Seven Scary Cases of Crisis Management PR

It’s every communicator’s nightmare: a negative situation escalates and becomes a big story, or a business is victimized by an accident or malicious prank.

Negative headlines are just the tip of the iceberg, since it’s hard to gauge a brand’s crisis response based on media coverage or social sharing. But the following get our votes for the scariest crisis situations so far this year.

Lance Armstrong’s wild ride. January 2013 was an agony of defeat for the formerly iconic athlete, as he was exposed as a liar and a banned substance user. The most skillful crisis management expert probably couldn’t have steered Armstrong’s reputation back onto the right track, given his years of denials and the scorched-earth tactics he wielded against anyone who contradicted him.

For public confessions like his, a single, in-depth session with a thoughtfully selected journalist is often a strategic choice. But Armstrong squandered whatever benefits his sit-down with Oprah may have offered with a cold, withholding interview performance that was long on rationalization and short on remorse.

The Carnival Triumph’s fail. With the Costa Concordia tragedy still on the public’s mind, the cruise line suffered another reputation hit in February when an engine room fire left the Carnival Triumph dead in the water in the Gulf of Mexico. Passengers documented primitive conditions on the vessel as it was slowly towed to Mobile, Alabama. Instead of a dream vacation aboard the fun ships, the episode was a #cruisefromhell.

Unlike some other PR observers, I think Carnival did a lot of things right in the wake of the Triumph accident. The company won praise from passengers for the professionalism of its onboard crew, and it was relatively transparent, using social media channels and CEO Ron Cahill to personally apologize and offer makegoods to passengers. Most importantly, its rescue was accomplished with no injuries, and it followed the incident with an announcement of a companywide safety review and $300 million upgrade to its fleet.

Bloomberg as “Big Brother.”  Bloomberg News executives leaped into action in May after it came out that the financial markets division shared information about Bloomberg terminal use with its reporters. The response, spearheaded by editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler, was swift and effective. Yet, contradictory company statements cast doubt on how long the data about terminal usage had been accessible to the news division, and how widespread its use has been. The handling of the incident raised nearly as many questions as it solved, and many Wall Street types were spooked.

Rutgers drops the ball. Today’s media environment is unforgiving, and secrets usually come out. That’s one of the lessons of Rutgers University’s fumbled handling of a reputation crisis in June. Rutgers knew it had a problem with basketball coach Mike Rice, who was videotaped in 2012 yelling abuse, including homophobic epithets, and roughing up players during practice. To its credit, Rutgers disciplined Rice, but it then renewed his lucrative contract a few months later. When the Rice video inevitably surfaced on the web, there was hell to pay.

Rutgers’ bad streak continued when it inexplicably replaced the athletic director who reported Rice’s misbehavior with a former University of Tennessee AD who, as it turned out, had been sued for discrimination against a pregnant coaching staffer and accused of abuse by 15 players. Rutgers clearly backed the wrong horse(s) here, and it dragged out the damage by trying to cover up its mistakes.

Paula Deen’s public grilling. Deen’s stop-and-start handling of charges of racism that broke this summer lacked the key ingredients for an effective public apology, and her emotional reaction stirred things up instead of calming them down. Deen would have done well to admit the truth by sticking to one story, share lessons learned, apologize, and perhaps donate her time and/or money to a program that promotes tolerance. A more authentic recipe for remorse was actor Jason Alexander’s apology after he poked fun at cricket as a “gay” sport.

Obamacare’s shaky launch. When launched October 1, its glitches were partially obscured by the start of the 16-day government shutdown, itself a PR disaster for the GOP and just about everyone else in Washington. But, the website’s ills were so numerous, and its progress in capturing new sign-ups so apparently slow, that even the shutdown failed to quell the protests. HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius was an inexpert media spokesperson for the rollout, and the administration struggled to distinguish between the flaws of the launch website and the substance of the plan itself. When the (typically) progressive Jon Stewart calls you out for incompetence, you know your communications needs intensive care.

The Amy’s Baking Company meltdown. Yes, it’s a side dish compared to the other situations flagged here, but the social media feeding frenzy around the Arizona restaurateurs who couldn’t stomach reality-show scrutiny is very illustrative of what NOT to do when the heat is on. Among many other crisis management sins, the couple reacted emotionally and personally to criticism, publicly insulted customers, and used profanity, moving from the media frying pan to the fire in the process. But Amy’s may have the last word; the couple will be featured in a “Kitchen Nightmares” special later this year as well as – surprise – their own very reality show. The very thought gives us indigestion, but maybe it was all a PR ploy, after all.


