Hot Stuff

Hot Business: High-Tech PR

Need more proof that high-tech has the Midas touch? Check out the success that the public relations companies catering to it have enjoyed. According to a 1999 ranking of the top 50 public relations companies by the Council of Public Relations Firms, income from those firms specializing in the technology sector jumped 80 percent in 1997 and another 28 percent in 1998. And a 1998 survey by PRWeek magazine found that the top 100 high-tech PR firms earned a cumulative $498.8 million in revenues.

Even better news: According to Miller Bonner, executive vice president and general manager of technology at Edelman Public Relations in New York City, the market for tech PR firms is still far from saturated. "There are so many new fields opening up," says Bonner.

You'll need to know the market well to make a splash in this industry. As consumers become increasingly tech-savvy, the businesses trying to reach them must keep up, points out Richard George of the Public Relations Society of America.

You also must have the capacity to deal with the exploding growth of many high-tech firms. "As your clients grow, you have to grow with them or say goodbye," says Bonner. "If you don't have a global capacity or the ability to offer investor or consumer relations, you're going to lose your client."

Although the merger and acquisition frenzy in the public relations industry has created a number of huge firms that provide formidable competition to newcomers, Bonner believes there will always be room for niche players to target technology companies because public relations is not a capital-intensive business. And as cities around the nation jump on the technology bandwagon in hopes of creating their own Silicon Valleys, opportunities for tech PR firms will become more plentiful. Among the hot areas are Atlanta; Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Boston; New York City; North Carolina; Northern Virginia; Portland, Oregon; Provo, Utah; and Southern California, all of which are established or budding software hotbeds. Colorado Springs, Colorado; Dallas; and Denver are also strong markets, thanks to telecommunications activities.

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This article was originally published in the December 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hot Stuff.

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