B2B public relations (PR) is more strategic and targeted in terms of media approach than B2C. This is because with B2B PR, the priority audience targeted is B2B buyers and decision-makers, whereas B2C targets a much wider consumer audience.
Recent market trends have added several layers of difficulty to B2B public relations strategies. There’s so much going on in the B2B sphere. Businesses are pivoting, client expectations are changing and we’re in the middle of a huge digital transformation, so it’s even more difficult to get your media seen, especially if you’re targeting those bigger names: CNN, Forbes, HBR. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to prioritize outreach to industry trade outlets and business outlets in order to grow your B2B business.
On top of that, reporters are swamped. With so many layoffs, the remaining journalists are busier than ever before. For this reason, those who are managing B2B public relations campaigns must be much more mindful, personable and strategic with their approaches. Elevation’s PR Manager Bianca Repasi explains:
“The news cycle never stops. Reporters are slammed with hundreds of emails and pitches every day. We’re seeing much longer lead times between when you pitch, when you get a response and when your story is published.”
For this reason, when you are building a a strong B2B PR strategy, it should include plans to execute the following:
- Identifying specific PR goals, and providing strategies to meet those goals
- Getting backlinks
- Creating or updating a one-pager and/or media kit
- Researching and creating a targeted media list
- Writing press releases (that are newsworthy and timely)
- Distributing press releases on the wire
- Distributing press releases under embargo
- Reaching out with personalized pitches
- Creating a PR calendar
- Arranging trade show attendance and speaking opportunities
- Pitching interviews to media contacts
- Preparing briefing sheets
- Arranging content placement opportunities
- Publishing announcements on social media
- Building brand reputation with transparency
- Setting up, overseeing and reporting PR measurements
While this is something you might be able to execute on your own, a public relations agency or professional with proven B2B experience would be invaluable to building out your plan, as they will know all of the proper channels and software through which to route information and capture metrics. However, assuming you are doing this on your own, here are our top recommendations for managing B2B public relations:
1. Identifying specific PR goals and providing a strategy to meet those goals
Before your B2B company engages in a public relations campaign, you should hold a kickoff to understand your priority-based goals, whether it’s thought leadership, brand reputation or brand awareness.
Thought leadership may mean seeking out speaking and blogging opportunities by arranging media interviews at tradeshows, arranging to speak at industry events and reaching out with guest blogging opportunities. Brand awareness and brand reputation may mean reaching out with targeted news and press releases across the wire to specific media contacts or making targeted social media connections.
In B2B public relations, the nature of PR is to get organic editorial coverage, so it’s an earned media strategy.
For this reason, B2B PR experts tend to avoid paid advertising. When it’s paid, it’s more suspect. However, it’s getting to the point where native content is difficult to decipher from unpaid organic content. And in pay-to-play arenas like social, you won’t be seen by your followers unless you pay for advertising.
Ultimately, whether or not to use sponsored content depends on your goals. Public relations is typically about building industry authority and brand awareness. Brands that expect to increase lead gen with public relations may augment their earned media with sponsored content.
2. Getting backlinks
One of the most important aspects of public relations is getting those backlinks. You want to be sure that any news around your agency links back to your website. For this reason, always urge reporters to link back to your website. B2B PR experts can supplement this effort by sending interested reporters a one-page document or media kit with background information and important links all in one place. While a media kit or one-pager can help with backlinks, asking reporters directly to link back to your site is the easiest way to do it.
3. Creating or updating a one-pager and/or a media kit
At the beginning of any B2B PR media campaign, a business needs a one-pager and/or a media kit, which provides a snapshot of the company. This kit is the best way to ensure your company is reflected honestly and accurately in any coverage. The kit contains all the information that the media may need: web addresses, social media accounts, names, titles, bios and headshots of the executive team, company history and background. In addition, this kit may contain case studies, testimonials, recent press releases, logos, and any photos or other downloadable content.
What goes into the kit depends on your market and your goals. Most kits are provided digitally to media contacts, for example through a press library page that may be on the company website or in a drop box from which all assets can be downloaded.
A one-pager is a document that provides a high-level overview of your B2B agency. It is a condensed version of a media kit that highlights basic company information: website, email, services, processes, leadership information and so on.
4. Researching and create a targeted media list
Build a list based on your goals and target audience. A media list is the specific outlets and reporters that cover your industry, vertical, trade, demographic and region. The first step in the thought leadership or brand awareness piece of your B2B PR strategy should be building out those targeted lists.
