What I learned at Pause Fest 2020: Kate Franich, Technology PR Consultant

Kate Franich, Director of Kick Off Communications

I’ve been working in PR for over a decade and as agency life goes, no client is the same. I've had the pleasure of working with companies from a range of industries in sports, beauty, NFPs, adult entertainment, hospitality, finance and even fashion to name a few. Yes, these industries are cool in their own ways but I have to admit that nothing gets me more excited than partnering with companies within the tech industry!

The people I’ve worked with within the tech space tend to have the most creative ideas, be the best innovators and have the most disruptive minds. When PR is concerned, these qualities make for uniquely great stories and I love being in a position where I get to play the story teller for these companies. With this in mind, I couldn’t have accepted the invitation to attend Pause Fest 2020 any quicker. Known as the watering hole for creative minds within the tech space, attending this three day conference was a big yes from me. The team from Arcitecta told me that they were inviting a group of women who worked in various roles across the Australia’s tech industry to absorb what was new within the industry and all they wanted me to do was learn, network and grow. Are you jealous? You should be.

Here is a list of objectives I wanted to achieve at Pause Fest:

  • Network with the leaders from 10+ Aussie born companies who had developed a new product or service that filled a gap in its current market.
  • Speak with 3+ powerful women who could tell me about their experience in the industry and gain some key advice from them.
  • Hear from global leaders about their opinion of the culture of the tech industry, where it was, how it’s grown and how they see people working in tech in the near future.
  • Learn more about the kinds of data companies are focusing on to grow and innovate. Is it just user traffic? Is it financially focused? Is it ALL types of data? What is the most important to tech companies?
  • Speak with 5+ different company leaders about what it was that made their story special. What separated them from their competitor, why did they think their particular platform was important and how was it going to help consumers.
  • Attend 1+ panel discussion that I didn’t have a previous interest in to learn something new.
  • Introduce myself to 3+ companies that I think I could work with well and potentially engage in PR activities with them.
  • Grow my social media networks with influential people, trending media outlets and follow key company projects.

I made sure to check off everything on my list of intentions and to say the very least I left Pause Fest on Friday afternoon feeling very inspired. If Pause Fest gives us a glimpse of what is to come, then all I have to say is, get excited Australia - we haven’t seen anything yet and the future looks bright!

When every new idea is special in its own right, how can companies ensure they don’t go unnoticed.

I made an effort at Pause Fest to not get distracted by fame and tried not to just attend talks from those who jumped out on the run sheet. Yes, of course I listened to panel discussions led by global companies like Facebook, Google, Netflix, Disney, Atlassian and Mastercard - I mean, who wouldn’t go and hear about what these teams are working on?! But I also decided that I would learn just as much, if not more, from speaking with local startups who were newly launching. At the end of the day, I wanted to learn what they were struggling with when it came to the marketing side of their businesses and see if there was a common hurdle startups faced when it came to “telling their story”. I made my way each day at lunch time to speak with the startups in the main display hall and asked them each the same question:

What is unique about your story and more specifically how does this make you stand out from what is currently out there?

Surprisingly, not every company I spoke with had a very straight forward answer to this question. I’d say that fifty per cent of people I spoke with could talk about the landscape of the given market they were in but the other fifty per cent hadn’t really developed their ‘elevator pitch’ let’s say.

Unsurprisingly, the fifty percent who could answer the question, spoke directly off their developed marketing materials. They had solid key messages and knew exactly what to say. These companies clearly had taken the time to prepare a strategic marketing plan before publically launching and it was definitely working to their advantage. More expo goers were around these booths and people were taking information fliers and photos with them more than the others.

This got me thinking about the importance of strategic marketing within the startup space and how a solid communications plan can really help make or break the success of a new startup. In my opinion, marketing plans putting together a launch press release, developed blog content, social media plans and a key messages document should be on the to do list of any company BEFORE going live. Those companies who had developed a marketing strategy were clearly more prepared to engage with expo goers more than those who hadn’t got around to it yet and furthermore had a better chance at answering hard questions from potential investors, partners and of course consumers.

Marketing in the tech space isn’t an option. After all, what’s the point of spending years developing the tech if no one is going to hear about it and use it?!

Behind every piece of technology is human intention.

Another key takeaway from Pause Fest that made me feel positive about working in tech PR was that most speakers bought their talks back to how all new developments had some element of “human intention”. Everything that was being developed from tech companies was for humans who needed it. Jason Juma Ross, Tech Strategist at Facebook said “All technology has a purpose. It fills a void that humans need”. This made me excited because effectively “purpose” is the crux of PR. If new tech always has human intention then we know that the role of PR and other marketing roles will always be needed. We know that when company budgets are low PR and marketing are the first to go but if what Mr. Ross and his colleagues are saying is true, the role of the marketer will always be crucial. If tech is being developed to make life easier and better, then people will want to know about it. We all love to learn, read, watch, listen and use anything that could better our lives so as long as “human intention” is at the heart of startups then we have a story to tell.

A positive future.

When Pause Fest ended, I took some time to reflect on all of the great things I had learned. I learned how that now, more than ever, data is king and is one of the most important guides within the tech space. I learned that VR, AI and AR will be “normal” mediums to consume information through and that we should familiarise ourselves with these technologies now so we are on the forefront of the revolution. But most importantly I learned that almost all companies these days are developing products and services with a social conscience. The young leaders of these startups and even the global giants didn’t find it enough to just make a tonne of money anymore. There is a commonality amongst tech companies to focus their time on how tech can help. Giving back to communities, to the people and the environment as we know are the most important things and if we can develop with a social conscience then technology will only better the way we all live.

My time at Pause Fest left me feeling fruitful about being a woman working in tech. I’m excited to work in a prosperous industry where the possibilities are endless.

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