PRNEWS recently caught up with Heather Craft, CEO, North America, Hotwire. She previously served as co-president at the tech-focused communications firm.
In this wide-ranging Q&A, we discussed the resiliency of tech communicators, the ever-increasing importance of measurement for PR professionals and the power of insights communicators can bring to the table.
PRNEWS: What industry opportunity are you most excited about?
Heather Craft: [Hotwire is] a team of incredibly smart communications practitioners and business consultants, from a variety of disciplines. When you bring all of those people to the table, you can solve really interesting challenges for the technology community. Those are challenges that are solved using communications and marketing tools, but ultimately have business impact.
The flip side of that is…while tech has always moved fast, and accelerated and decelerated quickly, I think the macro-economic environment, the pace that we're used to in tech, is the pace of the world in a lot of ways now. So for business leaders, whether they are tech leaders or otherwise…being able to manage that pace that allows you to still be agile but also proactive, allows you to link the work that you do to business results in a really meaningful way. And business impact is really important for the entire industry.
PRNEWS: What is most unique to the tech industry, from a communications standpoint?
Craft: The tech industry…is about making big, smart bets. And when you make big smart bets, sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. You've got to be able to move fast and set a pace that is right, both for your organization as a whole, but also keeps pace with the rest of the industry…that sets us up to be at the forefront of a lot of change but also [sets us up]...to quickly pivot.
So when you translate that to communications leaders and marketing leaders in tech, it's about building programs that build resilience in a lot of ways. And you build resiliency [by having] a core set of goals that stay as your North Star, but how you execute those you can flex, how you change the prioritization of those and recover from that…is the challenge that most technology communications professionals have…
PRNEWS: Are there any trends within the last few years, and specifically the last few months, that you’ve noticed accelerating?
Craft: Measurement has never been more important and more talked about. In a downturn, being able to demonstrate the performance of your program is really important, allowing comms professionals to be able to optimize and learn along the way, while also showcasing that value to the business.
AI, too, but in a couple of different ways. If you think about it from a corporate communication standpoint, there is an entire conversation to be had about, where does AI and your use of, and your point of view on AI, fit into your investor strategy, so that you're not overstating yourselves, but you also understand where you fit, as an organization, within that market.
And the other things that you see that scale on and off—reputation work in times of change. We're seeing a lot of our clients be really thoughtful about how they build crisis [strategy] in a way that isn't reactive, and isn't feeling like it's always on.
And then there's the things that are always sort of on the horizon with regards to the metaverse and experience, whether that be experience for your employees or experience for your customers.
AI is the hot topic outside of the comms world even. Measurement is something that's always been around. But when you look at the economy around you, you'd be remiss to not have a smart measurement plan.
PRNEWS: There's a lot to be said about hiring outside the traditional communications field. Are there any areas that you're specifically hot on in terms of recruitment?
Craft: Whether you're an agency or a communications marketing professional within a Fortune 500 company, there is a bit of your role that is really consultancy. It's less the technical skills; it's about being able to be a smart business consultant, a smart partner, to your stakeholders, internal or external, asking smart questions, having some of that innate curiosity. And knowing that your tool set is always going to change.
The technical skills are more digital in nature, but the consultancy, and the diversity of thought, by bringing folks into the organization that are from adjacent fields, is really the thing that allows us to be strong partners to our clients, to the industry, and where we'll see ourselves going forward. We know that there's only so much talent in that tech pool. And when you narrow that tech pool down to just communications marketing professionals, it's even smaller.
PRNEWS: Is there anything else that you think communicators should consider?
Craft: I feel like communicators, especially folks mid-career, often underestimate the strength of insight that they can bring to the table in a discussion when you're talking about a business challenge. Don't hesitate on that; bring forward research-driven ideas, insight-led innovation and creativity…Because if you can connect, make that clear connection, both qualitatively and quantitatively, everything else will get out of your way, and it'll unlock a lot of doors for you.
Erika Bradbury is editorial director for PRNEWS. Reach her at [email protected].