B2B PR Best Practices For 2017

By Chance Shay─ Director B2B and Infrastructure Development

Twitter: @ChanceShay


 “Why aren’t sales through the roof? We’re the best in our industry.”

If I had a dollar for every executive that’s thought this to his or herself (or said it out loud), I’d be able to retire. They eventually come to the conclusion that it’s simply because the people who should be buying their product or service just haven’t heard about them. To a great degree, they’re right. The obvious solution to this, of course, is to tell these people about their brand and everything the company does.

That’s where they’re wrong.

The solution to attracting, closing and retaining new customers isn’t to tell people about the product or service, it’s to show that the product or service solves their problem better, faster, cheaper and with less headache than anything else out there. This is even more important for B2B brands, whose customers are naturally more discerning. In fact, 60 percent of all companies choose B2B vendors after actively trying to solve a problem and researching solutions. For B2B brands, this means the more difficult question becomes: how do we show our customers that we’re the best solution for them?

Because there are so many factors to account for- the industry, competitors, market conditions, decision makers, etc.- there is no short answer to this. Truth is that audiences are more fragmented than ever. So to help decide where to stack your chips, here are five marketing pitfalls to ditch and five fresh techniques B2B brands should incorporate into their PR and marketing strategy.

Don’t: Focus exclusively on content marketing

  • One dimensional marketing hasn’t been effective since salesmen walked door to door in the 60s. Don’t get me wrong, content marketing is a great way to increase the odds of your brand being discovered by those actively looking for a solution like yours. A brand just can’t put all its eggs in one basket.

Do: Utilize a comprehensive and diversified communications strategy

  • Ever heard of the PESO Model? It’s an acronym that represents the four types of communication channels: Paid (channels you have to pay for), Earned (like media), Shared (essentially social platforms) and Owned (channels a brand controls). It’s a model that works well for B2B brands because it provides an easy to follow framework. Content marketing falls under the Owned channel, meaning that a brand only doing content marketing is missing 75% of the communication opportunity. Even as a true PR evangelist I will tell you that it’s unrealistic to think that earned media is all you need to reach your growth goals. Competing for attention is harder than ever because of where stakeholders get information (and thus how they’re influenced) is fragmented. B2B brands need to strategically integrate all of their communication channels in order to holistically cultivate prospects and beat the competition.

Don’t: Get press coverage and let that be that.

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  • That’s like qualifying for the New York City marathon but then not running another day before the race. Landing coverage in an outlet with a readership of 250,000 does not mean a quarter million people saw your article. It means there was an opportunity that 250,000 readers could read about your post. Don’t let the value from all the hard work that went into identifying, securing and coordinating the piece end once it’s published.

Do: Promote your press

  • This is where having an integrated communication plan kicks in. Anybody in sales will tell you that they make contact with prospective customers at different cycles of the sales cycle. Make their job easier by showcasing press that both differentiates and helps (soon to be) leads evaluate your product. Showcase your press on social channels, your blog, newsletters and trade show materials. You can even include it in your email signature and in presentations by (including screen shots of headlines and any awesome comments the article received).

Don’t: Only write white papers to show thought leadership

  • White papers and articles for peer reviewed journals require a lot of effort, but they’re great tools to showcase how talented a team a brand has. However, often times the paper is read by other smart people working in a similar fashion as the writer, not the target audience. Luckily, there are new ways to demonstrate to potential customers that a brand has a team of experts.

Do: Be a conversation starter

  • While white papers are great at providing information, conversations help develop relationships, build trust and can be information. If you know your audience, you know what they’re interested in, where they get information and what strikes a chord in them. Show that you know this by heading to a forum (likely LinkedIn groups) and start a conversation around topics relevant to your audience. Write a headline you think will make your audience’s eyes bulge. Pose a provocative question or offer an opinion that is against the grain. Choose a topic you know the audience will want to opine about. Remember, the goal is to first get them talking and then you can jump in with expert input. Don’t be promotional or salesy. React to and opine, not promote and push. I feel like this goes without saying but you can visit any LinkedIn group and see a number of smart people breaking this cardinal rule.

Don’t: Wait to be invited to speak

  • Every brand and person operates within their own bubble. Things that are a big deal in one bubble aren’t even noticeable in others. Some brands make the mistake of thinking they (or their leaders) are such a big deal that phones will be ringing with requests to present and speak. Even if a brand does get invites to share thoughts at certain events, they could be missing out on an opportunity to parlay that into additional exposure.