Don’t Call Them Mommy Bloggers…But Do Call Them!

In light of Martha Stewart’s recent comments about bloggers, where she dismissed them as “not trained editors and writers,” and lacking in expertise, it may be time to revisit blogger relations for PR professionals.

To be fair to Martha, she seemed to be targeting actress and self-appointed lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow during the interview in question. But since Martha has enjoyed coverage by food and lifestyle bloggers for many years and addressed BlogHer 2012 with warm praise about their status and accomplishments, many saw it as hypocritical, or at least ungracious.

It’s true that many bloggers aren’t and don’t want to be journalists, because their special sauce might be a bold, openly biased opinion or a quirky personality that comes through in their content. But blogging, particularly in the “parenting” category, has come a long way, and some of these ladies – and men – are extraordinarily prolific and creative. If you doubt the professionalism or expertise of a given blogger, as someone said recently, just try turning out ten pieces of quality content every day.

We recently hosted an event geared to “mom bloggers,” defined in PR parlance as family and homemaking blogs that feature commentary and discussions especially about daily home life, family, and parenting.

Sleepy’s, one of our consumer PR clients, expanded its mattress retail empire to the Chicago area. We wanted to welcome influential bloggers to one of their new suburban locations. The concept was to leverage the back-to-school timeframe and offer up an evening of education about proper sleep techniques for kids in order to create a buzz about the company in this new market. Our strategy is simple. If Sleepy’s is merely about mattresses, it’s selling a commodity. But if the brand is linked to healthy sleep, it’s offering something far more precious.

We researched Chicago-specific bloggers and started forming relationships, and we learned that some find the “mommy” term slightly demeaning, preferring to be known as “lifestyle” bloggers.
More importantly, blogger relations rests on mutual respect and the offer of a valuable experience that can be easily translated into relevant content for their readers. Here are our rules.

Get to know these people! Read their posts, know where they live and how many kids they have. But be personable and informal, address them by  name and don’t sugarcoat the ask. If you want them to write about pillows and you’re sending some samples their way, spell it out.

Connect the dots. Lifestyle bloggers are often looking for a way to write about your client, so make the product or service relevant. Sleepy’s knows healthy sleep is top-of-mind with moms, both for their kids and their own sakes. Reaching media with branded content on a variety of sleep topics is a winning strategy for the retailer.

Give a little to get a lot. For those who couldn’t make it on their own steam, we offered transportation. It’s a small gesture, but it increased our ROI.

Personalize the offer. Maybe they’re lifestyle bloggers, but these writers are mostly moms! Keep that in mind when planning events. Reach out to them to ask if a cocktail event at 7pm on a school night works. Kid-friendly surroundings, food, and transportation are a good start. Extras like entertainment for kids will win points and support a great ROI for you and the client.

Halloween Horror Stories From A NYC PR Firm

Every year we like to reflect on some scary tales from the PR agency world. Whether you work in consumer PR, B2B, tech or another category, most PR people have experienced a ” horror story” of some kind. This Halloween we’re focusing on mitigating some potentially scary situations typical of the PR biz, or others.

The Telltale Heart.  In this disturbing scenario, a client has trusted you with bad news about the future employment of a colleague in their organization, with whom you have a fairly close relationship. Though your conscience may tell you otherwise, it’s best to remain mum in this situation. The news is “hearsay,” after all. But should it bear out, reach out and provide career assistance if you can.

Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.  In a riff on the above, your trusted client has been replaced by a new hire. This person has no allegiance to the current PR agency and actually wants to bring in his former firm for “comparison purposes.” Keep calm and carry on! Prepare your best results in a fabulous presentation and set up some time. Follow the presentation with a lunch at the client’s favorite restaurant (you have found that out, haven’t you?)

Rocky Horror Picture Show. You’ve been promised a live broadcast segment that will feature your client’s spokesperson whose basic ground rules the outlet has also promised to follow. But they don’t. The host goes off the reservation and the segment is kind of a fiasco. Find the positives! If there are none, find the learnings. As long as you prepare a client in advance for the “vagaries of live TV” this may not have to be a horror show after all!

