(To ensure you have the latest information, the post was updated on 2/8/19.)
Public relations has been transformed in the last 15 years, and PR for B2B is no exception. With the emergence of new technology and tactics, how can you ensure that you're using the top best practices for B2B public relations? Let's take a look at what you need to know to succeed in today's public relations.
As we span the PR landscape, what are the best practices that will ensure success? Let’s look at 10 definitive best practices that are guaranteed to help, including:
- Goal Setting
- Content Optimization
- Social Media Amplification
- Influencer Marketing
- Measure and Readjust
B2B PR vs. B2B Marketing: What's the Difference?
Although these two fields often cross paths, they each have different goals. While public relations is used to boost your reputation, but doesn't usually have a direct impact on sales the way that marketing does. Those who do PR for B2B have the following goals:
- Brand mentions
- Site traffic
- New customers
B2B marketing, on the other hand, crafts campaigns with the goal of impacting a brand's bottom line. While B2B marketing campaigns sometimes inadvertently create buzz around a company, their main goal is to boost a brand's profits.
This doesn't mean that these two strategies are exclusive. Many times PR professionals can tap into marketing tactics to help them reach their goal and vice versa. For instance such marketing tactics as influencer marketing, personalization, and social media marketing are all great strategies to boost your PR game.
Now that we have a clear PR for B2B definition and understand how it differs from B2B marketing, let's hone in on the best practices in B2B public relations that will ensure your brand hits the mark.
The 10 Best Practices in B2B Public Relations
1. Set Clear, Attainable Goals
Setting goals is nothing new, but nonetheless, it’s essential to success -- whether we’re talking about 10 years ago or today. How will you know if you’ve succeeded unless you have clear objectives from the start? They help you to map your progress, see what needs to change, and keep you on track.
What goals would you like to reach with your public relations? These could include:
- Boost Brand Awareness
- Generate and Nurture Leads
- Establish Thought Leadership
- Secure Key Media Placements
- Establish a Solid Reputation
The goals you choose will determine your tactics going forward. For example, if your goal is to build awareness, determine what people you want to reach and the best way to do so. This could be anything from media relations, to content marketing, to social media, to awards, to speaking engagements, to webinars...you get the idea.
The key is to understand what tactics will be most effective. You can know that only by analyzing your prospects. Ignore that, and you will be unfocused and ineffective. Take the same strategic approach with all of your goals.
2. Segment Your Audience
When you think of your audience, what do you picture? Many of us are inclined to think of our audience as one group, perhaps with common goals and pain points. But in most cases that is far from accurate. Our audience represents many different backgrounds and perspectives. Segmenting your audience is the best way to reach and motivate these different groups.
What's the benefit to segmenting your audience? You can tailor your content to each specific audience segment. When your audience receives content that speaks to its exact needs, prospects will be more likely to respond positively.
How do you segment your audience? Think of what makes one group different from another. For instance...
- What are the group's basic demographics? (age, sex, location, etc.)
- What level are people in their company? (C-level, employee, etc.)
- What is their job title? (executive, financial, sales, etc.)
- What are their concerns? (price points, results, etc.)
These details will help you personalize your approach, whether it's in your website's content or your PR campaign. Such personalization can put you ahead of your competitors and make the difference with your audience.
3. Educate Your Audience
Part of effective PR comes down to education. B2B buyers have strayed from the traditional buyer’s journey. In fact, 94% of B2B buyers do their own research before making a purchase decision. The takeaway? For successful public relations, make your website the go-to destination for information in your industry.
Your goal should be to craft blog posts and other content that will answer every possible question your readers could have. Consult with your sales people to discover what questions they receive in their daily communications with prospective buyers, and leverage those questions in your content. This kind of content will establish your credibility and reliability within your industry. When your audience is ready to make a purchase decision, you'll more likely be top of mind.
Create content in a variety of formats. That way, whether your readers are visual, hands-on, or deep readers, you won't lose their interest. Your content formats could include:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Case studies
Having a variety of content can also help you reach prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Whether they’re browsing for information, or seriously looking to do business, they know they can rely on you.