Journalists cover different topics—which are called beats—within their industry: entertainment, local news, tech, education, and so on. Databases, such as Cision, Propel or Muck Rack, tell you exactly which beat each reporter covers, so you can research reporters based on the beat. When you build out your list, you should search for journalists and reporters within your industry, then you can narrow that search by national or local (specific state or city) publications, if applicable. You can also narrow the list by media types: online, print, broadcast, blog, and so on.
“You can even narrow your media list down by UVPM (unique visitors per month). UVPM is a soft metric. The number of unique visitors a website gets per month doesn’t mean that’s how many people will see your article. But there’s a potential. That’s how you position your opportunities. It’s all in how you put together your media list,” says Repasi.
5. Writing press releases (that are newsworthy and timely)
Press releases are crucial to a well-rounded B2B public relations campaign. Businesses should always share any big news, such as announcements, partnerships, funding news, awards via press release. For this reason, it’s good to get out a couple of news releases per quarter. B2B PR experts recommend no more than one per month – the more press releases you put out, the more your content loses its value.
No company has that much exciting news to warrant multiple press releases per month unless there’s something outstanding taking place. Your press releases must be newsworthy and timely. They must be of interest to your media contacts and to your audience. You want to make sure it’s worth the cost to distribute.
6. Distributing press releases on the wire
When you are ready to distribute your news and announcements to media outlets, it is important that you upload your press releases to a distribution service or news wire, such as Business Wire or PR Newswire. From there, you can pick the distribution lists and schedule the time and date for your news to be released. The cost of distribution depends on how widely you distribute your releases–the more lists you pick, the more expensive it can get.
There are two ways a news release may be picked up from a news wire:
Guaranteed pickup on the wire
A news wire guarantees pickup on partner websites. There may be 100 outlets that publish under guaranteed pickup. For example, outlets like MarketWatch, Benzinga, Yahoo! Finance and others may publish your release as-is on their website. These media outlets publish regardless of the topic or the relevance to the audience. In this case, relevance is out of your control. For this reason, public relations experts suggest amplifying guaranteed pickup through targeted distribution.
Targeted distribution on the wire
When using a distribution service, you have the advantage of targeted distribution, which may include hundreds of industry and trade categories, geographic markets, industry verticals, audience demographics and even subject-specific platforms. This is where B2B PR gets into the nitty-gritty, making sure distribution lists are on-point. With a distribution list that’s super targeted, you can increase your chances of getting published in preferred media outlets, thereby increasing your chances of being seen by your target audience.
You can further boost your chances of getting your news published within your industry and target verticals by using keywords in your press release and including tags when you distribute it on the wire.
7. Distribute press releases under embargo
In addition to using a distribution service, you can use personalized, targeted outreach around your press releases. Exciting news can be pitched ‘under embargo’, which means offering reporters or media outlets the appealing opportunity to see your press release in advance of everyone else who will be receiving it on the wire. When you provide exclusivity, you’re more likely to be covered by targeted outlets.
When a reporter agrees to publish under embargo, they’ll write a story around your press release, but they don’t publish it until the release goes out on the wire. In some cases, public relations experts might suggest allowing the reporter an hour in advance to publish early.
8. Reaching out with personalized pitches
Even when you’re not publishing under embargo, you can still reach out to specific media outlets or reporters with more personalized pitching after distributing your release on the wire.
Some people send mass messages to all the reporters on their lists. This overwhelms those contacts and makes them less receptive to your messages. You can’t get away with this in PR for B2B. A pro will know the beats of each of your media contacts.
This is where your contact lists come in handy. You (or the public relations expert you hire) should research the reporters you’re targeting, educate yourself on the kinds of stories they’re writing, and monitor what they post about on their social accounts.
“Pitch something that’s of interest to them, or something they cover. Because otherwise it’s a waste of their time, and it’s a waste of your time. And sometimes, you’ll get an irritated reply, ‘This isn’t even my beat, why are you emailing me this?’ And you can even get blacklisted. So, make sure you’ve done your research before you pitch,” says Repasi.
It is crucial that you personalize your messages based on industry, then by any regional tie-in. If there’s something specific that differentiates one reporter from the other industry reporters, an expert can assist in calling that out. Make sure your pitch speaks to that reporter’s audience and their needs. Lastly, refer to past work that relates to your news. For example, “I saw your story on XYZ topic on XYZ outlet and I have a great resource on a similar topic that you might be interested in.”
9. Creating a PR calendar
At the beginning of any public relations campaign, create an event calendar that lists all relevant industry events, speaking opportunities, webinars, trade shows and so on. Thought leadership is a part of PR that overlaps with marketing. B2B companies that need to build thought leadership and showcase industry expertise must develop a presence at industry events like trade shows and conferences.
