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 B2B PR Essentials: 10 Important Things You Should Know

Posted by Wendy Marx

B2B PR Essentials: 10 Important Things You Should Know

 

(To ensure you get the latest scoop, this post was updated 4/4/18).

B2B public relations is the integration of earned, owned, shared, and paid media that focuses on the needs of the buyer while satisfying the media. The skill of PR comes in balancing these three needs, even when they have differing interests. Shout out to Gini Dietrich for giving legs to the PESO (Paid, earned, shared and owned) model.

But let's take some time and go a little deeper for a more comprehensive B2B PR definition, how brands can use it successfully, and what duties PR professionals perform for their brands.

 

Marx Logo  What is B2B PR?

Public relations, whether it's for B2B or B2C, is all about building relationships. This involves earning the trust of your audience through content that proves expertise and credibility. This is can be accomplished in four principle ways that together form a virtuous circle, each supporting and enhancing the other. 

One way is through earned media, where your audience learns about you from a third source, such an article written in a trade publication or another media outlet. You can use your owned media (blogs, ebooks, white papers) to demonstrate your industry expertise.  And here's where the power of synergies comes into play: You can reference your earned media in your owned media. Think for example about a blog post where you might cite a recent media hit. Similarly, you can aim to link to that blog post or ebook in your earned media. Beyond that, you can pay to amplify your media to get it in front of a larger audience. And lastly, you can use shared media, which uses social networks to draw others to your brand through the profile you create and the content you share. 

The best public relations strategy is one that incorporates all of these components of PR in a self-reinforcing way in order to reach your audience. Or at minimum, earned, owned and shared media. 

Some primarily think of public relations agencies as press release shotguns, firing out multiple releases. While press releases are a part of public relations, they are  by no means the only part. For instance, public relations firms can help brands in the areas of...

  • Messaging and positioning
  • Communications strategy
  • Content creation
  • Online reputation management
  • Crisis management
  • Product launches
  • Speech writing
  • Market research
  • Personal networking
  • Thought leadership
  • Event creation and promotion
  • Social media 

 

Now that we're all on the same page as to what PR is and what PR professionals do, let's look at 10 important facets of PR that you might not know about, and why it PR is a valuable resource for any B2B brand.

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By the end of this post, you'll know: 

  • The difference between PR and advertising
  • Whether or not it's worth the investment
  • What elements are critical to a PR campaign
  • If PR results can be measured

Let's get started!

10 Things You Should Know About Public Relations for B2B

1. The Definition of PR Isn't Nuclear Physics

PR is more than simply writing and pitching press releases. It focuses on your company and its image -- not simply on products and services. It skillfully builds trust in your company, educates your audience (both buyers and media), and develops your credibility. 

When it comes to buyers, the end goal of PR is to convince key decision makers to purchase your product or service. PR does this by highlighting a need that the buyer has, and then engendering trust in you to fill that need. A qualified PR firm can transform a simple product from ignorable to necessary, all with an artfully-crafted story.

Let's take, for example, the iPhone. Did you know you needed one before it was launched in 2007? Of course not! And if you had merely seen the price, you'd likely have been turned off. The PR and marketing campaign masterfully took this product and focused on its unique value -- primarily, its innovation, customization, personalization, connectivity, and storage. All of these filled a real need for convenience and entertainment in a way that no other phone on the market could at that time. Yet, no one would have known this without a carefully planned PR and marketing strategy.

According to Harvard Business Professor David Yoffie, Apple has garnered approximately $400 million in publicity since Apple's CEO Steve Job's announced the iPhone launch in 2007.

This is not limited to mega corporations like Apple. It comes down to an approach -- identify the unique value that an organization offers, create a strategy to reach key decision makers, and highlight the benefits. The size of the business does not enter into this equation. In fact, PR professionals and campaigns can at times create more results for small businesses and startups, and can help them carve out an exciting place for their niche in the market.  

At the same time, you need to ensure that your story resonates with the media. That may mean expanding your story so it's not just about you but part of a current trend. Or it may mean focusing on the research behind your story so it has more heft.

A good PR person can mold your story into a tale with meaning for both customers and the media.

