This article originally appeared in Hypepotamus.

What starts as a tech-based idea must find product-market fit, paying customers, and a stellar team to even begin trying to scale as a business.

Part of scaling often involves bringing in a PR team. When we sat down with Blair Ruth Riley, newly appointed VP of Cloud at ARPR, she acknowledged that the pandemic showcased the changing dynamic between PR firms and growing tech companies.

Spoiler alert: PR is having a moment.

“PR is typically one of the first things to go when budgets get tight,” Riley tells Hypepotamus. But the pandemic shifted priorities for the business world, and Riley says this has helped transform the PR space. “[Now], clients are doubling down on the investment and really seeing the strategic value an outside PR agency can have for their business.

PR firms, after all, serve as a critical communications bridge between companies and the outside world. According to Riley, tech companies started to embrace customer stories and integrated communications in order to sustain and even grow business during COVID uncertainties.

 

A New Type of PR Story 

Specifically with the cloud-based startups she works with, Riley started to see a shift in what businesses were willing to share around their products, services, and team.

“There’s always been a barrier in PR when it comes to actually telling customer stories…because [customers] using another cloud application might not want to let everyone know that this is their “secret sauce,” says Riley. “What was different about last year was that the end-user story became central to everything.”

From telehealth to supply chain automation, tech companies wanted to showcase how their work had helped clients during the pandemic.

Tech PR firms like Atlanta-based ARPR have also started to see a stronger focus on integrated communications across company departments. “We’re seeing more clients understand the value of integrated communications. On top of media relations, we are increasingly supporting paid ads to drive lead gen or helping with inbound email or nurture campaigns,” she adds.

ARPR says it uses a “Panorama Approach” to blend traditional PR tactics with digital marketing.

For Riley, it’s all about finding new ways to tell the story of a company. Often, Riley is working with cloud clients that don’t have a traditional product roadmap that you might see in a consumer-facing startup. “We have to get really creative about how we map out their content strategy and newsroom engine,” she adds.

That has looked like everything from growing an internal influencer program to working on public perception around micromobility for scooter company Lime.

Riley’s been integral to growing ARPR’s cloud practice, a part of the business which has seen its revenue grow nearly 10% year-over-year.

Her new VP position comes as ARPR grew its headcount by 30% during the first half of 2021, adding Jason Axelrod  as Senior Content Writer and Amelia Wright and Leah Cotton as Senior Account Managers on the FinTech side of the firm.

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