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5 Tactics to Maximize ROI of your B2B Public Relations

Posted by wendyama

Aug 13, 2012

Here’s a pop quiz --

Which B2B marketing technique allows you to become better known, enhances credibility, thought leadership and finally boosts sales?

If your answer was “public relations,"  give yourself a pat on the back!

For a long time now, PR has been sometimes viewed as a revenue-earning step-child since it’s tough to categorize. Of course one can always total press clippings, but how does that ultimately drive sales? It’s tough because there doesn’t seem to be a direct correspondence. How about the person who saw an article praising your product/service, and several months later decided to use it? Or what about all the folks with no recollection how they heard about you but somehow know about your product or service?

Okay then, should we just give up trying to tie public relations to sales?


Well, not if you’d like to get extra work from your PR campaign by also using it as a lead generation device.

Consider your press release to be an invitation for a potential client to take an action that brings this person closer to buying. For instance, you can include a call to action in your release that brings the prospect to your landing page. From there, the prospect is able to download “free” content after giving you some contact information. Congratulations, you’ve now started a dialog! Now without further ado, here are....

5 approaches to PR you can use in your B2B marketing efforts to bring in sales:


 


1. Refuse to Use Generic Press Releases

Although Press releases are a fundamental part of public relations, you still need more than just any old press release – you need a specific strategy.

Your release should complement your marketing efforts. It would be completely ineffective to write a generic press release intended only for distribution. You need to think: What am I trying to achieve with this release? What action do I want the reader to take after he/she sees the release?

2. Take Advantage of Multimedia

Get the most B2B marketing value possible in regards to click-throughs and lead generation. Colorful, engaging (and maybe even interactive) multimedia content like slide shows and videos enhance the effectiveness of your call to action. You can experiment to find out which type of dynamic content would best reach your target market.

3. Provide Readers With Extra Content

Don’t view the release as a one-time shot. Utilize it along with additional content for your target market. Ensure your release leads to other pages, blog posts, articles, videos, or anything else you can think of. All of the above can similarly link to your press release. As an added benefit, this will also help your company get ranked higher in the search engines.

The purpose for this sophisticated “web of content” is to connect with your potential clients and bring them into your sales funnel. The sales process has become a quite complicated and multi-layered process, and as Reevoo Insight has discovered, customers can come in at a variety of touch points and change from one channel to the a different one before the final conversion.

4. Get Social

If you have yet to incorporate social media into your B2B marketing strategy – time to get started! Social media is becoming increasingly omnipresent. It can be used together with pretty much all of your initial marketing strategies, press releases included.

Make it a piece of cake for anyone to share your release by including some social sharing buttons. Finally, remember to include a short synopsis of your release so it can be easily spread by fans without much effort.

5. Shoot for Specifics

Don’t sit back and relax after one press release.  Continue to test your releases and change them depending on your target market and the response you receive. Certain calls to action might produce different effects on a given segment of your audience. This also applies to content. For instance, you might decide to emphasize one point in a release geared to executives and a different one when targeting agencies.

Throw everything together and you have a public relations program that will significantly boost the ROI of your B2B marketing campaign.

Now how are you increasing the value of your press releases? Have you been using any of the above techniques already? Are there other ones you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts!








































How to Avoid 5 Common Mistakes in B2B Content Marketing

Posted by wendyama

Jul 5, 2012


Here are 5 other mistakes B2B content marketers often make. Read on if you want some pointers on how to avoid these bloopers!





1. Curating content in areas you don't care about. 




If you're in marketing, why curate content in music or some other unrelated field? You're certainly not establishing your expertise.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the most outlandish Tweeter or the most prolific blogger: an important way to grow your thought leadership can be through adding your perspective to someone else's content. Readers will appreciate having an expert comment on other articles, helping them determine the value of popular ideas. Businesspeople will appreciate your thoughtfulness and expertise. They will remember that they learned from you and that you didn’t waste their time.

2. Forgetting to use backlinks.

Content marketing is all about engagement. What makes the web so perfect for that is that you can -- and should -- include links to related content in your posts. That way you'll be able to alert relevant content marketers about your content. They in turn will start linking to your posts and before you know it you will have a conversation going within your content.

3. Link Back to Your Own Site

This part is crucial. Not only do you have to attract your potential clients with a message, but you also need to give them a medium they can use to respond. Your best content should call potential clients to action, but you also have to provide a way for them to act! Link back to your site, which will provide readers with more content as well as ways to respond (also be sure to have accessible contact information, query forms, etc.). Remember that social media is a cycle:  you broadcast your original content to a larger audience with the aim of inspiring them to return to the source – your website!

