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As many companies have discovered, digital transformation (DX) isn’t easy.

In remaking their organizations to compete in the digital age, many executives have noted the challenges of implementing DX, such as changing corporate culture attitudes and preconceptions; ideating effective new business models, services and customer experiences; dealing with complex IT overhauls; meeting cybersecurity and privacy requirements, and more.

But a critical component to DX success that hasn’t been addressed is devising a strategic communications program to support these dramatic business changes.  That is a major oversight if companies want to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them in the age of DX.

It’s common PR wisdom with major company transitions such as mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring or IPOs that educating your organization’s stakeholders is key to success, ensuring audiences understand the why, the how, the when and the expected results of your efforts.  To do this correctly, you must communicate early and often.

The communications strategy to support your DX plans will be different depending on where your company dwells in the ecosystem.  The audiences identified below will need to receive your messaging wherever they get their news and information on their favorite media and mediums via a consistent PR and marketing program.

DX Enablers

We define this category as companies leveraging advanced technologies to make DX easier for traditional enterprises in solving key issues, enhancing core processes or enabling new services.

Examples of this DX category in Orange County include Veritone, Inc. which helps companies leverage the power of AI to enhance operational efficiencies and effectiveness, and NextVR, enabling media companies to broadcast live sports and entertainment in virtual reality.

The targets for this category’s communications efforts are B2B customers, which in DX can be across industries. For example, large enterprises of any stripe could benefit from a company leveraging AI, IoT and cloud technologies to reduce their energy costs by 15-20%, whether it’s a manufacturer, retailer, restaurant franchise or healthcare provider.  These disparate enterprises likely won’t have the in-house expertise to implement such a valuable solution.

Messaging in this category must be carefully tailored to communicate the benefits of a DX solution to specific buyers and their influencers. The best move is to identify the top 3-5 most promising industries and focus your communications efforts on companies in those sectors initially.

Other stakeholders require communications include potential investors, whether venture capitalists or retail and institutional traders, as well as potential channel, marketing and technology channel partners that can speed growth and enhance services.

DX Disruptors

A growing number of startups are offering new types of services directly to the market.  These services are disrupting business models before the wider industry can catch up.

Examples in this category include Uber and Lyft for the taxi and shuttle industry; Air BnB in the hospitality industry; and more recent arrivals like Turo in the rental car industry.

The audiences in this category may include investors throughout the disruptor’s funding journey, early adopters who will accept and tout pilot programs, government agencies when revised regulations are required, and a broad base of potential customers when the company is ready to scale.   Industry analysts are also important, as building credibility through third-party endorsements will be key to growth.

DX Ventures

Larger companies across industries are keenly aware of the dangers DX presents to their business if they don’t stay alert and flexible.  That’s why so many are not only integrating better internal processes enabled by the array of DX technologies but are also looking to offer new types of services and radically enhanced customer experiences to the market.

Many of these firms are forming ‘intrapreneurial’ business units – akin to having an independent startup inside the company – to create pilot programs like Amazon’s cashier-less stores and FedEx’s drone deliveries.  Others, like McDonalds recently, are acquiring the most promising DX startups to help them remain competitive.

The stakes are high for established brands implementing DX because of the market interest and focus.  Failed projects or confusing signals must be avoided.  A detailed communications plan and timeline is required that addresses all stakeholders.  This includes internal audiences who need to stay informed and motivated as DX implementation is underway, as well as external audiences as companies introduce new services such as drone deliveries to their doorstep or offer VR replicas of their favorite brick & mortar store.

A DX implementation presents a massively difficult challenge to any enterprise, requiring careful analysis and foresight to achieve optimum results.  A strategic communications plan and PR program targeting all audiences must be considered as well for a smooth rollout and transition.

 

Like the wildflowers springing up everywhere, the emerging tech community is blooming here in Orange County.

Companies are moving to the OC, like Cognize, an AI startup which recently relocated to Irvine from the Bay Area.  Startup funding continues, like NotifAi, an Internet of Things (IoT) firm based in Aliso Viejo which recently closed a Series A round of $1.2 million, as well as a recent $4.7 million funding round for Costa Mesa-based LoanSnap and its AI-infused mortgage app.