10. Arranging trade show attendance and speaking opportunities
B2B companies can build an expansive thought leadership campaign around industry events, arranging for subject-matter experts to attend and speak at trade shows and conferences.
Attending and speaking at industry events is a valuable way for B2Bs to showcase company expertise and get face time with their target audience, industry executives and buyers. Announce your attendance at the event via social media, email campaigns and, if it’s newsworthy, press releases. If your company is presenting or speaking at the event, a public relations expert can assist with speech writing.
11. Pitching interviews to media contacts
Reach out to industry reporters who have confirmed attendance and offer them interviews during the event. Because of the volatility of the news industry, it’s crucial that you craft timely, targeted and interesting pitches. Reporters receive hundreds of pitches a day, so you want to make sure your pitch stands out. It’s also important to keep pitches short and to-the-point because reporters are extremely busy and don’t have time to read lengthy pitches.
B2B public relations experts recommend writing personalized pitches according to the industry and reporter you are pitching. Cast a wide net and reach out to as many industries as possible, as long as they are relevant to your business. From there, coordinate interviews and secure coverage for your company.
12. Preparing briefing sheets
After securing an interview, have your company’s public relations liaison (internal or external) prepare a briefing sheet that contains all the details needed for the interview. This includes the date and time of the interview, the virtual link or phone number for the interview, background information about the media outlet and reporter and links to the reporter’s past work and social accounts. They should always request interview questions from the reporter in advance and includes those anticipated questions and broad talking points on the briefing sheet.
13. Arranging content placement opportunities
Content placement is another great way to build thought leadership and boost SEO. Position your team as subject matter experts and pitch content ideas or fully-developed content pieces to reporters for editorial consideration. You can also repurpose your existing blog content and offer a fresh content piece to reporters. Typically, your by-line should include a link back to your company website, aiding in link-building efforts.
Contributed content showcases your industry expertise and increases your web traffic. The backlinks build your authority with search engines, which overlaps with your marketing strategy, particularly with your SEO strategy.
14. Publishing announcements on social media
All of your B2B public relations efforts should be part of your social strategy, and vice versa. You can boost your wins and expand your press content on social. Interviews, guest blogs and industry achievements are unique wins for social. LinkedIn and Twitter are great platforms to share exciting B2B news, particularly announcements about awards, press coverage and company news. PR experts recommend tagging the reporter and/or media outlet and incorporating any relevant hashtags. Reaching out to reporters via their social accounts can also prove to be an effective method for generating interest and coverage.
15. Building brand reputation with transparency
Today’s decision-makers are making thoughtful investments, partnerships and purchases. They’re changing how we speak about companies. They want to know where businesses stand on certain causes. As a result, today’s B2B companies are incorporating transparency into their PR strategy, particularly around diversity, social impact and environmental efforts. It’s critical that your internal and external communications are in line—your brand reputation can be ruined if an inappropriate internal email gets out. Use your public relations campaigns to be vocal about your company beliefs, values and humanitarian efforts and announce which nonprofits you support. Your clients care.
16. Setting up, overseeing and reporting PR measurements
In much the same way marketing departments measure return on ad spend, your B2B PR strategy should include measuring your PR engagement, reach, sentiment and volume. There are platforms that measure how much coverage you are getting, the overall sentiment of the coverage, how many prospects click on a backlink and how many web visitors PR efforts are driving to your site. PR wins should be supported with hard data.
Listening software, such as Sprout Social or Mention, is valuable to public relations audits, helping to understand brand sentiment and share of voice. Set up alerts to see what people are saying about your brand on social platforms, media outlets and forums. This way, you will be notified if there’s a sudden increase in mentions or any negative discussions occurring around your brand, and they can respond immediately. This gives you the chance to get ahead of a crisis before it gets out of control.
B2B PR experts will also recommend putting together visual reports that supply a holistic view of your position in the market. Create a multi-month view on all the social mentions and coverage your company receives and compare it to your top competitors, specifically looking at reach, views, influence and engagement. You can then analyze what is and isn’t working for both your company and your competitors in order to better inform your overall PR strategy moving forward.
Quality share of voice can build brand reputation quicker than a larger share of voice. Measure quality placements by the authority of media outlets, and compare your quality share of voice against your competitors to see who’s getting the best quality coverage. It provides a good snapshot of positive, neutral and negative coverage.
As you can see, PR for B2B companies is anything but simple. It often requires a public relations expert who has mastered the B2B space in order to be executed effectively. However, we hope this provides you with a better idea of the tools and strategy needed to increase your brand reputation and showcase your industry authority in a measurable way through your public relations efforts.