By Fred Feiner
In more-than 25 years as a professional communicator, I have held a variety of responsibilities from newspaper reporter to B2B public relations, such as non-profit organizations targeting the banking and engineering industries, to B2C communications, mostly for hospitals before managed care came on the scene to turn the healthcare marketing world upside down.
I worked in New Jersey and New York hospitals for about a decade and generating positive publicity was usually about finding a good human-interest story. I could walk the patient floors, talk to some of the nurses to find a good story and a willing family and presto we had some positive news to share with the media. The devil was always in the details, of course, but the job was much easier than the banking and engineering stories I was trying to tell just a few years earlier and many of the B2B stories I tell for clients today.
I have been fortunate to see the communications world from a variety of perspectives so I always ask myself why should the public care? Why should a journalist be interested in the story we are trying to persuade them to tell? If we don’t have a good answer, success is doubtful. Whether you are a B2C or B2B, Here are a few strategies to consider.
1. Real People Make the World Go Round
Sometimes we B2B public relations people have to dig a little deeper and get creative to find our real people angle, but it is important that we do. Journalists receive hundreds of media pitches every day and whether or not they accept a story often is decided by how real people affected and how many people as well.
Obviously, it can be easier for B2C organizations to uncover their real people angle, but if it was always easy to generate great media coverage we would be out of a job. Every organization has a story to tell and it’s our responsibility to find the best stories through client and industry research as well as brainstorming ideas. Some stories will be home runs, some will be singles, but the publicity hound in me wants them all.
Not every B2B story will have a strong human angle, but we will be more successful with media outreach if we can find ways to incorporate real people, such as a customer or end user. Learn from successful B2C companies like Starbucks, which recognizes with this type of story that there’s more to life that a mocha latte.
2. Where is Your Audience?
Positive public relations coverage will not generate the impact we want to see if it doesn’t reach the client’s target audience. We need to focus our energies on the key constituencies that will help clients achieve their business objectives. Companies in the financial services industry are probably going to be more interested in exposure in The Wall Street Journal than Instagram, but social media can play a huge role in reaching the target audience. One study suggests an astounding number of B2B leads are being found on LinkedIn.
Similarly, mainstream consumer media such as USA Today or The Huffington Post are not typically a good fit for B2B messages from the perspective of either the client or journalist. Where are the decision makers getting their news? What media outlets are they willing to pay for in an age when so much news can be found on the web for free? The answer may indeed be their favorite trade publication. Scoring a quote for the CEO in a top-tier publication may delight some, but the impact will be lost if the message doesn’t reach the right audience.
3. Utilize Your Influencers
Social media influencer campaigns or celebrity endorsements may produce solid results when you are promoting sunglasses or Cheerios, but B2B organizations probably need to take a different approach. Influencer engagement can be effective for B2B public relations, but the process is a bit different.
When it was time for a new GPS device to track my running, it was pretty easy for a certain company to sell me an Apple Watch. I now own about 12 different electronic devices with a certain piece of fruit displayed, but I’m not influenced by branding in any way. B2B purchasers are a little tougher sell than me though, in fact, the ultimate purchase decision rarely falls to one individual, which is pretty common in the B2C market.
The challenge is for the B2B organization to influence those multiple purchasing decision makers by utilizing the communication vehicles at their disposal. Become a thought leader in your industry through media interviews on marketplace trends, publish expert bylined articles in trade publications, solicit speaking engagements at important professional events and maybe even write a blog. Participating on key social media channels and earning industry awards, which can then be publicized and promoted on social, can also help.
4. Be an Educator
The B2B purchasing decision is getting longer, creating a growing window to influence the target audience. Nearly one-third of B2B purchasers say their decision window is growing significantly. B2B communicators need to create educational content through earned media designed to influence prospects early in the decision-making window. Seize the opportunity to build awareness and trust by educating on the issues important to your industry, product and customer early and often.
Whether you are B2C company or a B2B organization, a strategic public relations program can help you influence customers and win in the marketplace. If your communications program seems to be lacking vigor, take a look outside your industry and marketplace. Maybe trying something new is exactly what the doctor ordered.