4. Forgetting to promote your content.

Don't think your job ends with writing and incorporating the right keywords in your site. You want to promote your content in social media and all your marketing materials. Include a catchy headline and link to it in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or whatever your social media channel of choices are. Include a link to your blog in your email signature, on your business card and in your marketing collateral.
Time and clarity are of the essence in the realm of social media. Focus on the key benefit in your content, and cite that with a link that will take readers to a more elaborate release and a call to action. Make sure you are targeting the right audience for your message, and even tailor several different releases for different outlets. You want to appear competent and informative to as many different groups as possible, so tailor your message to match their needs.

5. Neglecting to build a social network.

Whether its through blog subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook friend, or LinkedIn Connections, cultivating a community is almost as important as cultivating your message in B2B Public Relations. And even on the web, the principles of maintaining relationships stay the same – it takes time to make meaningful connections. In addition to updating your own content frequently, be sure to respond to commenters, read and respond to what those in your network are up to, and send messages to them when appropriate. They will remember that you cared and demonstrated interest in their objectives, which sometimes is more important than being the top expert in your field or the most visible on social media.

 And here's a bonus idea!

6. Stay Open to New Ideas
Don’t fear tech updates or new social media platforms. Nothing stays the same forever! Just look at how radio and television have been affected by the digital age. Stay fresh, and keep thinking of how new developments can help promote your message.

Learn Deloitte's B2B Marketing Secrets

Posted by wendyama

Apr 30, 2012

 B2B Marketing Secrets Revealed

Why PR Professionals should never "go off the record"

Posted by wendyama

Mar 29, 2012



 

In today's digital age, the tendency to fess up is akin to getting a second helping of desert. No one plans on it, but everyone does it. Therefore, it comes as a surprise that an old fashioned term like "off the record" still means something.

Take an example from the last presidential election. Samantha Power, one of Obama's advisors, referred to Hillary Clinton as a “monster” while being interviewed by a Scottish reporter.  She had supposedly gone off the record but only after she had disparaged Clinton. Unfortunately for her, Power forgot the most important aspect of the "off the record" rule: first, establish some ground rules. With that being said, many of the U.S. journalism establishments were outraged at the incident. They felt that a journalist must abide by an “off the record” request, even if it were given later. "Off the record," refers to the traditional practice in journalism where select information can't be printed or attributed to the interviewee. It's occasionally confused with talking on background (providing info which can be printed without a requirement for attribution).

Although a good amount of journalists accept these three little words, PR professionals are largely put off by the phrase. This is due to the fact that many of us have been burned by it. PR coordinator Timothy Vassilakos puts it nicely: “Off the record exists until you get burned once."

As many PR pros have noticed (take a look at the interesting conversation on LinkedIn about this topic), there's an implicit debate between the journalists and the PR professionals. Journalists, or at least the driven, stop-at-nothing-to-get-the-story ones, see themselves as truth seekers. They go to great lengths to unearth the "real story", not the superficial, glossy one. In comparison, PR folks are most interested in looks, branding, and building relationships. In other words, they want to put their client in the most favorable light without lying. Think of it like this: Journalists want to yank the toupee off, so to speak; the PR person wants to stick it back on.

Yet bear in mind that there are always complications and fuzzy, grey areas. From our experience in the B2B PR field, off the record generally works if you have a good relationship with the reporter and can really trust him or her. Ultimately though, you are always taking a risk that your "off the record" statements may end up in print.

Ed Shapson, PR professional, asserts that, "It's a mighty big gamble. You don’t want to see some statement printed in tomorrow’s newspaper or aired on the evening news? Then don’t make it!" Well put, Ed.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “why do it?” In addition to the human tendency to want to spill the beans, it can also function as a method of building relationships with reporters. However, as Cosmin Patlagenurisks remarks in the conversation on LinkedIn, there are much better ways to develop relationships: "Keep your word, deliver on time, say you can't when you can't, be there when you're needed."

Here are a few questions to think about as you consider going off the record:

  • What’s might occur if the reporter fails to honor your off-the-record request and prints it instead? What could the consequences be?

  • What (if anything) are you gaining by going off the record?

  • Did you purposefully set the ground rules? In other words, did you define “off the record” and what that entails? I say this because a reporter from The New York Times recently proposed a different definition of off the record than the commonly accepted one.


You may see what I’m trying get at here. Unless you have an excellent reason for going “off the record” -- and you’re absolutely positive you can trust the journalist – it may be wiser to keep your lips sealed. Remaining silent is the safest approach to guarantee that your private thoughts won't be discovered by the general public.

Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

3 B2B Public Relations Mistakes and How to Salvage Them

Posted by wendyama

Feb 29, 2012

3 B2B Public Relations Mistakes and How to Salvage Them

Public relations, sometimes to its disadvantage, is mistaken for advertising. Although the two share certain similarities – they are in many respects completely different. Public relations, at least in regards to B2B, is centered around credibility, education, and thought leadership. Admittedly, it’s still about self-promotion, but accomplished in a way that boosts credibility.

How Do You Adapt PR For a Mobile World?

Posted by wendyama

Jan 25, 2012

Old habits die hard. This is what sprung to mind while I was recently talking to David Meerman Scott, PR guru, author, and consultant who more than anyone has helped PR evolve in the 21st century.

While everyone’s business has had to change in this 24/7 always-on, mobile world, we as PR practioners (and here I am as guilty as anyone!) often release news according to our schedule and timing, not that of the media. Like gladhanding politicians, we knock on journalists’ virtual door fronts with our campaign literature (that is news releases) in hand, asking the media to endorse us by writing our story--not their story.

Scott asks a basic but also profound question: What if you reverse the equation? What if instead of reaching out to journalists on your schedule, you get them to find you? Fortunately, digital devices, including mobile, have made it easy for reporters to find sources. And that source might as well be you. One of the best ways to do that is to mash up mobile with social media to concoct a timely, enticing brew that will be quaffed by journalists. Or as Scott calls it, you can “newsjack," commenting on a breaking story in a way that journalists will find you.

“It’s really a matter of understanding that we live in a 24-hour real-time world,” says Scott. “Reporters can be working at home, on the road, on their iPhone when they are at a baseball game. You can reach them any time. You need to create content optimized for their devices so that reporters will find that when they are writing a story.”

Here are 5 ways Scott recommends doing just that:

  1. Write for mobile. Index your site for the mobile search engines so people can find your content on their mobile devices. Make your content visible on the small screen.

  2. Monitor keywords and phrases on Twitter so you are on top of the news and trends in your industry.

  3. Spot regulatory changes in your industry so you can comment in real time on Twitter about those changes.

  4. Create content and comment in real time via a blog, media alert and/or Twitter when news is breaking so media will find you .

  5. Construct today’s version of the that old standby, the press kit--a mobile app with a feed of content  optimized in an application for reporters that includes press releases, blog posts, video, and Twitter feeds. Here is a link to David’s app.


Since no good list is complete without a “NOT to DO," piece of advice, here is one caveat:

Don't use all the new technology as an invitation to spam reporters on their mobile phone or Twitter feed. Don’t send that uninvited text message. It will likely backfire.

We, as PR practitioners, need to be as nimble and quick as a reporter or blogger on deadline and be anywhere they are likely to find you--on mobile, on social media, on a blog, on video. All you need to do is seize the opportunity. How are you adapting PR for a mobile world?

 

6 Ways Twitter Can Help Your B2B Company Even With Google+

Posted by wendyama

Jul 19, 2011

We often hear about the restaurant owner tweeting his/her specials to hungry customers or HP hawking its latest deals, but what the heck does that have to do with the B2B space?

Both a lot and a little.

While we most likely won't have a special offer to promote in 140 characters or less, Twitter has much more to offer for B2B companies.

PS: I am well aware of the latest buzz about how Google+ might be a Twitter killer but (at least for now) I don't recommend abandoning Twitter. Actually, you can even incorporate your Twitter feeds into Google+.

6 methods B2B companies can use to make the most of Twitter:

A Digital Hearing Aid. Twitter gives one the invaluable ability to listen to what people are saying about your industry/brand/company as well as the competition. Utilizing tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck, it's a piece of cake to create targeted lists of people to follow or keywords to monitor. In this way, you can build your own virtual focus group to get a better understanding of the needs of your potential or existing customers, and keep an eye on what's going on with your competitors.  Choosing not to do this means ignoring a critical market intelligence tool.

Thought Leadership. The key word here is "focus." Select several topics related to your business and habitually tweet about them. For instance, I talk about B2B PR and try my best to tweet on it 50% of the time. A combination of tweets on that subject, mixed with some broader content, sprinkled with a bit of strategic retweeting strikes a nice balance. While you want to be focused, you also don't want to tire out your followers by beating a one note drum.