More established OC emerging tech firms continue introducing industry-changing products, like Syntiant’s AI-enabled processors for voice applications. While still others are seeing wildly successful exits, such as Parcel Pending and its smart locker systems being acquired for more than $100 million – with the added benefit that the company’s operations are staying in Irvine!

But like our local wildflowers, emerging tech startups don’t just bloom automatically. They need the right conditions to germinate, grow and display their magnificent colors to the world.

The good news is the OC emerging tech community has worked long and hard to create the conditions favorable to this emerging tech spring.  Check out a few of these below:

  • The Center for Digital Transformation at the Paul Merage School of Business at UCI was formed several years ago to help businesses leverage the changes being wrought by AI, the IoT, the cloud and other disruptive technologies. Its recent Road to Reinvention conference was a sold out event with executives flying  in from all over the country to attend.

 

  • The Cove, home to UCI Applied Innovation’s incubator program and gathering place, will be moving to new offices that will double the size of the facility to meet its growing popularity.

 

  • Journalist Deirdre Newman had the foresight to start OC Startups Now a year ago, focusing on news, opinions, Q&As and features entirely about the OC startup ecosystem.

 

  • The organizations that have supported the local tech scene for many years are gearing up for digital transformation as well. OCTANe’s annual Technology Innovation Forum is set for May 13-14 and will feature Lori Torres, CEO of the aforementioned Parcel Pending. The event will focus on the impacts of data and technology on the future of work, retail, Smart Cities, sports, fintech, transportation and health.  And nominations for the organization’s annual High Tech Awards are closing April 5.

 

 

  • Watch for Eureka FEST 2019 starting this Tuesday at the Eureka Building in Irvine. The event celebrates entrepreneurship with a week of programs leading up to a day-long festival filled with a lineup of successful and influential entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and industry experts.

 

We would be remiss in not also mentioning Startup Grind OC, sponsored by Google for Startups; EvoNexus, a technology incubator in Irvine, and PeopleSpace, a tech hub and startup incubator based in Irvine as well.

With all these flowers blooming, there should be plenty to keep the OC emerging tech scene buzzing for some time to come.

The entire team at HKA Marketing Communications is excited to announce the revitalization of our technology practice to serve a new generation of emerging tech entrepreneurs in the Digital Transformation era.

HKA has a proud legacy in the technology industry that dates back 20 years. Our clients from that time anticipated many of today’s hottest tech trends, such as commercial satellites, smart manufacturing, bio sensors and advanced medical imaging. Several of our clients saw highly successful investor exits through IPOs and acquisitions by major firms.

Today, innovative startups are offering solutions that are taking advantage of new paradigms enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, 5G wireless networks and other advancements.  These technologies are being used to dramatically enhance the customer experience, maximize efficiencies, reduce costs and improve sustainability for organizations across industries.  Many of these young companies are looking to be heard to secure the right customers, partners, influencers and investors necessary to compete and win.

To that end, HKA appointed Mike Kilroy as Group Director, Technology. Kilroy was an integral part of HKA’s previous technology era and is now leading a team that serves the technology companies that are transforming business and society as we know it.

Why should an emerging tech startup, or larger firms exploring new ventures, consider HKA for its PR and digital marketing needs?

In addition to our technology industry experience, HKA is a well-established and respected agency with 35 years of award-winning business and acclaimed client service.  During its long history, HKA has maintained a diverse client mix, enabling the opportunity to take successful strategies from one industry and applying them in refreshing and innovative ways to new industries.

With offices in Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area, HKA is a highly collaborative agency that ensures senior-level management is directly leading and serving accounts.  The agency culture is also steeped in journalistic best practices and perspectives, with the majority of our staff experienced in the news industry.  HKA knows how to tell a story that resonates with our extensive business/financial, tech and trade media contacts as well as customers and their influencers via social media, blogs, email and other digital marketing mediums.

HKA is fully committed to meeting the communications needs of today’s emerging tech firms throughout their journey.  Please check out us out at www.hkamarcom.com or call us at (714) 426-0444 and let us know how we can help.

It was a nice surprise this past month when it was announced that Tesla, Elon Musk’s premium electric car brand, had acquired Maxwell Technologies, the former defense contractor based in San Diego and makers of an energy storage device called an “ultracapacitor.”

