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7 WAYS A STARTUP CAN SCORE WITH ANY MEDIA OPPORTUNITY

Posted by wendyama

Aug 6, 2013

This post originally appeared in a slightly different version on
Fast-Company-logo
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A recent article in the New York Times reminds us that we are living in a culture of coaching. There are coaches to clean out your closet, build your personal brand, firm your abs, get your child that dream internship…anything you could ever imagine.

Yet, when it comes to doing interviews, many people tend to feel they can wing it without the benefit of of a mentor or coach. Because it approximates the format of a conversation, it’s easy to view a media interview as a simple conversation. Don’t.

A journalist will have a particular objective in interviewing you, and it is most likely not what you had in mind. The journalist or blogger has a story to write. You, on the other hand, are there to promote yourself, your company or your brand. I don’t care how good a speaker you are or how knowledgeable you are about your business, you have to your best foot forward. Subtle business promotion is a learned skill that takes practice to make perfect. In our experience, people often talk too long in interviews. Being succinct, as any writer knows, is also a learned skill.

How do you ensure that your startup company's messages don't get lost during an interview? How can you avoid being railroaded or blindsided?

Here are 7 tips on how a startup -- or any B2B company for that matter -- can turn a media interview into a true opportunity for you:

1. Ask for information ahead of time. Many reporters, particularly those working for trade publications, will provide them in advance if you ask. If you can’t get the questions, do clarify the focus and purpose. Don’t go into an interview uninformed.

2. Determine what your core message is. What do you want to get across in the interview? How do you want to portray your company? You want to address both questions in an interview. Carve out some time in the beginning of an interview to explain your company’s vision. You can also add key points to any answer by doing what’s known as “bridging.” That’s an industry term referring to seamlessly transitioning to your key message with “bridging words.”
Here are a couple of examples of bridging: “And what’s key here,” "Let me put this in perspective," "What this all means is," "Before we continue, let me underscore."

3. Come prepared with a sound bite or two. Do you think the phrases that draw the most applause in a presidential debate are off the cuff? The better they are, the more likely they have been carefully prepared and rehearsed to perfection. So too in an interview. Work on a catchphrase that makes what you have to say more memorable.

4. Prepare backwards. What headline would you like the article to say? That can help you martial your points and organize your thoughts around a compelling, relevant message.

5. Practice, then practice some more. Do several mock interviews before the real one so you can demonstrate firm control of your subject matter and sound at ease, not rehearsed. Ironically, once you feel confident you can make the material your own and come across as polished and informed, not rehearsed.

6. Don’t be afraid to to not know the answerYou don’t have to know everything and you certainly don’t want to give false information. It is always better to be safe and say "I'm not sure, let me check and get back to you," rather than sorry.

7. Avoid using "no comment". It may look cool on TV but all a phrase like that does is send a signal to a media person that you might have something to hide. This is an example of why you need to be prepared for a media opportunity. If you had done your prep work, you would have an answer in your pocket for any sensitive questions they throw your way.

In our experience, you can never be prepared enough. That's why we're running a special Media Training Workshop. For details and to register, go to PRos media training.

Stand Up, Stand Out: 7 Ways To Make Your Startup Get Noticed

Posted by wendyama

Jul 17, 2013

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This post originally appeared in a slightly different version onFast-Company-logo.

A press release no longer cuts it. Here's what to do to cut through the noise.

Once upon a time, a startup could issue a press release and get the word out.

If it were only that easy today . . .

Just like everyone else, a startup is confronted with a never-ending information stream from Twitter to YouTube to Yelp to Facebook and on and on. It becomes a challenge to rise above the noise, not to mention controlling the message across all media channels. Add the need to cost-effectively manage its communications, and you have a perfect recipe for startup agita.

So what’s a startup to do? Here are 7 ways a startup can raise its profile without breaking the bank:

Take an unorthodox approach. Remember Dollar Shave Club’s breakthrough video that caused the company to get 12,000 orders in the first 48 hours?

Why was it so effective? “The video is irreverent and funny, the CEO likeable and also the chief evangelist sales officer--and is everything an officer could be,” says Maha Ibrahim, general partner, Canaan Partners, a global venture capital firm.

Obviously, most new enterprises won't benefit from the initial bonanza of a Dollar Shave Club. However, anyone can exercise creativity and a little boldness in marketing.

