Hey Utah, You Have a Tech PR Problem

Laptop MegaphoneThose like myself that live in Utah know there is a thriving tech startup community here.  From early startups like Omniture, Freeservers, and Wordperfect, to newer ventures like SocialToo, TweetBeep, TodaysMama.com, FusionIO, i.TV (previously number 1 in the iTunes app store), and FamilyLink (the makers of the Facebook App, We’re Related, one of the top 5 apps on Facebook) there’s no shortage of innovation in the Tech community in Utah.  Add to that some very talented investors like Bryce Roberts, co-founder of O’Reilly AlphaTech ventures, Peterson Partners, and the entire Sorenson Capital and vast array of angel investors and private equity options available, there’s no shortage of innovation and capital to support that innovation.  Unfortunately though, money and innovation are only part of the equation.  A company needs eyes.  It is extremely difficult to grow a tech company without the attention of Silicon Valley and the technorati out there.  So why is it that we so rarely see Utah companies in TechCrunch, or Mashable, or Gizmodo, or ReadWriteWeb even?

What amazes me is the vast amount of attention Boulder, Colorado startups get.  I think they know how to generate news, because the main “incubator” for lack of a better term) of those companies is Tech Stars, and Tech Stars has an amazing success rate at cranking out fairly successful companies in relatively short amount of time.  But I really don’t think Utah has any shortage of tech startups in similar timeframes when compared to Boulder.  In fact, our startups in many ways have shaped the internet (University of Utah was one of the first 4 nodes of the internet, after all).  On FriendFeed, I compiled a list of all the tech startups that either started in Utah and are now flourishing, or that are brand new and working to get off the ground that I could think of – this is what I came up with:

Of course, that list is just off the top of my head – there are many more that I’m sure will come up in the comments.  I look at this list of companies, and I look at the bustling activity of jam-packed rooms full of people at iPhone dev garages, Social Media developers garages, Tweetups, Social Media Club meetings, Launchups and more, why in the world is Utah having such a hard time getting into the tech Press of Silicon Valley?  Utah has a serious tech PR problem, and I’d like to help fix it if I can.

So why the PR problem?  Well, for one, correct me if I’m totally wrong here, but I’m not aware of many Tech bloggers in the area visible in the Silicon Valley scene, with over 1,000 subscribers that can get the word out easily.  I’m aware of three right now, please correct me if I’ve missed you: Matt Asay, Phil Windley, and myself.  Are there any more?  I think this could change if more people in Utah focused on technology in their blogging.  I’ve noticed a trend in Utah recently of many bloggers completely giving up on that, and it’s depressing, personally.

Secondly, of those 3 bloggers (sorry Matt and Phil – you’re going to hate me after this, I know), we’re not getting pitched by Utah companies.  The majority of my blog audience right now, as you can see, are Silicon Valley, and states outside of Utah.  Chances are that if you’re reading this you’re not even in Utah, and I think that’s sad, personally.  Utah has a huge opportunity to get the bias of their local tech bloggers, which in turn could lead to TechCrunch mentions, TechMeme exposure and more, and they’re not even taking advantage of it.  If you run an Open Source company, you should be pitching Matt Asay to write about you in his Open Road blog on CNet.  Phil Windley is also very interested in that (as am I, occasionally), along with interesting startups and people for his IT Conversations podcast.  If you’re building a social, real-time, or otherwise just plain cool tech startup you should be pitching me to write either here or on LouisGray.com, where I occasionally write.

picture-8

The darker states represent the higher traffic areas to StayNAlive.com

If you run a tech startup in Utah, money is hard to come by these days.  Exposure is easier than you think though.  If you’re hiring an expensive PR company to do this for you, you’re doing it wrong.  You should start by pitching locally, then if that doesn’t work (sorry, like an investor, bloggers have to turn down pitches as well), get on Twitter, build an audience, and most importantly, start your own blog.  If you ever want any advice in doing that please don’t hesitate to contact me.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of new startups in Utah right now.  I don’t know who you are.  There are hundreds of tech bloggers in the area, I’m sure, which can easily build an audience and help these startups.  I don’t know who you are.  I’m not sharing this to boast of my own subscribers, but rather to offer a call for help.  Utah, let’s work together to let Silicon Valley know we’re out here.  I think if we do it right, we could, and should, very well be considered the next “Boulder” of the MountainWest.  How can I help Silicon Valley know more about you?

