Mention PR to anyone outside of the industry and you’ll get lots of jokes about Ab Fab and long lunches fuelled by champagne. It really couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you mention B2B PR however, the eyes glaze over and you just get a confused nod in response. This even happens to me when talking to peers from the consumer PR world, since B2B PR is often considered to be the dull and boring cousin of B2C.
I’ve worked in both B2B and B2C and from what I can tell there are actually more similarities than there are differences. Sure, you’re more likely to pull a guerrilla style stunt in consumer, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen in B2B (as long as it has purpose and measurable outcomes that is).
So what is B2B PR? How do we define it?
Why B2B PR?
We define B2B PR as consisting of three elements: brand building, demand generation and digital communication. Businesses use PR to increase audience engagement, trust, interaction, and sales using creative content. And we drive this content out to the relevant audience using all of the different channels available, whether they’re paid, earned, social or owned media (known as PESO) as described below.
B2B PR can also support broader marketing objectives, including SEO and digital engagement through social media and backlinks included in coverage.
So where do you start in building out a B2B PR programme?
Successful B2B PR is based on understanding the audience. First and foremost, you need to know who is going to buy your product and why. This is often where B2C and B2B part ways. In B2C, buyers are usually segmented in a number of ways, age, demographics, influences and so on. In B2B the audience segment often gets divided into niche categories that are not just determined by who they are (usually by job title) but what sector they work in, as both will deliver specific challenges that the buyer is seeking to overcome through the challenges.
In the past B2C was often categorised (and separated) from B2B through the characteristics of the buyers. In consumer, buyers need to have trust in the brand they’re buying from as well as a desire to purchase the product, and they value the buying experience as part of their engagement with the brand. For years B2B buying was different. A B2B buyer, it was felt, was not emotionally engaged in the brand they bought from. This no longer rings true. In fact, both types of buyers do emotionally engage with the brands they buy from but for different reasons. They both need trust (particularly for high value purchases). At Skout we often talk about the shift in B2B to B2B2C. At the end of the day a B2B buyer is still a person, buying from a company that’s populated by people. People buy from people – whether you’re in B2B or B2C. That makes relationships key.
Once we’ve identified the objectives of a programme and the audience we intend to target, we move to creative campaign creation. This is where Skout’s natural storytelling approach comes to the fore. As an agency, we were founded on the belief that most businesses sit on top of great stories but don’t understand how to package them for communication purposes. We apply our natural storytelling process to unearth these insights and refine them to meet objectives as part of the programme.
The power of storytelling shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s one of the best ways to create emotional engagement with your audience, build your credibility and trust in the brand. It’s pretty good at generating business too. For sources of great stories take a look at our ’50 natural story sources guide’.
Benefits of B2B PR
We’ve talked briefly about the ways in which B2B PR can help organisations already, but let’s take a bit more time to look in depth at why B2B PR could be the missing link in your marketing programme.
Reputation management is a key outcome of the PR discipline, whether that’s consumer or B2B. The ability to manage and indeed power your brand reputation through PR ensures that your audiences see what you want them to see. It’s achieved through outbound comms including press, social media, blog posts and digital.
Awareness drives sales. While it is very much a top of funnel activity, raising awareness of the brand, product or service enables marketers to capture leads at the start of their buying journey. Awareness, of course, has an impact all the way through the customer buying journey. Even after buyers become aware of the brand and/or product or service, it can provide much needed support during the consideration phase where buyers are actively looking at solutions.
Thought leadership is the new black, and by that I mean that every company wants to be positioned as a thought leader. Businesses see the value in how it can help build trust and resonance with customers. That means organisations need to really hone in on what makes them expert in their field, and what advice or insights can they provide that others can’t? Utilising tools such as whitepapers and e-guides can help to position you as a knowledge base, whereas opinion-based articles placed with key press will help bring awareness of your expertise to potential customers and other stakeholders. But also consider digital tools such as videos and podcasts as a way to put the spotlight on your knowledge and demonstrate that you understand the most prevalent trends affecting your customers.
Advocacy is critical in building trust both within your prospect and your customer base. No-one says it better than an existing customer. In consumer, advocacy is built via online reviews – think TrustPilot, Google and so on. In B2B PR, advocacy is also delivered via your existing customers but here we have the opportunity to provide more depth and understanding of the product alongside key messaging through case studies. Consider both written and video case studies, with the latter being a powerful but quick way to deliver product USPs.
Clearly the benefits of B2B PR can support organisations across a number of key objectives – from awareness to lead generation. But devising and activating a programme takes time and strong and structured planning. If B2B PR sounds like something that you’re missing or could benefit you, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.