Do: Be your own biggest cheerleader

  • Sometimes doing great work is enough to get noticed, but often times you have to be like Ron Burgundy and tell people to come look at how good looking you are. Use great press coverage and presenting on past panels to secure new speaking opportunities. One idea is to use an article as the center piece of a pitch to present on a similar theme or trend. This shows that you are indeed an expert and gives you credibility. If you’ve been included as an expert on a certain topic or have a published by-lined article forecasting a trend that materialized, you’re a great pick to speak about that topic at a conference or trade-show. For people whose job is to select panelists and presenters, their goal is for attendees to say, “that presenter blew me away.” Help them help you.

Don’t: Think you have “an audience”

  • Even if you think you have a “target audience” you’re wrong. Truth is that for most brands (with the exception of the most narrowly niche companies out there) there are many segmented audiences that make up your collective stakeholders and customers. Brands must avoid the mistake of thinking the similarities between various customers is enough to consider them one group.

Do: Segment your audience

  • A very savvy PR expert named Ben Veal said, “The key to successful B2B PR is accurately identifying your audience and their drivers, and then developing tailored content that is specifically designed to engage and resonate. This content needs to be released at the right time, and in the right format, to ensure that the decision-makers you are targeting are reached and understand the message.” There are a number of ways to segment your audience- by title, industry, demographics, psychographics, geography, etc. What all these characteristics speak to is the difference in how they are influenced and make purchase decisions. For example, if your customers are retailers there could be young, hip retailers with one store in Brooklyn who love what they hear through Buzzfeed and their customers’ experience is the most important thing to them and then there could be retailers who have been in business for 40 years with franchises across the southwest U.S. that read industry magazines and are focused on keeping costs down. They’re both retailers, but what their pain points are and how you show them that your product is the best solution for that pain point can be drastically different.

Any way you slice it, there are more opportunities to communicate than there is budget to do so (I’m still searching for the unicorn that is the unlimited budget). Every brand will need to get a precise understanding of their customers and make smart decision on where to focus their efforts. The good news is that by knowing these five tips brands can be more effective executing their plan no matter what shape it takes.

HR Communications: You can’t hire top talent because your job ads are lame

Communications

By Katherine Beaulieu─ Communications Strategist

@katstubborngoat


It’s every HR Communications staff person’s nightmare—posting an excellent job opportunity that isn’t attracting top candidates while having a hiring manager full of helpful suggestions, like “Why don’t you advertise in Arizona?” or “My brother just hired someone through LinkedIn, why don’t you try that.” or “Can’t we just post the job in the Wall Street Journal?”

If you’re already trying every tactic in the book and still can’t attract top talent to your company, one simple place to start your analysis is with your job ads. Maybe you can’t hire top talent because your job ads are lame.

What makes a job ad lame? All the same things that make any marketing and PR efforts lame – which mostly boil down to not connecting with your potential audience. Are you writing a job ad that sells an intriguing experience or are you writing one that reads more like a legal waiver with grave consequences if its breached?

Businessman in troubles Free Vector Think about how many resources your organization invests into reaching out to new customers and developing new markets. It’s a process that usually includes writing key messaging, identifying consumers’ pain points and developing a memorable brand.

Now think about how much time you’ve spent developing your job ad. Think about the time you spent identifying the key messaging, studying your target markets and identifying pain points. Have you put much thought into it?

For starters, have you looked at the job from a “What’s in it for me” standpoint?

  • What turns your target audience on? Do they like autonomy, or do they prefer a more structured environment?
  • How does this target audience gain a sense of accomplishment and how does the job deliver that?
  • What does a good day look like? What are the amazing milestones the employee can expect to hit?

Recent statistics listed the unemployment rate at 4.8 percent in San Diego County, compared to 5.3 percent for California and 4.7 percent nationwide. By many economists’ measures, this is nearly full employment, which means finding top talent is getting a lot more competitive. If your job ads speak directly to qualified candidates, you’re going to be one step ahead of the competition.

Kat Beaulieu has expertise in HR marketing and communications—from upgrading your job ads to developing full employer brands. Reach out if you’d like to chat about your HR communications needs.

No Shortcuts to PR Glory, Then or Now

By Julie Wright—President and Founder

Twitter: @JulieWright


How PR Worked Before the Internet…

I started out in PR before the Internet or email. It was the era of fax machines, the Yellow Pages and 400-page media directories that you combed through to research and build your media lists. There were few shortcuts on the way to mastering your PR skills, but in some ways, all of today’s technology and automation tools might actually be shortchanging entry-level PR people and getting in the way of developing PR fundamentals.