 

PR focuses on your company and its image -- not simply on products and services Tweet: PR focuses on your company and its image -- not simply on products and services @wendymarx https://hubs.ly/H0bwcJp0CLICK TO TWEET

 

2. PR and Advertising Are Not the Same Thing

It's true that PR may include some paid opps, such as native advertising or paid social or Google ads. However, PR and advertising are not interchangeable. 

Advertising always costs money. Even if you throw thousands, or even hundreds of thousands at an advertising campaign, you don't always know if it will be effective.

PR capitalizes on the trust that media holds. To illustrate, if you see a banner ad for a new digital backup service, how likely are you to click on that ad after seeing it one time? For that matter, if you see a TV commercial or magazine ad encouraging you to check out the service, how likely are you to check it out? You might do so, but chances are, it will take several times seeing that advertisement before you venture to learn more about it. And then what will you do? You'll search for reviews and testimonials legitimizing the product. 

However, what if you learned that a reputable company uses and loves this backup service? Perhaps it was mentioned briefly in an article in the Wall Street Journal. Instantly, the credibility of this product goes up as does your likelihood of purchasing it. 

That's the power of PR.

3. Awareness is Key

PR isn't just about positioning your brand and igniting conversations. A lot of it is about keeping your ear to the ground, knowing what's going on, and being able to react in a timely manner.

To stay on top of what people are saying about your brand and industry, you need to monitor several channels, including:

  • Industry blogs
  • Social media
  • Newsletters
  • Search engines
  • News feeds

You should also set up some kind of alert to notify you when your industry, brand, or big names within your company are mentioned. Google Alerts is a great free tool to keep you connected. Whatever news come up, it's best to know early. If it's a positive mention, you have the opportunity to capitalize on it. If it's negative press, you can start damage control early.

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4. PR is an Investment

PR firms often work on monthly retainers, or they may be hired for a short-term project, such as the release of a new product. Everyone wants to know: Is it worth the investment of time and money? 

Well, of course, I'm going to tell you that it is. But, here's why.

You're not in the PR business. If I needed to upgrade my security system, I wouldn't think of tackling it myself. It's not my game -- even though I know my office space inside and out, better than you do. I know my neighborhood, and I know what times of the day crime is more likely to occur. I know where all my valuables are stowed. 

But, even if I were to take the time to learn all about security systems, I have one fatal flaw -- I'm a newbie. I have very little experience in security. 

The same is true in PR. Yes, you know the ins and outs of your business. You know its ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses. However, you're a newbie to PR. And when it comes to the public image of your company, you don't want to throw caution to the wind. You want to get it right the first time.

 

When it comes to the public image of your company, you don't want to throw caution to the wind. You want to get it right the first time Tweet: When it comes to the public image of your company, you don't want to throw caution to the wind. You want to get it right the first time @wendymarx https://hubs.ly/H0bwcJp0CLICK TO TWEET

 

5. Content is a Growing Part of PR

While it may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to PR, content is a large part of public relations. Content is what allows brands to communicate their knowledge and industry expertise to their audience.

Content creation is becoming an integral part of PR -- from displaying your expertise on your own blog, to creating guest posts for trade publications. B2B PR agencies are seeing a growing need for content creation in order to support their PR strategy.

Of course, we can't mention content without mentioning optimization. If you want to create content that gets seen, you will need to learn how to optimize it for success. In order to maximize the visibility of your content -- including press releases -- then you need to learn the basics of SEO, including how to choose the right keywords to get your content in front of the right eyeballs.

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6. Use Multiple Channels

Public relations isn't all about getting a mention in The New York Times. It is about maximizing your reach, touching as large an audience as possible. If you're not utilizing all of your channels, you're missing out.

What do we mean by all of your channels? You want to reach everywhere your prospects are. Ask yourself:

  • What social networks do my prospects use?
  • What trade shows do they frequent?
  • Which trade publications do they read?
  • What influencers are most likely to touch my prospects?
  • What blogs, news media sites, and other websites do prospects frequent?
  • What groups, networks, and forums do they use? 