The Exorcist. That is what a PR practitioner has to be when social media is slamming your client. Whether it’s a spate of negative reviews on Yelp or Glass Door or a maniacal spew on their Facebook page, the savvy digital PR expert has to leap into action to stop the bloodletting. But the key here, again, is anticipation and preparation. That might mean creating a new Facebook page solely for customer service complaints, a proactive campaign to encourage positive reviews to counter the negatives, or a full-blown crisis plan. It doesn’t have to involve anyone’s head spinning 360 degrees.

The Sixth Sense. The nagging and scary feeling that all is not right with a co-worker, a client or a contact in the media. All PR people get this feeling every now and again, and it is not be ignored! First, review recent correspondence and see if you can find anything concrete to bear out your feelings.  Meet with a colleague if appropriate to try out your theory. The odds are if you are feeling something is amiss, it is,  and the sooner you can act on it, the better.

PR Pros In A "Content Frenzy" (or "Blurred Lines")

“Content is a shitty business. You listicle-making sheep are following us off the cliff!”
– Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine

Despite Jarvis’ colorful warning to the crowd of PR professionals at the Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum, dubbed “Content Frenzy,” we PRs came to listen and learn at the feet of the media and content pundits. The forum’s subtitle, “Holy Grail or Spam-a-lot?” pretty well sums up the PR dilemma.

We’ve drunk the content Kool-Aid. No one doubts its potency, nor PR’s ownership claim, given our     storytelling DNA and earned media chops.  But literally every second brings a new flood of the stuff — tips lists, cat videos, white papers, parodies, infographics, you name it. We’re in a frenzy to make our content bigger and stronger, but with so much out there, how to go beyond the listicle? How can we make ourselves and our clients heard?

“Content Frenzy” brought together big names in media, platform technology, corporate communications,  research and analysis. Make no mistake, the listicle has respect. In fact, when BuzzFeed’s Eric Harris recited stats about its astounding success with native ad content, the envy on the podium was palpable. Some of us didn’t realize that BuzzFeed now has more employees than Forbes – itself no slouch in going native.

The audience was made up of professional communicators, but the words “public relations” were rarely mentioned. Far from being a sign of PR’s marginalization, I think that fact signals that the lines between public relations and content marketing are truly blurred.

Here are some of my takeaways from the lively panel discussions.

It’s about the consumer, stupid.

“Messaging is dead,” says Jarvis. Of course we communicators spend enormous amounts of time on messaging, and we will continue to do so, but the point here is that our content should be driven by its consumers. What do they need? What solves problems? Makes them laugh? It’s about relevance and relationships. Above all, it’s about trust. And don’t even objectify them by calling them an “audience.”  The new world of individualized content calls for a fresh mindset and even a different vocabulary.

Content is visual.

Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter Group, who’s created some excellent white papers on native advertising and other hot topics, noted that pure text content is “flatlining” while multimedia  – videos, photos, images, are rising.  Amy Webb of Webbmediagroup spoke about something called “anticipatory computing” delivered by an app called MindMeld that she believes will transform the very definition of content. I don’t understand it either, but it seems to build on Jarvis’ call for big data to get “smaller” in a more highly individualized path to the consumer’s screen.

Success must be earned.

One of the biggest laugh lines was in response to a client or advertiser asking, “How do we create a viral video?” The answer: “Shut up.” Meaning, there is no surefire formula, and certainly no commercial recipe for creating compulsively shareable content. The panel on humor, “Punked, Parodied, and Brandjacked,” with Funny or Die’s Chris Bruss and satirist Tony Hendra, was a fresh reminder of how risky – and how powerful – humor and entertainment can be in overcoming resistance and even changing perception. Rather than a data scientist, Chris Graves suggested we should all be hiring comedy writers. That’s no joke.

Content = commitment.

Someone pointed out that 2013’s shining example of real-time marketing, the Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” Twitter ad (yes, I’m sick of it, too) was actually the 101st piece of content created by Oreo’s content team. The point, I believe, is that it was less lightning in a bottle than a case of a brand that was well prepared for the opportunity due to its prior commitment to creating relevant content well and continuously.

Know your core competencies.

For PR professionals, content creation is natural. Lieb poetically calls it “the marketing of attraction” and gives us communicators points for understanding earned media and storytelling. But there’s a risk here for companies and particularly for agencies. Most seemed to agree with Text 100’s Aedhmar Hynes when she explained her firm’s decision to focus on what it does well, as opposed to hiring software developers or building tools that may be better rented, or obtained through vendors.