Back in the day, once you had your list built, you then had to call each reporter until they picked up the phone and then use your verbal skills to hold their attention more than eight seconds to pitch your story. Those calls helped you develop a thick skin, fast. That real-time feedback taught you which approaches worked or didn’t.

Unfortunately, in today’s email environment, you’ll never really know what they loved or hated about your pitch. (Unless you follow @smugjourno or @DearPR to monitor Tweets from journalists losing their s*** after being addressed with the wrong name for the 10th time in one day, sent another off-topic pitch, distastefully news-jacked or sent a 120 mb attachment.)

In the pre-email era, entry-level PR pros had to work the phones but that process made us better, faster.

We had another tool beside the phone. It was called the fax machine. Part of paying your dues was standing over one feeding it hard-copy press releases with your fingers crossed, hoping to hear the modem answer. (If you don’t know what a modem sounds like, it’s kinda like a DubStep drop.) That sound let you know that your brilliant press release was transmitting.

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If you were sending a fax to a busy newsroom, you could often expect repeated busy signals and multiple attempts to get your press release through. Faxes could only be sent one at a time. You could punch in several fax numbers, but they’d be delivered sequentially and not simultaneously.

Think about that, for a moment.

You, literally—and I mean literally–experienced the sensation of your pitch colliding and competing for bandwidth with other pitches. The idea that your pitch was one of hundreds being sent to an outlet or reporter was not just a concept. It was something you actually heard and saw.

Anyhow, damn. Those days could be a real grind. Some labor-intensive, inglorious work. Like walking uphill both ways to and from school. But it was just what you had to do so you did it.

So, here’s my point: While the tools may have changed, I honestly do not think that the fundamentals have.

PR still requires an awful lot of legwork to do right and over the past quarter century, I have found that there is no substitute for that hard work—particularly as you are starting out. Generating a Twitter following, mastering Facebook’s algorithm, researching blogs for your thought leadership project—it’s a different grind, but to succeed you’ve got to do the work.

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The practices I learned in the early 90s as an entry-level Gen Xer gave me sound fundamentals. It was a methodical process—detailed, diligent and it kept you close to your media contacts. You worked hard to find each contact and cultivate it. You knew the value of each contact and sent your pitches out into the world with each recipient in mind.

If I wanted to target my client for a radio interview, I had to listen to that radio show. If I wanted a trade or consumer magazine to feature my client’s project, I had to read the magazine. There was no website to consult or Google to search.

You had to be dialed into your media list, totally aware of who each contact was and why the hell they’d want to do a story on your news. I think this is one of those basics that has been lost in the race to automate our work, and it is the bane of the remaining working journalists who are inundated with off-topic email pitches. It’s also the bane of PR professionals who know that it takes time to do this job right but get pressure from clients who think PR is just distributing press releases to massive lists.

What Can You Do Today for Maximum Career Growth & Success?

What would happen to your pitching skills and PR instincts if you adopted these old school practices. What if you voraciously consumed the very same media you were expected to earn coverage in? What if you approached every single media contact on your media list like a wedding guest—knowing their background, your relationship to them, whether they’d want the ribeye or the vegetarian option and who they’d want to sit with?

I tell you what. You’d be successful. You’d be a rock star.

In today’s environment of cheap, plentiful and immediate information, taking pains to research and document each entry in your media list probably makes you feel like you’re doing it wrong.

Stifle that impulse. Take the time. If you have a passion for communications and telling great stories, then focus on your fundamentals. Do what might feel like drudgery. It’s called paying your dues. We all did it. If we wanted it, then we did it.

So if that’s you, don’t miss the opportunity to shine because it looks like hard work.

Put that extra care and attention into your work. Invest extra time in your day for attending a webinar to build your knowledge. Spend a little extra time every day reading up on your industry and talking to the more experienced people on your team about what you’re learning to get their take and advice.

And for god’s sake, show up. Network with journalists, other PR professionals, peers and business leaders. Volunteer on a committee so you can practice your leadership skills outside of the office to get more confident contributing during team and client meetings.

It may sound old-timey but work hard, pay your dues, take chances with your new knowledge and you will get noticed and rise quickly. I assure you, don’t be afraid to do these things for you will have one of the most exhilarating and rewarding careers imaginable.

3 PR & Marketing Tactics to Dump in 2017

By Julie Wright—President and Founder

Twitter: @JulieWright


Out with the old. In with the new! What stale PR and marketing tactics will you shed in 2017?