Why the interest?  Because Maxwell Technologies was a key client in HKA’s emerging technology practice back in its early days – somewhere around the turn of the 21st century.

During that time, Maxwell had begun moving away from serving the defense industry and commercializing its various technologies.  If memory serves, its ultracapacitor technology was initially developed to help the Pentagon determine what would happen to electro-magnetic fields in the advent of a nuclear attack.  Yes, you read that right.  During the height of the Cold War, the U.S. military needed to know if its communications equipment would continue to work after a nuclear strike.

Good news for America and the world, the military never had to find out what would happen in a real-world scenario and Maxwell could apply its robust R&D innovations to the market.

And take it to the market we did.  HKA worked closely with Maxwell CEO wunderkind Ken Potashner and his team to promote the company near and far, securing numerous national broadcast and business media coverage, including a three-page spread in Forbes.  We also conducted a highly successful trade media program that helped Maxwell win new customers in the private sector.

Even then, Ken would tout Maxwell’s ultracapacitors as a perfect device for storing energy from braking in electric vehicles and then releasing it quickly during acceleration.  At the time, the EV industry was in its nascent stages and wouldn’t really take off for another 10 years.  But Ken was a visionary and with HKA’s help he was able to get investors to support his dream and set Maxwell Technologies on a successful path in the commercial space.

Through the years, Maxwell sold off its other business units but kept hold of its ultracapacitor tech, likely because it was the financial mainstay of the company.  For a good take on the reasons why Elon and Tesla bought the company, read this article from InsideEVs.

What is the PR lesson to be learned from the Maxwell story?  Some emerging tech, especially categories involving hardware as opposed to software, can take years to reach full maturity.  However, without establishing a solid foundation of brand awareness and credibility early on, a technology’s day might never arrive.  The aggressive PR program HKA and Maxwell conducted set the stage for success.

Congratulations to everyone at Maxwell Technologies!

The Amazing Story Behind EmergingTechPR

February 28, 2019 | Blog | No Comments

HKA is excited to re-launch its original EmergingTechPR site to provide up-to-date insights, information and key resources for companies seeking to take advantage of the market opportunities in this era of digital transformation.

Why re-launch a site dedicated to PR and marketing for emerging tech companies?  Because HKA firmly believes that a radically new epoch in technology is upon us that will rival anything that came before it.  And we see a need to fulfill the PR and marketing needs for startups providing the advanced technologies that support this new paradigm, as well as the companies large and small delivering unprecedented new services to both consumers and businesses.

But there’s more to the EmergingTechPR site than meets the eye.

The site was originally conceived and launched by HKA wayyyy back in 1999. At the time, HKA was conducting its usual exemplary work for a variety of emerging tech clients, and technology had become the bulk of its business.  To help address the needs of those companies while also marketing the agency’s capabilities, HKA came up with the idea of a separate microsite to offer highly focused information and resources.

The site included static content with topic pages such as EmTechPR 101, PR Lingo and Dynamic Duo (a page on how to best work with your agency).  The site also featured regularly updated sections including a PR Tip of the Week, Top 10 Tips and EmTech Buzz with links to relevant news.

But the real innovation was a section called AdvisorSpeak where expert articles were regularly published and archived by HKA CEO Hilary Kaye and a team of emerging tech company advisors, including venture capital firms, patent attorneys, bankers, management consultants, accountants and more.

Regularly refreshing website content was easier said than done 20 years ago.  WordPress and similar programs that can now easily upload content and manage websites were years away from being invented, much less perfected.  It took considerable resources of time, effort and money to make it happen.  To her credit, Hilary had the vision and determination to make it happen.

How revolutionary was AdvisorSpeak?  As far as we can determine, it was quite possibly one of the first commercial blog sites in the world, if not the first.  If you look at the history of blogging, there were only 23 blogs on the internet in 1999, when the term ‘blog’ was first coined.  They were almost all personal blogs – no businesses that we could find were regularly posting their own articles on their own site.

Hilary maintained the EmTechPR site for several years until her business went in new directions.  However, she always held onto the site in case some day it would make sense to revive.  That day has arrived.

We provide this background on EmTechPR to give you a sense of HKA’s deep roots in the technology industry, and how we share the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of our clients.  Also because, however inadvertently, we too were once an emerging technology company.