Brownie & IQ points. Retweeting lets you showcase what others are say about you. It's completely a win-win situation. While you're helping someone else and winning his/her support, you're simultaneously furthering your own thought leadership. Think of it as your Neitzsche moment. Think about it...if you quote an thought leader, a bit of their insight and reputation reflects on you. Retweet a wiseman, (or woman!) and you too by association will be seen as wise.

Prospect/Partner Dance. Twitter offers you the opportunity to dance with (or at least reach out to) almost anyone -- from President Obama to a new prospect you'd like to connect with. With roughly 200 million people tweeting, there's a decent chance that a potential client you have been looking at could be tweeting away behind the back of you head. At the very least, you can get a sense of a prospect and/or partner's interests. You can begin by  just observing. After that, you can make a comment or retweet something. This will help begin a dialogue with them. The key word is "dialogue." Avoid being a bullhorn  and blasting away like too many other companies on Twitter. Instead, interact and engage. Keep in mind that just because you haven't gotten any new business right away doesn't mean you fail. Obviously, it will take more than a couple tweets to spark someone's interest in what you do. However, you can start interacting with people who ordinarily wouldn't be accessible, such as the CEO of a large firm. It can be as simple as retweeting them. Or commenting on something he/she has said. Eventually, you'll want to take it offline and make an old-fashioned phone call...but Twitter can help make that happen a lot sooner.

Media outreach. I love the terminology Sarah Skerik, of PR Newswire used when referring to Twitter. Sarah's term: the new Rolodex. Twitter gives you another method to engage media analysts, and as Sarah says, "get inside their heads in a way you never could before." Once again, you should listen before doing anything. You'll get an inside look into the content they view as important.  This will give you a better understanding of what they like when you eventually decide to engage them.

Search engine and web visibility. Want to drive more traffic to your website or article? (I think everyone does these days!) The search engines reward links from folks on Twitter who have "authority." This means having people post links to your content -- people who regularly post about your topic and have a plethora followers.

So, what are you waiting for?! Get out there and start tweeting. And feel free to say hi to me @wendymarx. I look forward to hearing from you on Twitter and perhaps elsewhere.

 

Public Relations: The True Story

Posted by wendyama

Jun 16, 2011

 

What's the deal with The Economist and public relations?

This year the magazine has written several tirades against public relations professionals. In its latest outbreak, they haughtily refers to PR people as "flacks," slime-slingers," members of the "dark side" and "urban foxes" along with other terms of endearment.



Wow. What happened to objectivity and remaining open-minded?

According to The Economist, the issue is that there are simply too much "brazen flacks," (who it mistakenly identifies as men, when there are actually a predominance of women in the profession) who supposedly spend all of their time "hassling reporters to run crummy stories."

The perniciously toned article seems like the writer took in a few sardonic journalists' views on PR from nearly a century ago. It even quotes a 1928 book by Edward Bernay, an early PR pioneer, as proof of the profession's unscrupulousness.

That's a bit like finding an early medical textbook about blood-letting and claiming that defines the medical practicioners' trade. Could this be any more ridiculous?



Here's a suggestion for the piece's author: how about he/she speaks to some of the women dominating the field of public relations today since this person still thinks it's a male-dominated field. To begin with, here are two excellent lists of women in PR (I'm greatly honored to be listed on both). One is compiled by the altruistic, savvy Valentine Belonwu (@bigmoneywebs) and the other by the amazing, extremely hard-working duo of Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) and Tom Pick (@tompick).

As a long-time B2B public relations professional, I can honestly say that there has never been (in my 20+ years in the field) as exciting a time to be in PR. That's largely due to the vast expansion of the public relations landscape from the Internet. Nowadays, for instance, there are almost an infinite amount of ways to get the word out. This includes everything from tweeting an article, posting it on your own blog/website, spreading it on Facebook, LinkedIn and MANY other social media hubs; talking about it on a video email, in a podcast, in a webinar, or on other people's blogs. Come to think of it, if you can't find a way to talk yourself up today, you're probably doing something very wrong.

Of course, there is always the media. However, a legitimate PR pro's job has never been, "to pitch a crummy story" as the Economist claims, but rather to turn what might have been a "crummy story" into something engaging. For instance, there's an exceptional story I read some years ago regarding scientists training elephants in Africa. It was a new training program and they were having a day where they were showing off the elephants' accomplishments. A sharp PR person transformed this into the First Ever Graduating Class of Elephant University -- taking what might have been mundane and made it memorable. To me, that's being creative. This is the duty of any PR professional worth his/her salt.

What's your take on this? I look forward to hearing from you.

