Here’s a surprising fact for business-to-business companies: PR is one of the most powerful tools in the marketing tool kit. PR is an amazing way to raise awareness and even generate leads. It lends credibility to niche and small B2B players, and puts them on the radar of decision makers who may never have heard of the company or its solutions before.
But there are a few key factors to making PR work well for B2B companies. Here’s what we’ve learned over the last decade of working with small and mid-sized B2B companies:
- You need to have a real story
- The most critical success factor for making PR work in B2B is that there has to be a compelling story. It’s ok to do ‘momentum’ stories every once in a while (new staff or client additions), but PR success will come from putting interesting and useful news into the marketplace. If you’re thinking about doing a press release, ask yourself if your typical customer or prospect would find the news compelling. Is the news helpful to them? Does it forward their knowledge of trends in the industry, new innovations, solutions to problems they face, people they care about? If not, you probably don’t have a real PR opportunity. Don’t undertake PR if your company doesn’t have real, compelling stories to tell, as it won’t lead to good results.
- It takes elbow grease, not just posting ‘to the wire’
- We get pitched every week by a new wire service that promises to deliver email distribution to thousands of journalists across the globe. But such services rarely deliver strong results. The reputable wire services do deliver good back links and exposure, but they’re not going to get your story picked up by the media you want and turned into a front page story in the trade publication your audience reads.
For that, you need to roll up your sleeves and actually pitch your story to specific individuals (editors, writers) at the publications you’re targeting. Call them and send them personalized, specific emails. You don’t have to go after hundreds. In fact, it’s better if you pursue 10 – 20 high quality journalists and editors and take the time to connect with them and build a relationship with them.
Do use a wire service when your story is strong – the reputable services come at a cost ($400 - $1000 per release), but they will get you excellent exposure. You need to be your own town crier. Combine using a wire service with individual pitching and you’ll get results!
- Prepare your own media database
- To help you with #2, media databases are a great way to identify the reporters and publishers who serve your target audience. The trick is that you can’t simply buy a list and be done with it. Lists are notoriously out of date (there’s a lot of movement in the media industry). You can start by downloading a list, but from there you have to do your homework. Research each name on the list to confirm that person is still active with the publication and covers the same subject area. Read what they’ve written recently to ensure that if you pitch them, your story will be relevant for them. From here, you’re good to go direct to these editors and journalists with a unique pitch for your news.
- Be wary of clippings reports
- Your wire service will provide a clippings report that covers the number of sites on which your release appeared, how many impressions or page views it received, and how many times it was downloaded. But most of your audience won’t read the press release, and these stats are rarely meaningful. We find them to be a whole lot of noise, and not a lot of import. What you really want to know is whether your press release got turned into a story in a trade publication or professional journal that your audience reads. So don’t place much importance on the clippings reports and instead (again), do your homework to find out which publications picked up and ran your story. This is what matters!
B2B companies with technical expertise are often surprised that PR can be a useful marketing tool for them. To many, it can seem like a ‘fluffy’ endeavor. But it’s precisely because B2B companies have technical expertise and intellectual property that PR works. But PR as a marketing tool is like any other tool. You have to use it well in order to get good results.