Meredith Lynch, head of tech at WE Communications, on why storytelling is important for tech, how PR briefs are getting tighter and why her most important advice is “don’t be an asshole”.
How did you come to specialise in tech?
I spent the first 12 years of my communications career with WE (formerly Waggener Edstrom) in our Pacific Northwest Headquarters focused on Microsoft – one of our biggest partnerships. It was a phenomenal study in impactful communications and a massive education in the potential and far-reaching impact of technology. I’ve been a woman in tech ever since.
What do you like about the sector?
I am a passionate technology enthusiast because great technology provides solutions to improve lives, shape society, connect people and enable positive change. From the tiniest sensor to the largest supercomputer, it’s where creativity meets science, data meets human insight and where the future of food, health, transportation, art and education will come from. It doesn’t replace the need for connection – it enhances our ability to connect. There is no greater story to tell – it’s constantly in motion and that’s part of our DNA at WE. We’ve been telling the ever-changing story of technology for over 30 years.
What makes tech PR unique?
PR is the art of storytelling – in no other sector do you spend quite as much time focused on getting past the technology itself, to understanding and articulating why it matters on both a small and large scale. In PR, we have to find the real and meaningful impact a technology can and will have, and articulate that in a way that makes people, business leaders and journalists care. We take the incredibly complicated and make it compelling and easy to understand, helping our clients and partners to better articulate that no matter who they’re speaking with: a customer, a journalist, an investor or their neighbour.
We live in a world where brands are constantly in motion relative to their competitors, customers, employees, governments and society. As brands either seek to seize opportunity created by constant transformation or react to transformative pressures, they are propelled forward, spin in place or move backwards.
At WE Communications, we understand brands in motion. We grew up with one. We had – and continue to have — a seat at the table of transformation-driven motion. We understand how to harness motion. How to manage it for mutual benefit. How it impacts brands. How it impacts stakeholders. How it impacts society.
What changes to your industry do you foresee taking place over the next five years?
I view our industry as not a PR-only industry – I see the merging of PR, marketing, social and advertising happening very quickly (not a revelation for anybody at this point).
With that convergence, the access to discoverable data and the rise of insights and analytics, we should expect to see a power shift in the relationship between creatives (agencies, creative services) and marketers (brands, marketing and communications teams) from one where creative is on top to one where analysts, or modern planners put the marketer on top.
This will result in much tighter briefs requiring faster turnaround for very specific platforms. The free reign of creatives will come under significant price pressure – and creative service providers will have to justify their budgets and do a lot more for less.
We are also entering a period where Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are creating an entirely new wave of impact on insights, creative, devices and platforms. It will be interesting to see how this affects communications professionals and the areas in which we can and should explore.
What new skill, do you think, PR professionals could most benefit from mastering?
It’s not just ONE thing – but in addition to constantly challenging ourselves, we need to stay curious… always ask why. Be clear about what you want and need to be successful. Never show up unprepared. Read non-stop. Make sure your research takes you away from your computer and brings you, your team and your clients new insights and experiences. And most importantly: don’t be an asshole.
Does WE have any ambitions for 2017 that you can share with us?
Brands and their stories are now in motion at a greater velocity than ever before across devices, platforms and channels. This means that brands must move away from static messages and single-platform content and create deliberate threads of content that engage consumers in their daily lives. Through this lens we will relentlessly pursue what is possible for our people, our business and our clients.