Accentuate the difference. One example is Kabam, a late-stage gaming company that issued a press release detailing its financial performance. Normally private companies shy away from opening the kimono. But by doing so, Kabam sharpened the difference between itself and some of its better-known, yet poorly performing competitors, like Zynga, according to Ibrahim, whose company is an investor in Kabam. Rather than differentiating by focusing on an obscure feature no one cares about, draw attention to a feature, benefit or expertise that matters to customers.

Founders need to evangelize what they do. Often lacking the budget to employ a full-time marketing or PR person, founders need to assume the marketing mantle. Marketing and PR must be incorporated into a startup’s culture so they are “talking up the company to everyone they meet and ingesting ideas,” advises David Beisel, partner at early-stage investors NextView Ventures. Cross a politician's zeal and charisma with a business person's product knowledge, and you get some idea of what's required.

Avoid stealth mode. Avoid stealth mode. Startups can’t afford to be in stealth mode where everything is kept hush-hush. Doing that deprives them of valuable feedback, ideas and support when they need it most.

Time and control the message. Wait to throw a launch party until you’ve launched your product. Who will care, especially if three months later the first product launched is a dud? “You need to be sure you have a viable product and a few customers before you launch,” counsels Ibrahim.

Determine who your customer is and how to get the customer’s attention. “There is not one company that doesn’t struggle from the get-go to identify who the customer is and its message, and how to get the customer’s attention,” says Ibrahim, whose firm helps its clients better define their messages. A unique challenge is having both to explain what they are today and their future vision. “Specific to startups is a trade-off between what you’re doing today and what you’re doing six months, a year even, 10 years from now, what your grand vision will be. You need to pack all of that into a story,” says Beisel.

Excite people with a compelling picture of your company that has a story's plot elements--a beginning, middle and end with a challenge or conflict thrown in.

Don’t bash the competition. Startups need to have a compelling enough story to stand on their own without roughing up the competition.

Ultimately, these efforts more than pay for themselves. They become a way to raise your profile among customers, prospects, investors and the media. Done right, startups will be better positioned for success for both now--and in the future.

[Image: Flickr user Lee Stacey]

7 Steps to Help B2B Marketers Get Up to Speed on Social Media

Posted by wendyama

Jun 9, 2013

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This post originally appeared in a slightly different version onFast-Company-logo.

Who cares if 25,000 people follow you on Twitter if you’re not engaging with any of them?

Amazingly, many B2B marketers still don’t get social media.



A recent CMO Survey reported that while B2B social media spending increased 9.6% last year, the majority of B2B companies failed to integrate social media into their business practices.

“The biggest challenge is that many companies view social media as a cute promotional activity rather than a strategic marketing activity,” says Christine Moorman, director of The CMO Survey and T. Austin Finch senior professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

According to Brian Kardon, CMO, Lattice Engines, "We’re in the 'silo' stage, where most social is generally segregated from the rest of the organization.”

A big problem is that most B2B companies don’t understand that this rapid-fire media requires a combined technology and business approach. Rather than strategizing how to engage with their followers, many companies leave the heavy lifting to “some kid out of college who tweets but has no knowledge of business processes," says Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at Kinvey.

B2B companies pay a price for the lack of integration. A 2011 global survey of senior B2B and B2C managers found a significantly high correlation between financial performance and social media integration, says Steven Van Belleghem, author of The Conversation Company, and former managing director of InSites Consulting, which fielded the survey.

So where does that leave marketers? Here are 7 steps to take to help you increase your social media effectiveness:

1. Understand why social matters. “Social media is becoming a real competitive advantage for the companies that do it well; the gap is widening between the companies that have been organizing around social media and those that have not,” says Kardon.
2. Create goals. What do you want to achieve from your social media? Do you want to track sales, monitor customer complaints, grow brand equity? Do you want to push or pull?
3. Get top management buy-in. “You need a champion to get people from across the organization to pay attention and act,” says Moorman.
4. Give social media a home. In our experience and that of many experts, it belongs in marketing so it can be integrated with other marketing channels.
5. Structure your social media team. The need to prioritize what to do and get it done quickly has disrupted the traditional setup of the marketing organization,” says Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO, Mindjet, which has developed “scrum teams” comprised of design, media buying, development and all the other resources necessary to executive a strategic campaign. Regardless of the approach, however, there has to be a built-in workflow system linking social to customer service, sales, operations and other business processes.
6. Train employees. Don’t just assume they get and feel comfortable using this media form.
7. Get accountable. Establish an accountability system that demonstrates social media's impact on your objectives.

