How Top PR Agencies Can Do Better B2B PR

PR professionals, do you resolve to keep your B2B PR clients relevant and interesting in 2014?  Have you gone over your strategy list and checked it twice? It’s important to stay newsworthy, while keeping client business goals top of mind. Here are some tips to improve your B2B PR campaigns in the new year.

Secure Strategic Alliances
A well planned partnership with a complementary, non-competing organization or company can benefit your client by adding “new” news, important borrowed interest and sometimes, a cost offset. For example, if your client is interested in sponsoring an industry event but isn’t necessarily a household name in the field, partner with an entity that is. The borrowed interest can help vault your client’s name to prominence, create exposure and keep you on budget.

Infographic Reboot
Infographics are a great tool for creating branded content for clients but often, brands operate on a “one and done” basis and move on the next great idea.  Consider having your client create an infographic that annualizes!  Create a listicle, poll or other way to meaningfully show a stat at the same time each year, building media anticipation.

During New York Fashion Week, we offered media an infographic generated by a digital marketing technology provider that generated a ton of coverage and interest from media. Along with traditional B2B PR strategies like bylines and speaking opportunities, the infographic created a lot of buzz around the client and promoted the company in the B2B and B2C realm despite being a data company. The infographic allowed the client to step out of the digital cloud and we’re already in the works for creating a 2014 version.

Own it!
Owned content in the form of research with some “sex appeal” is a good way to position your client as a thought leader in the industry.  Encourage your client to create a survey on a timely topic relative to the industry, or leverage public domain research in an interesting way and pitch it to media with a twist.  For a financial services client, we recently surveyed consumers asking how much they fib to their significant other when it comes to holiday spending and we’ve maintained a steady flow of interest and coverage from reporters at consumer, business and financial outlets.

Temperature Check
Remember, while implementing these new ideas it’s important to check in and communicate on a regular basis with the client to ensure that their business goals are being reached and the messages are in line with a changing industry landscape.

PR professionals are the stewards of any B2B client’s image.  Always be looking for ways to burnish and safeguard it.

How To Produce Killer Brand Journalism

I’m not sure if brand journalism is the new PR, or if brand PR is the new journalism, but both seem to be gaining traction. Some still say the term is an oxymoron, since the line between thinly veiled PR or marketing and content that’s truly relevant can be a fine one.

But a recent case that demonstrates the power of quality brand journalism is the dramatic success experienced by Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Using a head-mounted computer and camera device, the Center produced live video of the first Google-Glass-assisted operation, scoring exclusive features with top-tier press, including “CBS This Morning” and The New York Times.

Talk about “surgical” use of PR strategy! Of course, Google Glass is still a hot wearable technology story, and the inside-access aspect made it something the media couldn’t replicate or get on their own. Still, kudos to the Wexner team for its focus on quality storytelling and video production.

For most companies who don’t have an exclusive story about the latest wearable tech, however, brand journalism can be a challenge. It seems like everyone’s trying to do it, but few are doing it well.  In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), most businesses feel they’re not very good at it.

This is understandable.  First, there’s that glut of content, so it’s hard to stand out.  Second, some feel pressured to generate brand exposure, or they don’t grasp that it’s secondary to quality and relevance.

What is Quality Brand Journalism?

Marketers, take heart. There’s plenty of mediocrity out there, but there are also best practices that serve as guidelines to producing high-quality brand journalism from those who have done it. Here is our take:

More journalism, less brand.   Shane Snow, founder of content platform Contently analogizes to conversations we have in the real world. If you want to make friends and influence people, you ask others about themselves.  It’s not so different in the digital world.  When it comes to your content, marketers should learn to be other-centered instead of focusing on their own needs. It’s just not about you.  That’s one reason that keyword-stuffed blog posts or educational pieces that are really sales pitches have fallen out of favor.

Go small or go home.  Yes, we want to trade in big ideas, but the broader the material, the more likely it is to move beyond a company’s core expertise.  It’s natural to think that more topics translate into more prospects, but that’s not necessarily the case. Niche or long-tail content born out of deeply held opinions or experience is likely to resonate with your most valuable audiences. 

Make it part of a brand communications strategy.  Most marketers know this, but only 44% of those responding to a CMI’s survey say they have an overall strategy.  To be effective, brand journalism should be part of a broader communications program that delivers relevant stories to the right audiences through the most suitable channels.

Think like a journalist.  Or, hire one. Real journalists quote sources, back up assertions with data, and in general, don’t editorialize.  Brand journalism doesn’t have to hew to those standards, but supporting conclusions with sources and tapping outside experts adds credibility to the narrative.

Study the experts.  Plenty of businesses are doing a good job with content.  Many are large companies: American Express’s Open Forum for small business is a pioneer and a good role model. So are Cisco, Adobe, Virgin, GE, Red Bull, and Coke. Of course, these are huge brands with budgets to match.  But for small business examples, look no further than Birchbox, CorePower Yoga, Jeni’s Ice Cream, or Gibson Guitar’s Lifestyle blog.

Slow down.  Google’s new algorithms favor deeper, long-form content with original material. Yes, “snackable” content still has its place, but a single high-quality piece is sometimes worth ten” me-too” blog posts that regurgitate what’s already out there. 