4. Optimize All of Your Content
You might have the best and most educational content, but if it’s not optimized for search engines, you’re missing out on a big chunk of potential readers. With a basic knowledge of SEO, and a little effort, your content can show up in organic search results. This will lead more people to your content, and increase your brand awareness.
While short-tail keywords may be easier to write about, there is much more competition to rank for these keywords. Instead, strive for long-tail keywords -- perhaps a specific question that people often ask -- that has less competition, and will place you higher in Google search engine results.
5. Spread Your Message on Social
Public relations has changed tremendously thanks to social media -- so much so that it has become an integral part of public relations best practices. Nowadays, you can connect and chat with reporters, pitch them and alert them to your news all from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
One of the main goals of PR is visibility, and social media is a helpful tool to get you there. You can attract more leads to your website by distributing your content on your social networks. Especially on Twitter, labelling your content with hashtags can help more people to search for and find your content.
6. Bring In Influencers
Influencer marketing has has become an effective B2B tactic in recent years -- and for good reason.
More and more people are distrustful of brands in general, and are more likely to follow advice from a trusted source. Influencers have gained the trust of their followers. Leverage that trust by working with influencers who believe in your product.
Begin by cultivating influencer relations in the same way you would with media outlets. Once you've done your research and found influencers that fit your brand, follow them. Spend time observing their social behavior. What do they like? What do they share? What kinds of comments do they leave? All of this helps you to know the influencers well before pitching to them.
Next it's time to come out of observation mode and start taking steps toward a relationship. This means commenting on influencers' posts, sharing content that will interest them (and which is not self-serving). After sufficient time has passed and they know who you are, you can work on your pitch.
Use the information you gathered during observation to craft a pitch that will interest them. Whatever collaboration you'd like to have with influencers, ensure it falls under their interests and and that of their audience -- not just your brand.
7. Promote Yourself as a Speaker
Don't sit around waiting for that phone to ring. Chances are, it won't (in the beginning, at least). Many times, you will have to make your own PR opportunities. And this includes speaking engagements.
Speaking engagements are one of the top PR best practices we recommend. For starters, it's a great way to engage people with your brand and prove your industry expertise in front of a captive audience.
How can you convince people that you'd be a good speaker? Start small. Once you've had a few speaking engagements at low key events, use that to showcase your ability. Video your speaking at an event to demonstrate how engaging you can be. If the press mentions your speech, point to that coverage in support of your speaking prowess.
8. Implement Storytelling
While some believe that press releases have ceremoniously met their finish, we argue that press releases just need to be adapted for the modern, journalistic world. In fact, today's media relations best practices make this a necessity.
The majority of news outlets have scaled back their resources. This leaves journalists between a rock and a hard place. Even with dwindling resources and staff, they are still expected to produce the same level of quality, plus excel at modern technology such as social media.
How does this change your media relations best practices? Instead of simply writing a press release and leaving it to the journalist to run with it, you need to do some of the leg work. You need to craft a press release that tells a story. Basically, you want a journalist to be able take your press release straight from their inbox to print -- as many often do anyways.
In short, your press release should...
- Be brief.
- Tell a gripping story.
- Be ready to go without much editing.
- Include visuals.
- Be optimized for the search engines
9. Promote Your Press Coverage
Have you gotten media coverage recently? The worst thing you can do is to let it fizzle out. Instead, breathe new life into it by using it strategically to draw attention back to your brand and build credibility.
Sprinkle that press coverage throughout your website. Create a section right on your front page, with a heading like, "Check Out Who's Been Talking About Us." You could even create a blog post that directs attention to the article, with a catchy summary and a link right to the press.
Consider doing this in other off-website ways, such as in the signature line of your email correspondence, or in your regular newsletter.
However you choose to do so, ensure that your press attention doesn't die before its time.
10. Measure Your Results
This is where it comes full circle. Do you remember the goals we talked about at the outset? This is where we see them in action.Once you've created your campaigns, it's time to see how well they resonate with your audience. From the start, set up an analytics program to keep track of how well it's performing.
As you monitor your campaign, take the opportunity to tweak and adjust it as necessary to reach more people and boost your results.
Public relations is a large investment of time and energy. Make that investment count by adapting your approach when needed. Now that you know what are the best practices in B2B public relations, go out and embrace these changes.
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