Social media is not an indulgence. Companies that fail to take these steps will find themselves outflanked by their competitors.

How Can You Improve Your Social Media Results? Take a second to complete this form to reserve your  *free* social media consultation.  [contact-form-7 id="1460" title="Social Media Services Form_copy"] 

 


How PR Can Help B2B Start Ups

Posted by wendyama

May 22, 2013

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This post originally appeared in a slightly different version on Fast-Company-logo



PR Done Right Makes a Difference, From the Start

Recently, I attended NY Tech Day where 400 hungry startups sought to garner some love, along with media and VC attention, at their respective booths.

The zealous self-promotion raises an interesting issue: How do you make your business stand out in a sea of entrepreneurial energy? How do you get people to care about your company?

Consider these facts:

- A survey of CEOs found startup companies that engage in PR are 30 percent more successful in securing early funding than those that don’t.

- Well-known VC firms are diving into the publicity game, with firms like Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz, and Sequoia hiring in-house PR talent.

One simple reason startups and their financial backers are entering the PR arena? Publicity done right works. Over the years, my B2B PR firm has launched many startups. We’ve found PR can truly make the difference in attracting new customers, increasing revenues–and catching the ultimate brass ring–funding.

Don’t for a second, however, think PR for newcomers is a slam dunk. No one cares about the latest whiz-bang product or service released by an unknown company unless it does something amazing. And most new products or services won’t knock your socks off. This is where public relations shines. A good PR person can properly position your product or service–or yourself–so people care. Great PR–and yes, there is such a thing–transforms a product or service into something meaningful.

Consider the term “Certified Pre-Owned Car.” I’m old enough to remember when the term didn’t exist. You simply bought a used car. It didn’t give you a lot of bragging rights. The geniuses who created the terminology “Certified Pre-Owned Car” turned the negative connotation into a positive. Suddenly, a used car had to meet certain standards and criteria. Better yet, it often came with a warranty. Of course, all those goodies were folded into a car’s price. But at least you received something solid for your money. You didn’t worry that the car was a clunker, and you could take pride in your “like new” car.

Let’s look at another example–this from a startup called lettrs (a client of my agency, incidentally). The company recently launched an iPhone app it positions as a “post office in your hand” that lets you write and send digital and postal letters directly from your phone, turning the iPhone into a mobile writing desk. The positioning and analogy turned what could have been just another app into something immediately understandable and compelling. Most of the press coverage highlighted the digital-post office positioning, as this Mashable piece illustrates.

So before you start hawking your new venture, develop your messaging and positioning. This will help you stand out and help make your product memorable and engaging. After all, you can be just another has-been company, or you can Think Different.

 


Surprising B2B PR Survey Results + Infographic

Posted by wendyama

Apr 11, 2013

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The results are in for our survey of B2B PR practices. The key takeaway: Social media is taking a big bite out of traditional PR methods.

The informal survey, which was conducted online in March 2013, showed that social media is far and away the favored news distribution tactic with the press release lagging far behind.

  • 94% of those surveyed said they use social media to promote announcements vs. 71% who report using press releases.  Seventy five percent said they post a release on a company website while 68% send a release directly to reporters.



  • 45% said they would use social media if they could use just one promotional vehicle vs. 24% who said they would issue a press release.



  • 49 % report using an online distribution service  like PR Web, while 40% report using  one of the traditional services like PR Newswire, Business Wire or Marketwire



  • 45% said LinkedIn was the most helpful social media tactic; 35% favored Twitter, 13% Facebook and 2% Google+.


While the respondents are not necessarily representative of the PR practice universe, they are typical of a rising generation of social media-savvy PR practitioners and open a door into the future direction of B2B public relations: It is more and more becoming a socially-driven world. This can have large implications for B2B company PR practices. Going direct to customers and prospects via social media can be one of the most effective ways to get the word out.  The survey also has potential implications for traditional PR distribution services with lower cost distribution services overtaking the traditional channels.