If you live in Utah, or run a business in Utah, let’s retweet this around so we can help each other out.  Please be sure to share it with your friends.

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21 thoughts on “Hey Utah, You Have a Tech PR Problem

  1. Great post, Jesse. You're completely right. As the PR contractor for Bungee Labs at the time of their beta launch in February 2008 to last September, I do have to say, though, that Bungee was all over ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch, Mashable and many other blogs and magazines (including yours! :-). Because of that initial coverage, they're still getting occasional mentions in their space even without PR outreach! Anyway, I'll have to familiarize you with Venafi, a 5-year-old Sandy company that is helping some really big names manage their encryption technologies. It isn't as sexy as Bungee, but it's got the big clients (just can't name them) and great support in the analyst community. If any other tech start-up (Utah-based or elsewhere) needs PR assistance, please contact me. Snapp Connor PR is a full service PR agency that could help you as well. Anyway, I'll retweet as well. I'd love to help get Utah tech start-ups on the map!

    Like

  2. Kelly, that's because you're one of the few PR firms/consultants that
    understand this space! You did a great job with Bungee Labs – I'd love to
    see more of that from Utah companies.

    Like

  3. Jesse – A thought provoking post. As a public relations practitioner who works actively in the social media space, I'm keenly aware of the challenges you outline here. I hope everyone mentioned in this blog post will look to the Utah Social Media Awards, presented by the Social Media Club of Salt Lake City of which I'm a founding member and current program director, to submit their own work – or work of those they admire – for an USMA. Awards and recognition, locally, provide a great way to increase awareness and heighten a company's (or individual's) public profile, both locally and behond. Nominations are open now until Aug. 31. #usma #smcslc
    Resources:
    http://www.utahsocialmediaawards.info
    http://www.smcslc.org

    Like

  4. Completely agree. I was dumbfounded the other day to learn that one of my neighbors is with an early stage startup (7 Degrees – see http://www.7-degrees.com/about_us.html). Had I not gone by to drop off some cookies I never would have known. Now we're having lunch tomorrow and hopefully I'll have the chance to blog the company.

    Utah, generally, does a poor job of advertising itself. Every year I bring a group of open-source software executives to Utah to ski and they're blown away by the proximity to great skiing from the airport. Several have now made a habit of visiting throughout the winter. We should be doing more to invite others in and to get the word out.

    Like

  5. Pete, I encourage all to do so as well, but that seems to bring only local
    recognition. The best way to get the attention of those outside Utah is to
    be approaching bloggers that have influence in that space. While I can't
    respond to everyone, very, very few people from Utah ever approach me to
    write about them. There's an opportunity here which people are not taking
    advantage of. I'm not sure people know the right ways to approach a
    blogger, or who to even approach that would make any sort of difference.
    I'll do a post on that shortly.
    In addition, I'm very surprised the number of tech startups that do not have
    blogs. As a blogger, one of the things I do to come up with interesting
    news and interesting startups to feature, is I follow the blogs of those
    startups I find interesting. If your startup doesn't have a blog, I'm much
    less-likely to hear about it. As are any other bloggers outside of Utah.
    Of course, there are other techniques of getting on Twitter, networking
    with the right people in the right places and catering to the right
    interests, but not even the very basics are being met, and I think that is
    the main flaw of Utah startups. As I said, I'll be doing another post on
    some of the “hows” shortly.

    Like

  6. Matt, thanks for commenting (we still need to meet in person some time!).
    7-degrees sounds very interesting, and right up my alley – I should have
    heard of them by now. (I'll race you to first post!) We have all sorts of
    conferences on entrepreneurship and how to get investment and build a
    business, but I have yet to see one that has sessions that focus on simple
    ways to bring attention to your startup. I think that's critical. I'm
    hoping we can build some buzz in the tech community to help them know where
    to go to get eyes on their product, and in the right places. We should do
    lunch some time.

