, be the wiser choice. 

If you’re an in-house PR pro, the logic still holds. Here, we can take a leaf out of the books of large tech conglomerates and their innovation departments, which always latch onto the latest trends. Jump on that bandwagon for the latest tech innovations, and get your brand in the headlines by highlighting R&D capabilities in whatever niche is currently in vogue.

Maybe it’s announcing an ‘in-testing’ AI feature for your app or an AR brand activation to catch the trend. Get creative. There’s always a way to get involved, even if the tech darling of the day isn’t the primary focus of your brand. And no doubt, there will be specialised agencies out there who can support the effort.

Expect and embrace the unexpected

Sure, all this means we must keep moving faster, letting go of old ideas quicker. But more than that, we must consider whether our internal operational processes are slowing us down. Are our crisis management protocols still fit for purpose in this new environment?

Does our approval process add too much red tape and hold us up? Expect to need to revisit, revise, and rewrite from the ground up, again and again and again. It’s tiresome, it’s frustrating, it’s inevitable. It’s a significant mindset shift we need to embrace.

For example, having a robot generate your social media copy would have felt like cheating a year ago. Possibly it was even a fireable offence. But now expectations have shifted. What’s acceptable has shifted. And as long as quality, accuracy, brand rules etc., are met, no one’s complaining anymore.

Explaining tech will get increasingly complicated

Technology is getting more advanced, so it stands to reason that it will also get more complicated to explain. But actually, this is not necessarily a new issue. For PR pros, our bread and butter are ignoring the unnecessary complexities and focusing on the newsworthy angles and the value-added tidbits that reporters covet.

Explaining a car engine is complex but mainly not required in our work. Use cases are generally the focus for B2C or B2B target audiences, and the technical details are saved for the niche crowds.

In fact, contrary to that earlier advice to diversify, we’ll likely see hyper-niche players do well, catering to the B2B and industry/vertical media. After all, one thing won’t change any time soon: the nuts and bolts of human communication. A good story trumps all, which is great news for PR pros.

While all this might sound exhausting, what sets tech PR pros apart is that we enjoy working in tech precisely because the next new thing is always just around the corner. We get a kick out of shaping the stories and narratives that accompany the rise of these new advances and do battle to help our brands find a voice in the chaos that ensues. If the hype cycles are shortening, then that means more wins on the horizon as well.


Note: This article was originally published on PR Week on 19 July 2023, written by Camilla Tenn of Eleven International.

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