So, who’s doing it right?

News Corp’s Raju Narisetti repeatedly mentioned GE as an example of a corporation that gets it, citing its partnership with The Economist in a series of daily journalist-developed editorial pieces that has been called “a marriage of advertising and insight.” Other role models are Red Bull and Coca-Cola, both of whom are actually able to monetize their owned content.

But my biggest takeaway and favorite piece of advice – beyond the listicle sheep warning – was from Anthony Surratt of Time Warner Cable, who pointed out that we communicators have a tendency to overthink things. Maybe we should stop worrying about definitions, metrics and semantics and just focus on customer needs. Surratt was joined by Michael Brenner of SAP, whose advice was simple. Just try to help your customers, and the rest will follow.

For more practical tips on creating content for PR pros, we prepared this tipsheet.


PR Tips For Talking To Top Tech Bloggers

As an account person at a New York PR agency focused on tech accounts, I spend most of my day trying to reach some of the world’s most savvy tech bloggers and influencers. Bloggers are important in nearly every sector, but those who cover technology are particularly crucial to launching a new product or service, or to building a personal brand for a company executive. Some have deep technical subject knowledge, and all offer strong opinions about their category or product area.

These bloggers can also be some of the toughest cookies in our business. Here are a few tech PR tips I’ve picked up along the way that may help you crack the tech media code.

Do think in context

When pitching tech, it’s easy to be overly focused on your client’s announcement. News is always important, but instead of relying on it as your sole pitch, consider offering context. Provide links to pertinent headlines about similar topics and trends, or offer someone from your client’s end to discuss the trend beyond their news. Media are busy, so regardless of whether you are doing a hard B2B PR push, or just trying for some digital brand PR maintenance, keep your pitches to the point, but set the scene for offering insights, trend data, or forecasts.

Don’t get bloated by buzzwords

Nowhere are buzzwords more prevalent than in tech, and often PR people think loading up their pitch with jargon will give it a “hip” edge. It doesn’t; if you don’t believe me, check out this witheringly critical post of a buzzword-filled PR pitch by David Pogue. Instead, craft your pitch in a way that’s catchy and relevant, and get to the point in the first sentence of your verbal or email approach.

Do offer exclusives

Don’t be afraid to offer an “exclusive” – a first crack at a newsworthy story— to get the conversation started in advance of a company announcement. By responsibly teasing exclusives and off-the-record conversations prior to your news, you establish your client as a go-to source for future coverage. In addition, it gives you ample to time to get all the details ironed out prior to the story’s publication date. Skillful use of the media exclusive is also a great way to build relationships among influential bloggers and journalists.

Do keep it honest

Mistakes happen. And while it is frowned upon to continuously reach out in order to micro-manage a reporter’s coverage, following up with corrections is a must. No one likes to learn they got it wrong. Reach out in a friendly way with correct information (e.g. company background, titles, company claims, product information, etc.). Journalists are generally quite receptive and will appreciate the follow-up as they don’t want to spread misinformation. Consider pairing these requests with a “thank you for the great coverage…” in order to leave no question about the friendly nature of your request.

Think about the long term

Be considerate of tech bloggers or any journalists. Send them what they need, when they need it, and if you don’t have the answer they seek, do your best to get back to them with it. The right coverage is about more than just a pitch, and acting in collaboration with your contact is a great way to not only build bridges but also spawn more positive attention.

10 Rookie PR Mistakes That Startups Make

“It’s not rocket surgery” is how Polish entrepreneur Michal Sadowski describes building a startup business in a self-produced video that’s currently making the rounds.

Mixed metaphors aside, Sadowski’s video has been called out for ignoring the tough side of entrepreneurship. And it’s true that if you’re a startup or a new company, your life is full of competition – for financing, for talent, and, for PR visibility — the exact thing that Sadowski was after when he made the video. Buzz, of course, is one of those intangibles that makes scoring financing and attracting the best and the brightest that much easier.

Yet, precisely because early-stage businesses are so focused on other growth strategies, many of them stumble when it comes to developing a strong PR or media relations program. Here are some of the most common reasons why startup PR fails to gain traction when it counts the most.