The 3 Essential Ingredients For PR Success

Posted by wendyama

May 19, 2011

Are you an expert in your line of work?

I hope all of you answered "yes," since almost anyone in business can be considered an expert.

You heard me right.

If you simply know a bit more than the next person (and in some field I guarantee that you do), you are an expert. Your expertise can be anything from doing statistical analysis ... to copy writing ... to search engine optimization ... to...well, you get the idea.

And the best part is that in today's digital age, you don't have to keep your expertise a secret. The online world has made it possible for anyone to display their expertise via blogs and various social media platforms.

With that being said, expertise can only get you so far. Another ingredient that goes hand-in-hand with expertise is confidence. Yep, regular, tried and true confidence. Mix expertise with a generous dash of confidence and I guarantee your talents will shine. However, if either one is missing, you'll either be full of hot air, or overflowing with knowledge that few will be able to appreciate.

I especially like how Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything: Four Keys to Transforming How We Work and Live, defines confidence in a recent Harvard Business Review piece:

"Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance".

Don't think for a moment that confidence and expertise are outside your reach. The final ingredient is practice.

Keep in mind that you won't suddenly be fully articulate and adept at writing without a good deal of hard work. As Schwartz states in the HBR article, "Deliberate practice will almost always trump natural aptitude."

practice, practice

I was struck by this the other day when I heard an NPR interview with Rep. Gabby Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman, recovering from a major brain injury after being shot. Giffords, who is re-learning how to speak, was still able to give her nurse, who was preparing for a media interview, some advice picked up from her years before the public eye. Her two words of advice: "practice, practice."

I can't reiterate those two words enough. Although someone may seem to be a polished performer or speaker, keep in mind that years of hard work and practice are responsible for that.

Of course, one must be disciplined to practice. It's easy to give up and say you can't master a something. That you just don't have what it takes or it's too difficult to pull off. In reality though, you can go further than you think you can if you continue to learn and practice.

How have you found that practice improves your performance? I'd love to hear from you.

This post initially appeared in a slightly different form on the FastCompany blog




In the "good news" department, we are honored to have been named One Of The Top 50 Women on Twitter. Kudos to Cheryl Burgess and Tom Pick for creating this.

 



 

 

9 Pointers to Get People Reading Your Online Content

Posted by wendyama

Apr 22, 2011


  • Get em' hooked from the start

  • Use lots of bullets

  • Pictures, please

  • First words matter


Those were 4 quick ways to increase the chances of your copy getting read. 5 more tips later ... keep on reading!

Frantic Searching According to web usability guru Jakob Nielson, people aren't scrutinizing  your copy. Instead, they skim through it for keywords. The first paragraph of an article is the most likely to be read in addition tol the first few words of a sentence. In fact, the average person reads just 20% of what you write!

I hope I at least got you to read that paragraph

You also need to break up your copy with info, graphics, photos and visuals -- especially video when applicable.  If YouTube has taught us one thing, it's that video works.

The B2B world presents more of a challenge since our content doesn't  have the inherent attraction of consumer content. With that being said, it can still be snappy and engaging. B2B marketing company HubSpot is extremely proficient at this. They effortlessly combine blog posts with exciting visuals (including plenty of video) and lead generation tools, all in a nice, easy to read package.

Here are five tips to help drive positive attention to your copy while keeping your readers engaged and ... reading.

1. Avoid jargon and acronyms. No HSAA, NCA, NMA, DSP, RTB ... .However specialized the field you are working with, delete inside slang and acronyms. Never underestimate the ability of insider buzz-words and jargon to pester and turn away your target audience.

2. Avoid over-promotion. It is far better to aim to inform and engage rather than self-promote in order to gain interest.

3. Be yourself. People respect authenticity. If you use your own style of writing, you can expect much more of a response.

4. Use the proper keywords. Keywords are important words or phrases that rank highly in search engine results. Although you should insert keywords throughout your copy, make sure that they appear natural.

5. Address your customers' needs in a conversational and approachable way. Ask some of your customers if they wouldn't mind taking a look at the content you plan on posting. If they are interested in a certain idea, theme or writing style, others most likely will as well.

Remember, digital content for the B2B space shouldn't be boring and dry. By making your message relevant, useful, thought provoking, keyword friendly and simple, you'll be well on your way to gaining an audience.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on FastCompany.com
 
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Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx is the founder and president of Marx Communications, a boutique inbound marketing and public relations agency. An award-winning B2B public relations pro, she has helped many small- & medium-sized firms (SMBs) become well-known industry brands and transform their businesses, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™.

Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets. 

View all posts by Wendy Marx