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can strengthen your strategy to reach more of your audience. Using a multi-channel approach ensures that you will reach the maximum amount of people

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7. Be Consistent

Now that you have your channels nailed down, take time to work on your messaging. While it can be a hoot to be on several channels and reaching a large audience, there's also a danger you'll want to be aware of.

As some brands get bigger, sometimes their messaging can get fuzzy (or just inconsistent) across multiple channels. Why is this problematic? If you're not presenting a consistent face, you risk confusing or turning away your audience.

Regularly inspect your website, social media channels, webinars, ebooks, and newsletters to ensure your brand messaging is replicated across channels. It's easy to slip up -- and then you'll look sloppy, not to mention confusing. 

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8. There are 7 Crucial Elements to Nearly Every PR Campaign

While some elements vary based on the needs of a PR campaign, there are seven that are so essential that we consider them evergreen.

1. The timing must be spot-on

Not only should the timing be perfect in regards to season and demand for your product or service, but you must also consider world events. Is a major election occuring? Did a catastrophe just occur? If so, then even if you've poured hundreds of man hours into your initiative, you'd be better off waiting until a less news-flooded time.

2. Your press release needs to kick ass

Some press releases have all the thrills of a Bob Ross painting class. Sure, it's interesting to some, but for goodness sake, can we get some life? Strong press release headlines are a good place to start when putting some life into your press release. 

Rather, your press release should include stimulating visuals, backlinks, quotes, and contact info. Make it engaging, not brain-numbing. Create a draft, then edit, edit, and edit some more. Remember, a skilled B2B PR agency will craft a striking press release for you, if you choose to outsource your PR. 

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3. Use stimulating visual aids

In eye-tracking studies, when presented with relevant images, readers spent more time on images than on text. Use that to advantage in your PR strategy. We're talking infographics, videos, as well as images.

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4. A comprehensive fact sheet fuels your campaign

Think of statistics and noteworthy tidbits that support your initiative. What makes it more credible? These should be included in a comprehensive fact sheet that is media-ready.

5. Interactivity and engagement are essential

Does your product facilitate a demo? Can you get your industry community to buy into your product release on social media? By all means, do so. 

6. Influencers are your best ally

Can you get an influencer on board with your product or service? Their endorsement can be the difference between a ho hum and stellar launch.  

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7. Include your release in your corporate newsroom

That may sound obvious, but it never fails to amaze me how many people don't do this. If you don't already have a digital corporate newsroom, get one now. Check out this post on creating a sensational newsroom. 

9. PR Can be Measured

Contrary to what some might say, PR can be measured. This wasn't always the case. If you received a byline in a top-tier media outlet, you had no idea how many eyes actually viewed it, or even if they were the right eyes. 

However, nowadays you can measure backlinks to your site, clicks on CTAs, press mentions, and site traffic. If you really want to know if the results of your PR campaign are effective, don't do anything else out of the norm during your campaign that could cloud your results. Watch your traffic grow, and know that it's as a result of your public relations.  

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10. Everyone Can Participate

Public relations isn't just about one person, it's about a brand. And a brand includes all parts of your company -- from executives to customer service support, you want to include everyone in your public relations strategy.

This is especially important now, in this digital age, where everyone publishes content. Encourage your entire team to support your brand. Many brand have successfully done this by implementing an employee advocacy program -- the more employees within your company share your content, including press mentions, the more rewards they receive. Could something similar work for your brand?

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A Few Things to Keep In Mind...

  • Effective PR effectively considers both the needs of the buyer and the needs of the media.
  • PR is an investment, and may take time to see the results -- but it pays to put it in the hands of the professionals.
  • There are several components to a great PR campaign, including timing, visual aids, influencers, and social media engagement.
  • It's important to leverage measurement tools to see how well your investment in PR is paying off.

Whether you decide to turn to a trusted B2B PR firm or go it alone, you should know the essentials of PR. And the gist of it remains simple: It's using multiple channels to support your brand and boost your credibility, while speaking to the needs of the media and your buyer. 

Have questions about this post, or want to share your two cents about PR for B2B companies? Leave your comment below and we'll talk!

 

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Jun 30, 2016
 
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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