1.   Your messaging is unclear. Chances are, it’s too complicated or confusing. This is common to technology companies, although it’s by no means limited to the tech sector. Or, maybe it’s overly commercial. A simple, concise, and compelling message that accurately captures your product or service is more difficult than it seems, but it is critical to long-term PR success.

2.    You rely on press releases. “PR by press release” is typically a waste of time and money. Wire services can be costly, and even the pickup generated from enhanced news release distribution isn’t reliable or strong enough to justify it as a regular tool.

3.    You make hyperbolic claims. Having lofty goals is one thing; blatant exaggerations or outright fabrications are something else. We briefly worked with a startup client whose narrative included traffic goals and metrics that were so preposterous we knew they wouldn’t stand up to media scrutiny. Nearly a year later, he’s still out there, making very far-fetched growth predictions, and no one is listening.

4.     You’re selling instead of informing or telling a story. Many CEOs or Marketing executives fall into the trap of confusing a meeting with a journalist with a sales pitch. It’s not. As the adage goes, give me something I can use. That means a story. If you can’t envision your words in an actual news article, chances are you’re overly commercial.

5.     You’re aiming too high.  A top-tier outlet like The Wall Street Journal or Mashable is unlikely to drop everything to cover your launch, no matter how compelling it seems. It’s often useful to start with low-hanging fruit, road-test your message, then move on to larger media.

6.     Your story is boring or technical. What’s fascinating to a founder or manager may not be to a journalist or partner. The greatest crime in this game is being boring.

7.     You’re not committed. PR is also one of those marketing practices that simply needs a minimum of four to six months to start bearing fruit, and it requires daily care and feeding. A “fits-and-starts” approach to media relations rarely gains traction.

8.     You’re not open. Media need to vet and verify their stories. This means facts, numbers, and other specific forms of evidence that support your story. If you’re not prepared to share, you should rethink the approach.

9.     You’re not different.  If your product or service is a “me-too” entry in a shiny new category dominated by well-followed companies, you’re unlikely to win more than a press mention without changing your model or showing differentiation.

10   You paint by numbers. It’s critical to have a plan, but a formulaic approach that doesn’t allow for flexibility or spontaneity will leave opportunities on the table. That’s where Sadowski’s “MTV-esque homage” to the life of a startup entrepreneur scores. It’s fresh, fun, and different enough to have been noticed by TechCrunch,  even if it only tells one side of the story.


How To Sell PR To The C-Suite

Public relations has come a long way in recent years, but PR budgets are still vulnerable during a downturn, company retrenchment, or change in business focus. That’s why most PR professionals, whether inside the corporation or at a partner agency, are in continuous selling mode. How do we support our clients in presenting PR as an investment rather than an expense, and one that is well worth making?

Here are some tips for “selling” the PR investment to a C-level decision-maker.

Promote outcomes rather than outputs.
The industry has been moving in this direction for some time, but it’s still easy to get caught up in tangibles, like events, article placements, or speaking opportunities secured. A more strategic way to go is with specific outcomes that are aligned with business objectives, like attracting business partners, changing opinion, or developing a reputation for specialized expertise.

Use data wisely.
Use data, yes, but keep it light at the top, with greater granularity available if needed. Always have far more information available than you think you will need; you want to be prepared to back up recommendations or assumptions with detailed evidence, but too much detail at the outset can make you seem lost in the weeds.

Offer insights as well as outcomes.
A C-level exec may not be fully cognizant of the scope and benefits of a strategic PR commitment. It should be as much about assessing perception, identifying vulnerabilities, and creating opportunities as it is about publicity output and results. The PR or Communications Director should be seen as a source of strategic insights for making more informed business decisions, not just the queen of publicity placements or press conferences.

Get around assumptions.
Even when constructing a B-school-style case for PR as a critical business function, it’s often necessary to make assumptions. But assumptions aren’t airtight. You can make them more defensible by offering “best case,” “expected case,” and “worst case” scenarios relative to demand generation or reputation health, for example.

Focus on the pain points.
Yes, the classic pain-based selling strategy can be particularly effective here. A strategic PR program is a defensive as well as a proactive tool. So, it can be a legitimate investment for achieving an improved online reputation, quantifiable visibility for a new product launch; or a commitment to more effective recruitment practices.

Be accountable.
Senior executives are often more likely to approve a budget when accountability is clear. In an agency situation, they know the buck stops with me, unlike a group supervisor at a holding company who could be gone next month. Within the corporation, that translates into the PR or Communications Director staking their performance goals to the achievement of specific outcomes.

