An Introduction to B2B PR
In this episode of the Copestone podcast, Mike and Rudi introduce us to the subject of B2B PR – its form, its significance, and ways of implementing it effectively. First, they talk about PR more widely before moving specifically into B2B PR – its importance, its strategy and the implications of crisis PR.
What is PR?
Public relations, or media relations – not to be confused with public affairs – is about engaging with the media to communicate your company’s message. These relations can appear in many forms, such as print or broadcast media, or digital types of media (online and offline).
Furthermore, we can break down the types of media into three broad categories, which are:
• Paid – advertising or editorial that is bought with paid advertising.
• Owned – media that you own such as a website or magazine.
• Earned – when you convince a media property to cover your story.
When we talk about PR, we are generally referring to the ways in which we can earn media coverage for our client. Earned media is the most valuable form of media because it is an independent review and is therefore less susceptible to bias. However, the caveat to that benefit, is that the review is not always positive. Indeed, a company cannot have any control over earned media, it can only have influence. Thus, influence determines what is deemed good or bad PR.
Identifying your message
Before we can communicate our message, we need to know our target audience. It is important for us to know who the target audience is for two reasons. First, because it helps with planning – understanding the target audience allows us to divide our strategy into more manageable chunks.
Second, the target audience will prefer to consume the message in different ways. As a result, we will structure the message differently depending on how the audience is consuming it. For instance, our message in a podcast is different to our message in a press release.
Relationships and barriers
When the target audience is more specific, as is often the case in B2B PR, the first step for us is to create a media list. A media list is a database of key media contacts who would be interested in stories about your business or area of expertise. Initially, this would be comprised of trade magazines. Then, we would build it with professional trade organisations or related business membership, before finally adding a list of freelancers who operate specifically in that target sector. Freelancers are an integral target for media lists, because their relationships with journalists mean that they have significant influence within that circle.
Further to media lists, we also need to understand what business model the targeted media use. For instance, commercial organisations are trying to drive a specific type of consumer to their websites in order to generate business for their advertisers. Since the turn of the century, the use of analytics on digital and online platforms has become a much more significant measure of successful journalism too – hence we need to adapt our content to help those analytics travel in the right direction.
Once we have identified our target media, we need to develop our relationships with them so that we become the ‘go-to source’ of high-quality stories. In practice, this means not wasting a journalist or editor’s time. If we are more efficient in our relationships with our target media, it will make their life easier, and this will help us become that ‘go-to source’.
The best way of making our relationship more efficient then, is to remove any barriers that might be in the way. First, this means making sure our stories are interesting and are worth their time. Next, we need to make the headline engaging, and have a good summary of the story within the first few lines – if you cannot capture their attention within the first paragraph, the chances are that they will not read the rest of the copy. An effective method of doing this is by using a ‘pull quote’, which grabs the reader’s attention and keeps them engaged.
Some more basic guidelines which help remove barriers are listed below:
• Do not use PDF documents because the reader cannot reformat a PDF efficiently.
• Make sure you put the date on the article.
• Ensure that your PR company details are on the document.
• Ensure the client’s details are on the document.
• Include the client’s website links.
• Include any out of hours details if necessary.
• Attach a forward feature list because so that both you and the editor can plan ahead.
Crisis PR is when you support a client when something goes wrong. The definition of what we mean by crisis is broad, though, as it can mean anything from a minor problem to a full-blown catastrophe. When these problems occur, it is important to have a sustained messaging campaign to explain where things have gone wrong and how you plan to address them. Therefore, the most crucial feature of crisis PR is the dissemination of the truth.
Many businesses neglect crisis PR, though, because of either the cost or the fear of exacerbating a pre-existing problem. But while the client may not think crisis PR is important, we should ask them to carry it out regardless because it is the most critical form of PR – it can mean the difference between survival and extinction. Even if it is as simple as media-training a spokesperson, it is essential that there are measures in place in case of crisis.
The final word
Public relations are hugely powerful. Yes, PR can damage your brand, but it can also have a much more positive impact. We cannot control PR, but good practice can influence it.
Having an agency to support you is good insurance and is a positive way to get a positive message out there for customers, clients and stakeholders.
Contact us to see how we can help you with your PR needs.