Tech PR trends in 2020: What’s next for your industry?

Sterling has deep roots in Silicon Valley. With over 30 years of industry experience, our days are spent helping amazingly cool tech companies shape their narratives and gain visibility.

We’ve witnessed explosive growth in new technologies, but we also watched the collapse of traditional media. Over the years, PR tactics evolved from standard press releases and media tours into sophisticated digital strategies that connect with target audiences on a deeper level. What lies ahead for brand storytelling, ROI measurement, and organic/earned media in the new decade?

Recently, Sterling Communications joined other leaders from top Bay Area agencies for an immersive panel held by San Jose State University and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). We answered these questions and more for an audience of sharp, eager undergrads who have their sights set on a career in public relations. 

San Jose State University PRSSA Agency Panel

Sterling Communications joined top Bay Area PR agencies at San Jose State University to discuss emerging trends in public relations. The SJSU Journalism and Mass Communications Department’s Public Relations program is nationally recognized and the only degree program of its kind in Northern California.

Responses below are drawn from the SJSU/PRSSA event and condensed for clarity.

1. How has the PR industry changed in the past five years? What do you predict will happen in the next 10 years?

Public relations and digital marketing have become even more intimately linked. PR has long been focused on press releases, pitching reporters, tradeshows, and media tours. But our craft morphed as the media landscape changed. Now, we are also expected to deliver on SEO and content strategy, and to support digital marketing metrics. Over the next decade, we’ll see increasing overlap between these previously siloed disciplines. PR will be expected to help support business and sales objectives more than ever. For example, a common modern key performance indicator (KPI) involves showing that public relations drives targeted customers to websites through supporting blog content and social media strategies.

2. What is the biggest challenge in the tech PR industry? 

Tech marketing leaders must understand that their brand is competing with a LOT of noise. Reporters receive upwards of a hundred pitches per day. According to MuckRack, there were more than six PR pros for every journalist in 2018. A successful PR program requires creativity and consistency to make your clients stand out and capture a share of the world’s shrinking attention span. 

3. What is a top misconception about PR, and how do you earn the trust of journalists? 

Journalists often think that PR practitioners don’t do their research and overhype their clients. When I left the journalism world, colleagues and mentors teased me for “going to the dark side” of the communications industry. Silicon Valley PR practitioners can combat these misconceptions by taking the time to understand their clients, specifically their technology and key differentiators. Become a trusted resource that journalists can come to with questions, and don’t pitch them anything that isn’t truly notable or newsworthy.  

4. What is the top skill you rely on as a PR professional? 

If I had to pick one marketing or PR skill with the highest value, it’s copywriting (hands down). Be the person your team can count on to craft that critical email, blog post, headline, or press release. In our meme and soundbite obsessed world, clear and concise writing is needed more than ever

5. Have you personally changed any beliefs about public relations over the past decade? 

I love my career and find it extremely interesting. But when I was a young journalist, I believed that most PR people were insincere spin doctors. Over the years, however, I’ve met many incredibly brilliant professional communicators and I’ve learned so much because of the way they champion their clients and causes. PR helps new ideas flourish and advances technologies that can make our world better in measurable ways. I’m excited to be so close to emerging technologies that impact our daily lives — and it’s gratifying to help tell those stories.

A version of this report was also published on MuckRack.

Interested in connecting with Sterling Communications about a career in Silicon Valley tech PR? Please email, and follow us on Twitter