IN many B2B organisations, PR is ignored or seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ that is only really needed in times of crisis, writes Jake O’Neill. In reality, the best B2B organisations give resource to strategic communications.
Using the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service, we asked our PR community to share their views on B2B PR, and how organisations could connect it to their company objectives.
Louise Findlay-Wilson, founder and managing director of Energy PR, believes that practitioners need to start by thinking strategically. She said: ‘Focus on the business’ objectives and ask yourself: “What is the business trying to achieve?”, “Who does PR need to reach to make that happen?” and “What’s the current mindset of the audience?”. This will help you to hone your strategy and ensure it delivers in the areas that matter to you.’
Whether you are approaching your PR from the brand or agency side, these questions are useful as the foundation of your strategy. And in turn, they can feed into your activities and campaigns. For Kate Mallinson, founder and MD at Scriba PR, all campaigns should be results driven: ‘Whether clients want to increase their market share, launch a new product or service, attract or retain staff, or position themselves for sale, it’s important to structure the communications strategy accordingly. It all begins with your objectives – tell us what they are, and we’ll deliver a holistic strategy which is measurable.’
As for the measures you’re using, they will vary business to business, but in each case they should align with the rest of the organisation. Jade Emmons, PR manager at Degreed said: ‘Everything you do needs to be aligned with the company goals to really prove its value. Although metrics like reach and sentiment have a time and a place, we put a lot more emphasis on the quality of coverage placed, the messages we’re getting out into our target markets, and our results versus competitors.’
This makes proving the value of your PR much easier because you’re talking in the same meaningful language as the rest of the organisation, especially the board or C-suite.
These measures can also be used to reinform your strategy, particularly where you’re looking at the success and failures of your tactics and how they delivered against what the business needed.
Only once your strategy is in place should there be a discussion about the tactics that will help you achieve your goals. This is another challenge for B2B PR practitioners, particularly those at agencies who may have been hired by clients that haven’t developed their PR strategy but have a strong sense of what they think PR can, or should, deliver.
These demands often focus on coverage and for those without a clear strategy, coverage in inappropriate publications. While coverage will always be valuable in PR, it is not the only deliverable and blasting press releases to as many contacts as possible to achieve it is a poor approach, no matter what type of PR you work in.
Sarah Carpin, head of PR for Spike, explained how much further your comms can go: ‘B2B PR also covers things like non-competing brand collaborations and charity partnerships; providing client support at trade shows and conferences; hosting customer networking events; submitting award entries and supplying relevant content for LinkedIn, blogs and email newsletters.
‘There are also data driven initiatives that can form important B2B campaigns, such as market research surveys, audience profiling and a raft of other exercises that have a much broader impact for a client. A good agency gets to understand how a client’s business functions, inside and out, and helps identify strengths and weaknesses as well as providing PR, SEO and general marketing support as a natural extension of our clients’ in-house team.’
While PR is often tied to earned media, there is a whole scope of activities that unleashes the creative side of practitioners and allows them to deliver results across the business. Again, each B2B organisation will have different aims and objectives and it is the job of PR to ensure its strategy ties in as many of those, across different functions, as possible.
The role of B2B PR may not always be understood and can be undervalued by some businesses, but with the right strategy delivering the right results for the whole organisation, it starts to speak for itself. The right strategy also unlocks consistent results, which is something no business can ignore.
Jake O’Neill is the head of marketing at Vuelio, the monitoring, insight, engagement and evaluation platform for politics, editorial and social media, and ResponseSource, the network that connects media and influencers to the resources they need, fast. These brands are part of the Access Intelligence Group, which also includes the audience intelligence platform Pulsar. O’Neill has a background in journalism, content marketing and events, writing about the communications industry for a majority of his career.
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