Post-Brexit: The new rules of tech PR, marketing and communications in 2021

Caitlin Napier

While COVID-19 forces a third national lockdown, all UK public services continue to function but are pursuing digital strategies with greater purpose. “Rather than COVID-19 holding back progress, it has put a rocket booster under the digital ambitions of UK Government,” says research firm, TechMarketView.

The Government is making new money available to support those ambitions too. In November 2020’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR 2020), the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, announced ongoing funding for digital programmes and deployments in the NHS. It was widely reported the NHS will receive £559 million to modernise technology across the health and care system.

CSR 2020 also confirmed an increase to the schools’ budget of £7.1 billion by 2022–23, compared to 2019–20 funding levels. Not forgetting that in announcing the third national lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also promised to “distribute more devices to support remote education.”

CSR 2020 further promised the UK defence market a tech funding boost, with key areas of investment being Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cyber defence. The review set out at least £1.5 billion extra — and £5.8 billion in total — spending on military R&D which Johnson said would be “designed to master the new technologies of warfare”. There will also be a new R&D centre set up with a dedicated focus on AI.

Future of the tech industry

As the Brexit transition period came to an end on 31st December, and a Brexit deal was agreed, some might have questioned the future of the tech industry in the UK. But, interestingly, this week the Lithuanian startup, Ondato, became the first tech business to move to the UK following Brexit believing that the UK will be a more convenient hub to expand globally.

The UK public sector tech market is booming. Govtech strategist Jessica Figueras says: “Next year will be the time to work on innovative ideas, and also a chance for suppliers to help the public sector to shape the future.”

But, winning contracts in the UK public sector has never been easy. For one thing, the market has been dominated by big IT suppliers for many years. Although, that is changing; according to government contracts and spend analysts, Tussell, the UK edtech market is now increasingly unconsolidated and half of contracts are won by SMEs.

To win business, it takes an understanding of the complex market; you need to understand the overall structure, the individual organisations and the constant change! Only last month, NHS England announced its support to abolish Clinical Commissioning Groups by 2022, which were only introduced eight years ago.

PR: A winning component!

The most successful tech firms have managed to get a grip on contract start and end dates; ‘sussed out’ the competition; identified and joined buying frameworks; made partnerships that are helping them to find a way in, and understand who their target buyers are.

Of course, a key component of winning public sector contracts is PR, marketing and communications. This is something that no public sector tech firm is functioning without. After all, nobody in procurement is going to take a punt with tax payers’ money on an unknown, untrusted scaleup, startup or tech SME. ‘De-risking the risky’ is a necessity if you want to get in on the action.

If you are new to UK public sector, or perhaps moving from selling to commercial markets to the public sector, or perhaps shifting from NHS sales to defence, the rules of PR, marketing and communications are the same:

1. Generate awareness of the business, products and services, first and foremost. Being a known name is the minimum you can do to get ahead.

2. Join the conversations which are happening online, in the media and social media, sharing views and thoughts, and proving that you understand the challenges public sector buyers face.

3. And, demonstrate how your solutions are making a difference through clever storytelling backed up by authentic references from customers and partners.

To learn more about PR, comms and marketing for public sector tech companies, download the full guide from Mantis. 

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