However, don't assume you should completely abandon established PR practices.  What the survey reinforces is that news announcements can be amplified through multiple free channels including social media, free PR distribution sites, company websites and reaching out directly to reporters. It also suggests that the days of simply sending a press release over a wire service are over. In our experience, a traditional wire service such as PR Newswire, Business Wire or Marketwire, can amplify a message particularly if you are a publicly traded company and need to get in front of analysts and investors. The online distribution service PR Web provides its own version of this via its financial service package. However, if you are not a publicly-traded company you may do just fine using free press release distribution services along with social media, your website and your own media outreach. We urge you to test it yourself.

What have you found to be most effective in terms of promoting your company? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. But first, check out our infographic with the survey results!

Click HERE to make larger

My Infographic_79

2013 B2B PR Practices Survey - An infographic by the team at MarxCommunications

 

The Key to B2B PR Success: Just Ask!

Posted by wendyama

Feb 12, 2013



 

You can never tell when you might learn something new.

Dining recently at Mt. Snow, Vermont's summit lodge after a fun morning of skiing, I was given a lesson in persuasion from an audacious 8-year-old named Sara. I overheard Sara and her older sister Lisa devising a way to convince their ski instructor to let them go on their favorite ski trail. Her idea was simple yet brilliant: Eagerly ask the instructor if he would take them. Guess what? It worked. After approaching the instructor, he went back and asked who’d like to try their trail of choice. Can you guess who screamed the loudest that she did? Sara confidently looked at her sister and said, “I told you. All you have to do is ask."

The art of the ask is a topic on which folks have written countless books and “how to” articles. One of those basic truths, it easily gets lost or confused in our tendency (as adults) to overthink. Even PR professionals, the supposed “communication experts”, can easily get things mixed up and actually forget “the ask."

PR, no matter the type, has many facets because it caters to multiple masters. The client is obviously the top dog, the last person a PR pro has to please. With that being said, you’re not a “Yes man," doing whatever the client wants, but you offer discerning advice. Just like any professional consultant, you suggest the right tactics to meet a client's goals.

Don’t think of that as a given. When making recommendations, you have to ask for your client’s agreement. If you don’t, there’s no give-and-take dynamic. And in doing so, you need to employ tact by understanding your client’s style and the best way to make the ask. Do you try to have it come out as client’s idea? Should you do it aggressively or in a more casual manner? It all depends on the personality of your client. Ultimately though, part of your success depends on how well you master the ask.

Where PR gets sticky is when you have a bunch of other folks to ask--including reporters, event coordinators, journalists, employees, associations and probably others as well. You want all of them to be on your side so together you can achieve the client’s goals. In this instance you should also be aware of the style and wants/needs of those you work with.

Last but not least, remember to ask for what you need to run your PR campaign. It could make the difference between a shining success or dismal failure.

Have you asked for something to make your campaign more effective? Please share your story!

 

Man Vs. Machine: The Brave New World of B2B Content Marketing

Posted by wendyama

Jan 21, 2013

There’s something ironic happening in the world of B2B PR. Sometimes it seems that just about everyone is hopping on the bandwagon of creating engaging, individualistic content. Other times, it’s as if there were tons of folks lining up to hand their content generation over to mass automation technology.

Here’s the latest point in favor of the techies, pulled from a post by Scott Redick in Forbes predicting the rise of automation:

“News writing will increasing become the domain of automated software programs…PR firms will hire technical experts to manipulate code on content farms, search algorithms and copywriting bots.”

The end result: public relations professionals will function as “truth engineers,” to use Redick’s terminology, spinning the truth to suit their client’s wishes.

Some cynics may believe that’s what PR professionals do now, albeit with words, instead of code. Yet there’s a major discrepancy between putting your best foot forward - something most B2B PR professionals strive for - and explicit deceit. This form of complete distortion has no place in any PR pro’s toolkit.

In the meantime, let’s return to technology and content.

Content can definitely be machine-manipulated to dupe search engines. In addition, content automation companies like Automated Insights excel at writing data-driven stories, though they reportedly have people touch up the work when necessary. Considering the caliber of some human-written (so old fashioned!) press releases, I’d imagine a machine could produce better work than some of those lengthy, terminology-intense mounds of jibberish.

With that being said, there’s much more to content marketing than simply writing articles. Content, in order to be distinguished among the deafening roar, should have a bit of idiosyncrasy--a smattering of whimsy or artistry. As Joe Pulizzi says,

“Epic content is all about stories that inform or entertain, that compel people to action and truly makes a difference in people’s lives. It positions the company as a trusted leader. It makes the buying process easier.”