I’ve got a few on my naughty list this holiday season. They’re activities that perhaps at one time were strategic but now are automatic things PR and marketing professionals are doing without really thinking. Isn’t it time to leave these three things behind?

  1. Your Press Releases No One Reads

Away documents Free PhotoIt’s well past time to ditch the traditional press release.

If you want media coverage, then spend your energy and budget on developing your brand’s story and pitching it to a carefully cultivated list of media targets.

Just as advertising is the price you pay for being unremarkable, press releases are what you do when you don’t have a real PR strategy.

They’re a PR crutch and are often abused by people who think press releases are public relations.

In 2017, empower your agency or PR department to generate media coverage with creative ideas and storytelling. Focus on your communications goals and then determine if press releases are really going to help you achieve them. If not, get creative and strategic with the tactics that will actually impact your communications and business goals.

While they may not generate media coverage, you can be strategic in your use of press releases.  Use them to raise online visibility for your brand or key content to spur discovery through keyword analysis and search engine-optimized content, and to share exceptional visual content such as great photos, videos and graphics.

Just don’t continue putting them out as a proxy for a real PR strategy.

  1. Your Facebook Page that No One Sees

Facebook social media Free Vector How much time does your team spend drafting and posting content to Facebook? Now how many likes or comments does that content get you? How much traffic to your website? How much brand engagement and equity is all this effort producing?

Be honest with yourself. Is it worth it? What would happen to your business if you dumped your Facebook page? Or your Twitter account, for that matter?

If you’re doing it right, hopefully the answer would be “quite a lot.” Website visits would fall, event attendance dip and top of mind awareness would suffer.

If you can’t answer that question satisfactorily, take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and ask yourself why? Do you know what impact you want this activity to have on your business?

Now flip things around and pretend that Facebook was your only channel for reaching your audience. How would you approach it differently? Would you do more research and target better? Would you dedicate more budget to advertising? Would you study what type of content performs best?

So develop a plan in 2017 to do social media right. Or stop doing it.

Set goals for your social media activity that will support the impact you want to see for your business and then produce the content, schedule, promotion and targeting that will reach them.

  1. The Content You Spend More Time Marketing than Your Actual Product or Service

I get the concept behind content marketing. Provide people with helpful, well-packaged information that draws them in and predisposes them to like, trust and value your business so they’ll consider doing business with you.

Time and money Free Vector Do this on a massive scale and you’ll have a lead generation machine, the theory goes. With every blog post or white paper, an email has been captured so that the prospect can be continuously marketed with more friendly, helpful emails, blog posts and white papers.

That said, it’s a shit-ton of work to do this right. And if you’re the prospect, you could now have five or 10 companies trying to move you through their content marketing funnel. Your email inbox will implode!

So how much of your marketing department’s time or agency budget do you want to spend generating and marketing helpful blog posts, infographics, videos, white papers and case studies, and how much do you want to spend actually marketing your product or service to your target buyers?

I may be out of fashion here, but content marketing has to have jumped the shark a few years ago.

“With over 90% of B2B marketers cranking out ‘content,’ prospective buyers are inundated with information.”

How many buyers will be saying to themselves in 2017, “Boy, if only I could find more content?” I’m skeptical. Content is important but it is not the end in and of itself. It’s the means to an end. So in 2017 stop slaving away at the content game and make sure it’s serving your needs and not vice versa.

What tactics will you be dumping in 2017? Let us know with a comment or tweet!

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Trends Come and Go, But These 5 PR Tips Are Forever

By Aisha Belagam—Jr. Communications Strategist

Twitter: @AishaBelaPR


As we get closer to 2017, amidst a flurry of new trends, it is important to remember that the traditional fundamentals of public relations are timeless and the backbone of any campaign, be it 1977 or 2017.

Here are five forever PR techniques that I always return to, no matter what platform, reporter, or message I’m working with:

1) Write well, not good
The digital age has certainly increased the demands placed on public relations professionals. As the role has evolved into a management discipline, strategy and critical thinking drive executions. However, no matter how you slice it, writing continues to be the fundamental skill one must possess to thrive in the industry. Strong writing skills are consistently the top-rated PR skill in multitudes of surveys, including this recent one from Gould and Partners.Typewriter illustration vector Free Vector

Advanced writing skills are more important than ever in today’s changing landscape, where everything is instant. Journalists and PR professionals are dealing with 24/7 deadline pressures, while citizen journalists are simultaneously posting stories, videos, rumors, and statements that can permanently damage reputations. With heightened expectations and less time for give-and-take between journalists and publicists, it is vital that a PR professional can write well and deliver content that can be published as is, if needed.