    Like

  7. I think you make an excellent point about tech startups overlooking local authorities. Shooting straight to the top (with TechCrunch, Mashable, RWW, etc) would certainly be nice, but if you aren't boasting a significant funding event (or something similarly 'newsworthy') you're likely to be perceived as white noise. Which, I agree, makes PR from other sources so valuable. Thanks for the reminder to grow and utilize our local cred, we really do have a lot of good things going down here.

    Like

  8. Tom, feel free to pitch me every so often. The writers of TechCrunch and the
    others read my stuff occasionally, and you may get some attention that way
    if you think it's interesting. In the end we all want news, and if I cover
    something they haven't, they're going to want to be the first big site to
    cover it. The other strategy is to get multiple smaller offers to cover it
    – get me, Louis Gray, Matt Asay, or Phil Windley, or Mike Fruchter, or Rob
    Diana, or others to cover it. If more then 2 of us cover it, your chance of
    making TechMeme or other big site goes up.

    Like

  9. I think you make an excellent point about tech startups overlooking local authorities. Shooting straight to the top (with TechCrunch, Mashable, RWW, etc) would certainly be nice, but if you aren't boasting a significant funding event (or something similarly 'newsworthy') you're likely to be perceived as white noise. Which, I agree, makes PR from other sources so valuable. Thanks for the reminder to grow and utilize our local cred, we really do have a lot of good things going down here.

    Like

  10. Tom, feel free to pitch me every so often. The writers of TechCrunch and the
    others read my stuff occasionally, and you may get some attention that way
    if you think it's interesting. In the end we all want news, and if I cover
    something they haven't, they're going to want to be the first big site to
    cover it. The other strategy is to get multiple smaller offers to cover it
    – get me, Louis Gray, Matt Asay, or Phil Windley, or Mike Fruchter, or Rob
    Diana, or others to cover it. If more then 2 of us cover it, your chance of
    making TechMeme or other big site goes up.

    Like

  11. I think you make an excellent point about tech startups overlooking local authorities. Shooting straight to the top (with TechCrunch, Mashable, RWW, etc) would certainly be nice, but if you aren't boasting a significant funding event (or something similarly 'newsworthy') you're likely to be perceived as white noise. Which, I agree, makes PR from other sources so valuable. Thanks for the reminder to grow and utilize our local cred, we really do have a lot of good things going down here.

    Like

  12. Tom, feel free to pitch me every so often. The writers of TechCrunch and the
    others read my stuff occasionally, and you may get some attention that way
    if you think it's interesting. In the end we all want news, and if I cover
    something they haven't, they're going to want to be the first big site to
    cover it. The other strategy is to get multiple smaller offers to cover it
    – get me, Louis Gray, Matt Asay, or Phil Windley, or Mike Fruchter, or Rob
    Diana, or others to cover it. If more then 2 of us cover it, your chance of
    making TechMeme or other big site goes up.

    Like

  13. Pete, I encourage all to do so as well, but that seems to bring only local
    recognition. The best way to get the attention of those outside Utah is to
    be approaching bloggers that have influence in that space. While I can't
    respond to everyone, very, very few people from Utah ever approach me to
    write about them. There's an opportunity here which people are not taking
    advantage of. I'm not sure people know the right ways to approach a
    blogger, or who to even approach that would make any sort of difference.
    I'll do a post on that shortly.
    In addition, I'm very surprised the number of tech startups that do not have
    blogs. As a blogger, one of the things I do to come up with interesting
    news and interesting startups to feature, is I follow the blogs of those
    startups I find interesting. If your startup doesn't have a blog, I'm much
    less-likely to hear about it. As are any other bloggers outside of Utah.
    Of course, there are other techniques of getting on Twitter, networking
    with the right people in the right places and catering to the right
    interests, but not even the very basics are being met, and I think that is
    the main flaw of Utah startups. As I said, I'll be doing another post on
    some of the “hows” shortly.

    Like

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