Amortize the investment.
This can be tricky when selling to a CMO, where tenures are notoriously short and there’s pressure to deliver dynamic results quickly, but public relations is best viewed as a long-term commitment that pays reputation and brand visibility dividends over time.

For more on this topic, see PRSA’s excellent library on selling PR’s value.

B2B PR Doesn’t Have To Be Boring

As a brand marketing PR veteran, I never thought that one of my finest moments would be leadership of a B2B engagement for a financial services client. McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union markets directly to businesses for whom membership is an employee benefit. Yet, corporate decision-makers are consumers, too. And the success we’ve had raising awareness for the credit union has shown that even B2B programs can benefit from a little creative PR flair.

Here are some tips we’ve gleaned from our experience with this and other B2B clients that can enliven and enrich any business-focused PR effort.

Don’t ignore seasonal news hooks. Business media like to take advantage of the calendar, too. Earlier this year we surveyed consumers to determine how much “love” they felt for their financial institutions, then packaged it creatively to appeal to multiple media segments, just prior to….you guessed it, Valentine’s Day. CNBC and other business/financial outlets responded particularly well to the pitch.

Give your bylines some juice. Although the subject matter may appeal strictly to trades, why not jazz up your writing with some pop culture references, clever allusions and alliteration, or colorful quotes? With so much content competing for our attention, business writing should never be dry. If all else fails, substitute generic words for more descriptive ones. Money market returns aren’t just small, they’re “scrawny.” Bank charges are, high, yes, but what about “rapacious”?

Mix up your messengers. For a B2B monthly speaker series, we recommended shaking up the talks by securing bloggers and other journalists with social media chops as non-traditional speakers. These additions have wowed our audience and provided something extra in increased media coverage of the series as well as digital extensions — twitter chats and other social media outreach.

Get your client out of his comfort zone. When securing speaking opportunities for a CEO or other leader, look beyond typical industry gatherings and category conferences. Strategize about decision-makers in ancillary fields who can benefit from learning about your client’s business, and look to book a gig addressing one of these audiences. Our financial services CEO will be keynoting a conference for HR directors – not an obvious choice? The attendees want to hear how HR can interact better with the C-suite and our client wants to offer up credit union membership as an employee benefit, making for a very good, if not obvious, fit.

For your next B2B PR assignment, make it your business to get a little creative.

PR and Content Marketing: Made For Each Other

Earlier this year, the Aberdeen Group published a report titled “Publish or Perish:  Content Marketing is the New PR.”  It posits that public relations is being disrupted by the growth of content marketing. As content becomes THE critical tool for brand recognition and credibility, the report implies, it is the new PR.

Content Marketing as New PR Trend

True, content’s kingly status has upended the traditional PR toolbox and even our approach in some sectors.  Adding to the mix, Google’s ongoing algorithm updates have outdated massive link-building in favor of…what else?  High-quality, original, shareable content.

But we’ve witnessed this trend toward a new PR for some time.  It’s been fueled by the contraction of the traditional media universe and the rise of social media, which fosters sharing.  So, although the minority of PRs who are still steeped in traditional tactics might be threatened by the changes, most welcome the new PR.  It’s less a disruption and more of a “quiet revolution” according to Aspectus, which calls PR the “engine room of content marketing.”  Well said.

PR, SEO, and Content Are the PB&J of Online Marketing

Though each has a distinct goal, they belong together.  PR pros are trained storytellers who understand paid, owned, earned, and shared content, and how they work together to make the bigger picture greater than the sum of marketing parts.

In fact, the most powerful content marketing programs are well integrated into PR plans.
Lee Odden has a good post on breaking down silos and making the business case for blending PR and content marketing, creating the New PR.  But assuming that case is made, here are some basic steps to make that relationship more seamless.

Involve PR in content planning.

Not all stories are created equal.  What works well from a digital marketing perspective can become more promotable as earned media with a little foresight.  Sometimes a tweak is all it takes.  A white paper about fostering innovation, for example, can benefit by swapping an overexposed brand like Apple or Google for a newer example like Uber or Buzzfeed. Or, an e-book topic can get a ripped-from-the-headlines twist that makes it more topical for a journalist.

Align with simple tools.

