Robotics PR and media relations programs, used extensively by commercial, industrial and consumer robotics technology companies, present opportunities and challenges the marketers and communications professionals who execute them.
First, consider the growth of the industry itself. The International Federation of Robots reports that a record of 2.7 million industrial robots were operating in factories around the world in 2020, a 12 percent increase from the previous year.
Beyond industrial robots, there are robots used for a wide variety of services, including retail, real estate, hospitality and home health care. This means there are plenty of opportunities to promote what a company that utilizes robots is doing, even while trade shows like Automate and Promat, among others, are still virtual in 2021. Expect that to change with CES near the beginning of 2022. But until then, the crucial promotional opportunities from physical trade shows are still somewhat lost, as while virtual trade shows offer some benefits, they do not afford us the same opportunity to meet the customer, partners and journalists face-to-face.
But regardless of a trade show being virtual or in-person, the same basics around robotics PR and media relations abound:
Focus on the Benefits, not the Features
it’s easy to get caught up in the technical specs of a robot, but only those that read engineering or technical publications and websites pay great attention to that. Similarly, while such information may light up an engineer’s eyes, the eventual purchaser of the robot wants to know what it can do for their company. How have workplace injuries been reduced since robots have replaced heavy lifting, repetitive motion? How many more packages can it move through a facility per hour, day, etc., without adding human workers? How many more units is the factory producing without adding human workers? Note that discussing reduction in the number of human workers and labor cost savings can be a sensitive topic commonly associated with eliminating jobs, as discussed below.
For this reason, the PR focus should be on the end benefits, not on the technical specs, which can be included in a separate spec sheet for those who are interested. When possible, the benefits should include actual use cases, even if just described briefly due to non-disclosure agreements. If a particular user can’t be cited by name, identify it as closely as possible (i.e., a large U.S. logistics company). By focusing on the advantages, your PR efforts will stand apart from competitors that tend to highlight the bells and whistles.
Beware the Hype
Robots are complex, and therefore, changes from one year to the next in the robots themselves tend to be minimal. At times, what is promoted as “new,” is instead making its first appearance in a geographical market or at a certain trade show, but is not truly the first of its kind. Veteran reporters in the industry will know this.
That does not mean there aren’t new ways robots are being used. This is where to focus robotics PR and media relations efforts. For instance, are the robots being used in a new industry? Is their use expanding in a particular industry? Why and how? Are there users who will discuss how the robots are impacting their business? Demonstrable business benefits will be of the most interest to a majority of publications and websites, as well as to the target audiences spanning customers (adding additional robots), channel partners and more.
You can still promote potential uses and future growth projections, but these factors should act as supporting material in any robotics PR and media relations campaign, not the primary pitch.
Remember the Human Factor
Companies use robots in many instances because they are more efficient at carrying out their assigned tasks than humans. Auto assembly plants are a prime example of this. Humans used to do the repetitive spot welding, smaller parts assembly and other tasks now performed by robots. Robots can work around the clock (though mobile robots used in warehouses and distributions do need to recharge batteries once a day), and are not subject to repetitive stress injuries that plague human workers.
But replacing humans with machines has been a touchy subject ever since the Luddites rose up against textile machinery for replacing human workers in the early 1800s. So any robotics PR efforts need to recognize the sensitivity of the topic. Any discussion of better efficiency should also discuss the human element, i.e. repetitive work tends to lead to stress injuries, and added emphasis on worker retraining (especially if offered by an employer) that can qualify a worker for a safer, higher-paying job.
Additionally, in some industries, like warehousing and logistics, companies still have human worker shortages all while automating as much as possible. Even highly automated companies like Tesla have admitted that they will not eliminate their human workforce any time in the near future. So robotics PR efforts should make every effort to highlight human work opportunities even in the midst of automation.
Robotics PR and Media Relations Needs?
By following the robotics PR practices above, your company and/or clients will benefit from organic transactional media coverage, or press that creates interest and ultimately revenue. To learn more, please contact [email protected]