This post was adapted from a similar one that appeared November 20th on MENGBlend.

What Top PR Firms Want for the Holidays

Whether your PR firm specializes in consumer PR or B2B, tech or travel, we bet you have a holiday wish list. We can’t help you with the naughty or nice part (like the wrapped Ryan Gosling here), but we do have some ideas for fantasy gifts in a more professional PR vein. Here’s what made the cut this season.

Auto-Strategy Builder
A gift that keeps on giving – an account team plugs in all the information after a client data dump and brainstorm and a computer program provides a brilliant strategic communications brief!

Wearable Tech Media Monitor
The latest and greatest in wearable tech, this Jawbone-style bracelet for the PR pro alerts you when a media contact needs a source for a story. Then, when the story hits and includes your client’s quotes perfectly, the device measures your accelerated pulse and heart rate!

Is there anything better than hijacking a holiday for publicity gain? With Have-a-Holiday, you needn’t wait for “National Pound Cake Day” or “Buzzard Day” (really, that exists) Conveniently turn any day into the day YOU need to publicize some important client messaging.

Proposal Wizard
Not that any top PR agency ever writes anything “off the shelf,” but wouldn’t it be swell if you could take your brilliant strategy and an app could whip out some tactics, newsbureau description, budgeting and some of the other more mundane aspects of proposal writing, leaving your team to dream up all the creative ways to tell your client’s story?

Meeting Clone
And its companion product, Conference Call Clone for those of us who just have too many meetings to attend!

But let’s not forget what the holidays are truly about.  ‘Tis better to give than receive, after all, so remember to thank your colleagues for their hard work and support, appreciate a client who went out of his way to get a bold PR initiative approved, and be grateful to a media contact for a well-crafted story.

Amazon’s Preemptive PR Strike Hits Home

Talk about a PR bombshell. After dropping hints that he would unveil a “big surprise” on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” program, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos launched a preemptive Cyber Monday PR strike…with a drone.

As the highlight of a feature segment that went behind the scenes of the company’s vast holiday delivery operation (kind of a digital Santa’s workshop), Bezos demonstrated a half-hour transport service that’s straight out of The Jetsons. (Look it up, kids.) Called Amazon Prime Air, it works like this: a specially equipped drone called an octocopter picks up a package at the end of a conveyor belt in a fulfillment center, takes flight, and effects a gentle landing at your doorstep.

Hot air? Pie-in-the-sky? Maybe, but this is of the genius variety. After all, the Amazon logistics story has been told and is even a little tired. We’ve heard about its warehouse expansion plans, private label offerings, and new categories. It was time for a fresh notion. What could be better than a package-bearing drone? It was a deux-ex-machina of a PR placement.

Problem is, the delivery drones are at least five years away, and the FAA won’t issue rules before 2015. So, the octocopter story may be more about hype than anything else. Amazon has drawn some criticism for the PR stunt, as has Charlie Rose, whose gushy interview style matched Bezos’s own boyish demeanor and included awestruck comments like, “You guys can organize the world.”

But let’s give credit where it’s due. As much as it served as a well-time holiday commercial for the Amazon delivery operation, the thing that made the segment go viral was the sci-fi touch. The real point wasn’t as much about Cyber Monday or drones as it was about two consistent Amazon brand attributes: innovation, and what Bezos calls its “customer-centricity.”  Even amid some transparently canned one-liners in response to criticism (“Complaining is not a strategy”), Bezos delivered on his message points.
We may be waiting a few more years, or decades, for those drones at our doorstep, but there’s no doubt what Amazon is trying to communicate, and I’d say they delivered.

A Beautiful Noise: Five Tips for Better Brand PR Messaging

by guest blogger George Drucker

When it comes to brand public relations campaigns, consistent and compelling messaging can mean the difference between a successful PR campaign and an “also-ran.”

You have to make noise to be heard above the clutter. But that noise, in essence, your messaging, must be carefully, thoughtfully and creatively crafted so the end result is distinctive and unique to the brand.
So, how does a brand public relations team accomplish this? Here are five tips to consider:

Audit the brand for its best, most saleable points. Look at those aspects of its history or identity that help tell the brand’s story, and then get it into the most powerful words. Create “proof points” that demonstrate why your brand messages are true and authentic.

Be inclusive. I’ve had success hosting an ideation session to vet the best and most effective (i.e., memorable) brand messages. Consider every possible point of difference for every audience that’s relevant to the brand. Pay special attention to those areas where you can “plant the flag,” or offer an ownable selling proposition.

Filter. You then need to winnow down the great from the good from the bad, while still meeting the needs of every potential target. Ultimately cull down to the three or four points that best paint a clear, compelling and consistent picture of the brand.

Screen for the “4 C’s” to ensure that messages are effective. Vet each message point for the following: Is each clear and concise? Is the wording and imagery distinctive? Do the messages collectively convey a picture of and for the brand? Are the messages compelling? Can the points be used consistently across all platforms and with all audiences?

(Don’t) get comfortable. Throw out old brand associations and start fresh. Look at other communications across a wide spectrum – old media, digital media, memes, and blogs etc. and use great imagery and clever verbiage to help get the juices flowing.

Take the time to do it right and get the most out of your brand PR messaging.