An editorial calendar that’s tied to sales and marketing events and goals (product launches, conferences, etc.) is very useful for New PR content planning.  Obvious?  Yes, but many of us don’t do it, or we fail to update it as things change.

Solve problems.

It’s a nuance, but the typical op-ed or byline is just that—an opinion piece, usually by a senior executive about a relevant issue.  But the “how-to” strategy of offering educational information or solving a problem through expert advice has long been a staple in consumer PR.  The same principle is effective in the B2B area, too, and it can help make content both more marketable and more marketing-oriented.

Repurpose, reuse, and reuse again.

It can start with the simple use of publicity placements in direct marketing efforts.  But bear in mind that the broader your content portfolio around a single theme or message, the higher your inbound marketing batting average.  A webinar can be adapted into a blog series, a speech easily morphs into a bylined trade or business article, and a survey report can become an infographic.  After a while, this happens naturally; one colleague uses lengthy CEO blog posts as a source for pre-approved commentary suitable for relevant industry blogs.


The SEO landscape will always change, but it’s often effective to identify one or a handful of top keywords and work them into content across all marketing groups.  The more “ownable” the terms, the better.  If the editorial calendar has been properly planned, they will integrate easily into shared and owned content, from social media profiles to press releases and slideshare presentations.

Impose a story structure.  

Formulaic stories = boring content.  But just as in a good novel or news story, structure, including the beginning, conflict/drama/problem, resolution, is key.  It pays to study the structure of the most effective brand journalism and marketable content and develop one that works for your narrative in the New PR.  Ideally, your customers, employees, and clients are an integral part of telling your brand story.  Implied third-party endorsement makes for credible and powerful content, and it just happens to be the essence of great PR.

This post originally appeared in MENGBlend.

Need more ideas? Download Top Content Ideas for PR Pros here!

Creative Strategies for B2B Tech PR

Public relations work for B2B technology clients is fascinating and often complex, but its tactics are fairly straightforward. After all, your client’s target audience is other businesses, which narrows the way you strategize PR and communications programs. But even within a B2B technology PR agency or team, there are times when “B2C” thinking adds depth to the client program. A little consumer touch can go a long way.

For example, Silverpop, a digital marketing technology provider, employs a range of traditional B2B tactics. We work together on creating and promoting its content, generating bylines, and securing speaking opportunities for its senior executives.

But this is a creative company with plenty of buzzworthy ideas and a deep reservoir of thought capital and…yes, data. Silverpop packaged some of that data into an infographic we offered to key media to generate publicity leveraging a high-profile event, New York Fashion Week.  

Since marketing professionals in the fashion retail category are a target audience, our outreach was targeted to outlets they’d read, like Refinery29 and business publications like the Los Angeles Times, where we were able to land some great coverage. The message focused on the client’s smart use of relevant data for marketers, in a fun and stylish package.

Want more B2B tech PR tips? Here are some of our favorites.

Make it visual. Infographics are still an appealing way to package data, but there are other ways to make content visual. If you don’t have deep enough material for an infographic, consider an infogram, or simple image to illustrate a data point.

On the other hand, if you have a decent amount of data, LinkedIn’s SlideShare is very useful for sharing business presentations and videos. One of the biggest advantages to this platform is the community around it, which allows for conversation among like-minded professionals.

Keep it simple. When using consumer events or breaking news to increase the relevance of your pitch, don’t overreach. Our client’s Fashion Week infographic was about the most socially engaged designers during the schedule of shows. Anything more complicated would have made media glaze over.

Use the tip of the iceberg. Similarly, don’t overwhelm bloggers and journalists with data in the initial pitch. Use the most timely or compelling piece of data or the most provocative aspect of an executive point of view to hook your reader’s attention, then expand on it if your pitch meets a receptive audience.

Contribute. Take advantage of opportunities to share your client’s thoughts and ideas. Guest posts and article contribution opportunities are a great way to do this. Medium, for example, is a new publishing platform that emphasizes thoughtful, long-form content. The influential B2B community that currently uses and supports Medium is what separates it from many other platforms.

“Slice and dice.”  You may only be pitching one specific tech product or service on behalf of your client, but a good PR pro can create many story angles out of it – “slicing and dicing” the story is key!

Make it shareable. Some B2B tech companies see social media as a consumer tool, but that’s a limited view. Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn enable brands to engage directly with influencers. Whether it’s a comment on a blog or a tweet, building a relationship with the right people is a cornerstone of good B2B PR.