It’s no wonder why so many PR pros, including myself, have journalism degrees.

2) Do your homework
Want to gain credibility and be taken seriously by reporters? Do your research. Distribution is easy if you spend your time wisely. Rather than blindly pitching hundreds of reporters and publications, spend your time developing a highly-targeted media list with unique angles to work with. You are more likely to spark interest this way. What has the reporter written about lately? How does it relate to your client’s story? Connect the dots and show the reporter why your story is relevant. Remember what runs through the reporter’s mind: WIFM (What’s In It For Me).

3) Put the relations back into public relations
Alluding to my last point, PR/journalist relationships still rest on the rudiments. Good chemistry trumps a random, well-crafted pitch. There is no substitution for real, emotional connection, regardless of how strategic and seamless your pitch is. Behind the screens, we are all humans. Build trust, rapport and friendships with media members and make life easier for both sides. Sure, no one has time for frequent business lunches anymore. Leverage the tools of today to balance it out. A Facebook comment, Instagram like or casual chitchat over the phone can help build that relationship.

“That Facebook video of your son taking his first steps was precious, William. Did he end up making it to the chair with some practice?”

4) Man bites dogyorkshire Free Photo
That sure got your attention. You never read about the dog that bit the man. Or about the plane that did not crash. Alfred Harmsworth’s (1865-1922) words hold true to this day. Be unusual. Make your story different. Offer a unique angle.

Why? Because as New York Sun editor John B. Bogart so eloquently said, “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”

5) Do the right thing
Public relations professionals face many unique and challenging ethical issues. Simultaneously, protecting integrity and public trust continue to be crucial to the profession’s role and reputation. That’s why it is vital to refer to the PRSA Code of Professional Ethics. Ethics make or break careers. The power of doing the right thing is illimitable.

It’s why I’m a part of (W)right On Communications. We provide award-winning, full-spectrum communications to billion-dollar companies and small businesses alike because we live by these timeless tips as we embrace the ever-changing landscape.

What matters most to you? Let us know in the comments. Or of course, tweet, tweet!

Agency Life: What I’ve Learned About PR in my First Year

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By Kara DeMent, Communications Coordinator


This month marks my first year at (W)right On Communications and my first “full” year (technically) at a PR agency, and boy have I learned a lot.

Like most new professionals, what I thought PR was in college is nothing like what it is in real life. There’s way more to it than campaigns and PR plans, like growing relationships with your clients and understanding their goals and objectives; knowing the media inside and out; staying on top of trends—the list goes on and on. Naturally, I’ve learned more than a thing or two about PR over the past year, but here are what I consider to be the three most important lessons learned:

life delivery sponge1. Be a sponge

Absorb information, take notes and ask questions. Every meeting, workshop or phone call is an opportunity to learn from your peers and clients. At WOC we’re expected to engage wholeheartedly in office discussions and we inspire one another to get out and join a workshop, webinar or become a member of a professional organization. This helps broaden our knowledge of PR and the industries we’re passionate about.

2. Finding the right media contact is cake

Tasty chocolate and cream cake Free Photo

Wrong. At WOC we’re always pitching our client’s accomplishments, but in order to secure that TV interview or front page story, you have to get it in front of the right person. Do your research for the right media contact—learn about the journalist you’re pitching, know their past writing history and show that you’re paying attention to what they’re covering.

3. Become an expert in the practice areas

This is something you learn quickly working at a PR agency. At WOC, we learn what our client partners’ expectations are, their main objectives and the best way to support them – what’s specific to the client. But we also learn the ins and outs of their industry and how we can help best achieve their goals. What works for a hospitality client might not work for an energy and tech client. At WOC we’re all about getting stuff done and achieving wins for our clients and that’s accomplished by fully immersing ourselves in the industries we support.

The Hills 1x01 the hills 101 pr heidi

Although I’m still fresh in my PR career, I’m continually learning something new every day at (W)right On, and one thing I can take away from what I learned in college and through sports communications internships is how to learn and research, and you can see from my top three list—it’s all about continuing to learn and grow in the industry.

 

If you’re looking to explore the PR industry or need expert advice, call or email our team of PR pros. We’d be happy to speak at your next meeting or work seminar, (858) 755-5411 or info@wrightoncomm.com.