2023: A Defining Moment for Tech Companies, If They Rise to the Occasion

This upcoming year will be a critical and defining moment for tech companies and media relations – setting the stage for what I think may become madness in 2024. For the past two years, there have been four core stories in the tech world: They either centered around multibillion-dollar acquisitions, mega funding rounds with inflated valuations, companies making their public market debut, or founders falling from grace.

This media onslaught has both fundamentally changed the way tech companies are perceived, and how the media is covering them. Notably, it has also dramatically changed media relations strategies, which I’ll touch upon here.

Some say that traditional business relationships don’t necessarily pay off when it matters most. I disagree. These relationships – including ready access to a handful of media “friendlies” – are mission critical and more important than ever before. That’s true not just for the PR professionals who make a living building these relationships, but also for executives and CEOs working to stand out. 

If PR is not top-of-mind for execs and founders in 2023, then 2024 will be quite the wake-up call for them.

A Point of Tech Maturity

Companies will likely stay quiet over the next 12 months, hesitant to ruffle market feathers. They want to keep customers happy, grow pieces of their business that are critical to their bottom line, and they do not want to risk going public in an unfavorable market environment. Still, some companies cannot afford to stay private, nor can they afford to try to raise more capital and risk devaluing themselves. And with investors looking to find their next big (tech) success story, like Stripe, Airbnb or Slack, that late-stage VC pipeline is running dry.

We are at a point of tech maturity where most of the companies that the media has been reporting on for the past few years are no longer the “tech darlings.” They are now more mature and either planning to stay private or go public. What this means is that 2024 could actually be another strong year of tech IPOs. Still, the “boom or bust” question may come down to the media covering them.

These are tech companies, and some are deep enterprise software companies that have no way of “showing” their business to investors or the world. This is where media relations, relationships, and strategy all come into play – highlighting business or product developments and subject matter expertise.

If companies do not use 2023 as a critical moment to build up their relationships with business press, nurture and foster those relationships, educate media on their companies, and commit to doing the work, then they run the risk of limited storytelling interest and visibility once the public markets open up again.

This means drawing interest from investors becomes an uphill battle.

<line-break>"2024 could be another strong year of tech IPOs. Still, the 'boom or bust' question may come down to the media covering them."<line-break>

Understand the Younger Investors

Companies need to prepare their businesses for public market consumption. With simpler investing opportunities through apps like Robinhood, Stash, etc., companies will need to remember that part of their potential investor audience includes millennials and younger business professionals. These are groups that are now more motivated to invest in purpose-driven companies that can demonstrate trustworthy ethics and values. Younger investors are a critical audience that must not be forgotten – and crucially, their media consumption is all digital and “immediate.”

The recent transgressions of some tech CEOs also became “bingeable” during the COVID-19 lockdown, which means the growing class of younger investors have been exposed to tech “failures,” and they increasingly associate tech with the characters and personalities at respective companies. To them, it is not necessarily about the software or technology, but instead the people and the values of that company, which are on full display.

<line-break>"Younger investors are a critical audience that must not be forgotten – and crucially, their media consumption is all digital and 'immediate.'"<line-break>

The Year of Media Relationships

With economic headwinds carrying over into 2023, not only might late-stage, more mature tech companies hold on going public, but we may also see tech talent find more time on their hands. That’s particularly the case amid headcount changes, but the silver lining is that some of the world’s most incredible companies started during recessions. If layoffs persist across the industry, impacting major tech companies, some of the talent will fast-track their own innovation – creating next-gen solutions bound to capture the world’s attention.

I foresee this creating more competition, investor interest, and pressure on the companies that are in fact refraining from entering public markets.

Altogether, the clock is ticking and companies may find it time to really cultivate new and reliable media relationships that could provide the extra “boost” needed during challenging times.

The coming year will be one of media relationships, character development, strategic planning, and storytelling. If companies aren’t “all in,” they’ll hit serious resistance in 2024. So, while I’ve of course always helped share the merits of PR programs, I truly find this to be a business climate where such services will be increasingly vital to long-term success.

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