Beyond riveting content, B2B content marketing must be structured around a strategy. If it isn’t, it’s simply copy, not marketing with goals and deliverables.

It’s great when technology serves our goals and makes processes more convenient or better. However, the “marketing” in content marketing--and in many cases the “content” aspect too-- depends on the qualitative judgments of real people. A machine might be spectacular at processing data but it can’t make the subtle distinctions (not to mention witty rhetoric) that we can.

A classic Winston cigarette ad had a grammatically incorrect word, using "like" instead of "as." It went: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” A logic-driven machine would make the sentence grammatically correct and by doing this, lose the rhythm of the phrase.

By the way, I wrote this post on my own -- entirely without the aid of a computer, a machine, or a droid from Star Wars.

I’d love to hear how you are using technology to enhance your content marketing. Please tell us about it in the comments!

3 Crucial Steps For Content Marketing Success

Posted by wendyama

Dec 6, 2012



Everyone in marketing tries to do it. What most folks don’t realize, is that very few do it well.

What are we referring to? Content marketing, of course. Otherwise known as branded content, brand journalism, or business story-telling, among other monikers.

It’s apparent a phrase is popular when it spawns its own lexicon. Or when mega brands like Coca-Cola embrace it. The soft drink empire recently revamped its website in homage to content marketing.

You can tell “content marketing” has entered the list of marketing terms when you find any number of conferences devoted to the topic. Take the example of the all-day content-marketing event given by the Content Marketing Institute in cooperation with Target Marketing and Publishing Executive. The event, titled Content Marketing World NYC, brought in a plethora of content marketers (and those seeking to become content marketers). It was also chaired by two content marketing industry elites: Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose. The two co-authored one of the foremost books on the topic, along with other accomplishments.

You may be wondering to yourself, “OK, so what’s so great about content marketing?”

Advertising, it seems, has lost much of its effectiveness. We live in a world where the average person is bombarded by some 3,000 brand impressions a day. According to research firm Altimeter Group, advertising needs to function together with other media, including company–created content and user-generated content. Content marketing in its most fundamental definition, is content a brand owns or publishes without any media buys, according to Altimeter.

That of course is the baseline. In order to be truly effective, content marketing, as Pulizzi and Rose stressed at the Content Marketing World event, must tell a story that allows people to engage with a brand. Moreover, it can’t be a one-time wonder but should be a long-term commitment, or as Rose phrased it, “Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.”

In fact, a marathon is the perfect analogy. Besides being a time-consuming process,  it also requires some heavy lifting. It’s no surprise that a survey by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs discovered that only roughly a third of over 1,400 B2B marketers surveyed said they believed their content marketing campaigns effective.

Here are 3 key elements from Robert Rose to increase the effectiveness of your content marketing:

 

    • Tell a story. A story is a natural way to grab people’s attention. It draws you in and captures your emotions as well as your mind. What’s more interesting – a list of facts or a story that weaves the same elements into an engaging narrative?


 

B2B Marketing Sales Leads Launches!

Posted by wendyama

Oct 2, 2012


Noted Demand Generation Expert Jeff Ogden and Award-Winning PR Veteran Wendy Marx Launch B2B Marketing Sales Leads


Trumbull, CT, October 2, 2012 – Jeff Ogden, noted demand generation expert, and award-winning B2B PR maven Wendy Marx have teamed up to create B2B Marketing Sales Leads, a unique 90- day consultancy guaranteed to drive marketing ROI through an integrated demand generation program.



B2B Marketing Sales Leads is a two-part program. The first part focuses on driving traffic to a landing page through a hub-and-spoke approach using multichannel content created by B2B content marketing experts. The second part of the program is a sales qualification process. Leads are nurtured through an email campaign and scored for readiness to buy. You receive warm, qualified leads for conversion.

With B2B Marketing Sales Leads, you can:

  • Confidently Generate Qualified Leads: The custom-designed hub-and-spoke model ensures you get leads within 90 days. If you are not happy with the program, you can get a full refund within 30 days.

  • Easily Qualify Leads: The lead nurturing program lets you focus on the most profitable leads.

  • Intelligently Fulfill Leads: You receive a hierarchy of warm, qualified leads for faster conversion.


About B2B Marketing Sales Leads

Ogden, creator of Find New Customers, was named one of the 50 most influential people in lead management in 2011 by The Sales Lead Management Association. In addition, Ogden’s blog, Fearless Competitor. was named the #1 B2B Blog of 2012 by BuyerZone. Marx, founder of Marx Communications, an award-winning PR and marketing communications agency, is an expert blogger on B2B PR and marketing best practices forFast Company and was named to the Nifty Fifty Top Women of Twitter in 2011.

To learn more, please visit http://b2bmarketingsalesleads.com/

B2B Marketing Sales Leads is a guaranteed step-by-step approach that ties marketing to sales leads. Structured around a single-issue call to action, it guarantees generation of sales leads within 30 days. It can transform your business into a lead machine through a coordinated campaign that combines social media, press releases, email marketing, websites, pay-per-click ads, blog posts and other contributed content.

B2B Marketing Sales Leads is integrated with all major marketing automation programs such as Marketo, Eloqua, and Act-On Software. It can also be integrated with Salesforce.com for companies that are not currently using marketing automation.

“I’m tired of boring websites, crappy content, and mind-numbing ‘me, me, me’ product information, and I bet you are too,” said Ogden. “Unfortunately, prospective buyers are bored too, which is why salespeople lack enough qualified leads to make quota. B2B Marketing Sales Leads helps small- to mid-sized businesses implement and deploy world-class lead generation programs.”

“Doing random acts of marketing – a bunch of strung-together marketing tactics without a plan or focus – is a recipe for disaster,” said Marx. “It wastes money and time, and it fails to generate the sales opportunities your people really need. Our Hub and Spoke approach is highly focused, helping you identify that one key pain to address, that one market segment to target, and that one call to action that delivers an effective solution.”

Contact B2B Marketing Sales Leads by visitinghttp://www.b2bmarketingsalesleads.com or send an email to info at b2bmarketingsalesleads.com.

About Find New Customers

Find New Customers was founded by Jeff Ogden in 2009 to address the growing needs of salespeople to change the ways they attract, engage and win new customers. Since then, it has helped companies such as Keyedin, Protegrity and others to develop and implement world-class demand generation programs. Find New Customers has also done professional content development for Marketo, Genius.com, Aplicor and Silverpop. Ogden is the creator and host of Marketing Made Simple TV. To learn more, visithttp://findnewcustomers.com and sign up there for free weekly marketing tips.

About Marx Communications

Marx Communications is made up of B2B PR specialists that help companies craft the right message, cutting through the multichannel clutter so it can be heard clearly by a receptive audience. Founder Wendy Marx, winner of two regional Gold Mercury awards from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), helps companies and executives grow their thought leadership as they grow their sales. Over her career, she has helped numerous B2B startups to become well-known industry brands, including marketing gurus Peppers & Rogers Group and TheStreet.com’s equity research shop. Her firm’s clients are regularly interviewed by CNBC, Barron’sThe New York Times, The Wall Street JournalBloomberg BusinessWeek and other major media worldwide.  To learn more, visithttp://www.marxcommunications.com 


Changes in the B2B PR Landscape and How to Adapt

Posted by wendyama

Sep 19, 2012



The balance of power in B2B PR has changed. The media, though still influential, no longer controls everything. Since the B2B public relations field is constantly changing and adapting, we will be posting on B2B PR best practices and the transforming face of the industry.

The initial post on this topic is an interview with Brian Kardon, CMO of Lattice Engines. Kardon joined this company in June following an extremely successful 4-year stint at Eloqua. During this time, he was instrumental in helping grow the company from $20 million to $70 million in annual revenue. Before working at Eloqua, Brian was the Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Forrester Research. He performed the same, phenomenal feat there: he helped to more than triple their revenue in 5 years.

WENDY MARX: What's your primary goal in regards to public relations?
BRIAN KARDON: Each market contains a unique ecosystem of influencers. The PR programs I’ve managed sort the influencers into separate tiers. We design a communication program for each tier that is specific to that group–-frequency of communication, method (face-to-face, email, video conference, etc.), and messages. Contrary to popular belief, all influencers are not made equal. Therefore, one must treat them differently. The elite tier might receive a monthly call from the CEO or myself, along with regular, face-to-face meeting. The next tier might get quarterly, videochat briefings and a monthly email.

It’s absolutely crucial to continue engaging with influencers, whether you need help at the moment or not. I’ve watched a multitude of PR pros pitch ideas to folks who they hadn’t “warmed up” for a period of time beforehand.

In the past, influencers were a quite concentrated group. Nowadays, just about anyone can become an influencer. All they need is a well-read industry blog, newsletter, conference, or consultancy. In the tech field, the utter dominance of Forrester, IDC, and Gartner has been worn down by new powerhouses like Altimeter and Constellation.

Do you view B2B public relations as a lead generation tool?
I never use PR to generate leads, at least not intentionally. I utilize public relations to grow awareness, alter perceptions, and build the top of the funnel. I come from an extremely metrics-driven background--at Forrester, Eloqua, and now Lattice Engines. We measure PR in numerous of ways, but rarely from a lead generation perspective.

Can you mention a few methods you use for PR measurement?
Are there any ways we DON’T measure PR? I review web traffic, amount of inbound links, ratio of new to repeat visitors, branded searches, followers, fans, tweets, retweets, comments on posts, likes... and more. In my experience, the most important aspect is being consistent with what you measure. Using identical metrics over an extended period of time in a consistent way, you gain insight into patterns and trends that indicate what works and what doesn’t.

You should be using measurement to learn, not to point fingers. I’ve honestly learned more from mistakes than from success. The entire PR team must embrace the idea of continuous learning.

In addition, it’s vital to return to overall PR goals. This will vary with each company and campaign. Sometimes the goal might be to raise awareness, other times it could be changing perceptions in a certain way. It's important to be able to link measurements to the goal at hand.

In your mind, what is the largest change and opportunity today in B2B public relations?
It’s tough to think of another profession that has changed this much in the last decade! A brand is what Google says it is. Press releases are fashioned for organic search purposes. PR is a real-time business. Newsjacking is commonly used as a method of boosting attention. News cycles are often measured in minutes and hours -- not days. There’s a completely new technology-based backbone to PR--to communicate, monitor, measure and find opportunities. Posts in blogs effectively function as “link bait” for those linked to the posts. B2B PR pros must all be “in the know” and technically astute in order to survive.

Many of these changes have positive implications. There has never been a better opportunity to interact with influencers than now. You don’t have to get someone to a meeting or on the phone to engage. A tweet, leaving a comment on a blog, a DM, posting or sharing photos and videos are now all ways to start conversations. It’s definitely a two-way street. The most successful folks in PR know how to assist the media and influencers in making a connection or composing a story. They give key, timely info to the proper person in order to build lasting, long-term relationships.

How do you combine your PR efforts with marketing and/or social media?
Collaboration amongst the entire marketing team is crucial to success.
I advise against viewing the agency as a vendor. Instead, they are very much a team member and should be treated as such.

Campaigns need to be spread throughout as many channels as possible. A bright idea can be successful via social, email and live channels. Also, don’t forget about that infographic, video and interview. Connect with influencers using exclusives in ways that personalize the campaign for their specific audience. Tear down the walls separating the compartments of your marketing organization.

What have you learned at Eloqua that you can apply to Lattice Engines?
I learned several truly important lessons:

  • Our agencies were partners at Eloqua. Especially Jess3 (data visualization) and Shift (PR). They helped us conceptualize ideas and construct the marketing framework for them. You have to coax the best work out of your partners. Encourage them. Try something new. Take some chances. Back up your agencies even when complications arise. Really get to know them as people.

  • Go out of your way for your influencers. Make sure you give them credit. Compliment them. Never make negative comments about your company or products. Always be honest and willing to assist.

  • You should have a steller team that can work in real-time and eat digital media for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s not easy to find such a team. Once you have one, do whatever you can to help them grow and learn.

  • Always be open to trying something new. The field is constantly shifting -- you don’t want to miss out on any new opportunities. Were you an early adopter of Pinterest? Are you utilizing social sign-on for registration? Is your LinkedIn and Facebook presence optimized?


Can you give an example of effectively feeding an influencer?
There is no better way to develop a relationship than to actually work with an influencer. At Eloqua, our VP of Content Marketing, Joe Chernov, found 20 key influencers for our Social Media ProBook. We asked each for contributions. In return, we gave each contributor his/her own personalized avatar illustration that the contributor could use as a profile picture. This was an amazing, collaborative learning experience, plus it was tons of fun. The contributors not only gave us some exciting content, but also were quite generous by tweeting and blogging about the project. This coverage was worth almost as much as the content they contributed!

This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on www.FastCompany.com