5 Winning Ways To Use Social Media For B2B PR

Few strategic PR campaigns exist today without a robust social media component. Staying “social” is such a powerful part of B2B PR success that we felt it was time for a fresh look at some tricks of the trade. The key is to start with solid content based on in-depth knowledge of your target audience.

Break the boring

B2B PR need not be dull! You can take niche subject matter and enliven it with fresh descriptions, links to pop culture and a wink-wink self-awareness that will help connect with receptive prospects. Don’t just do a survey. Turn the results into a data visualization, consider posts on visual platforms like Pinterest or Flickr, share it on Twitter and in your next email blast. Initiate a trade contest with user-generated content – and leverage the results for other relevant posts.

Focus your social efforts

A B2B audience is smaller than a B2C brand’s following, so go deep. Study what content prospective customers and partners consume, how they want to interact and which social communities they frequent. Some will advocate solely for LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube (and newer video channels) while others insist even the seemingly more consumer-oriented sites such as Pinterest can boost B2B efforts. Consider pinning company infographics, creating boards featuring products and services, even a board of email newsletters.

Be opportunistic

Have a team in place who can respond in an instant to a news event – do you have expertise in reputation management and can weigh in on the Greek fiscal crisis, America’s World Cup triumph, or Donald Trump’s latest comment? Swift action on a relevant issue or topic can result in strategic earned media coverage, but shared social media content can be just as powerful.

Never underestimate the value of research

See what other companies are doing, check new studies, and talk to your peers to get ideas.  Mine your own business sector, other divisions within your company and partner organizations for nuggets that can make news. An inexpensive web survey or a quick data analysis can pay large dividends when it comes to social sharing.

Get out

See that event on LinkedIn or that panel discussion invite from a MeetUp group? Attend or send someone! Socialize and engage in the real world for productive conversations, to see and be seen, and for shareable content that’s relevant to prospective customers.

Brand Ambassador And Reputation Risk: A Guide For PR

Subway’s recent PR crisis demonstrates how fragile a public image can be. It also shows the risks of using an advertising or PR brand spokesperson, even one as seemingly innocuous as Jared Fogle. It all happened when the home of the longtime Subway brand ambassador was searched by authorities investigating child pornography charges against a man who had directed Fogle’s charitable foundation. In the wake of heavy coverage and some over-the-top speculation on social media, Subway suspended its relationship with Fogle “by mutual agreement.”

The public relations benefits of a living, breathing spokesperson can be enormous. A known personality can attract media and public attention and add a human dimension to the brand narrative. When that person is actually a super-user like Fogle, there’s often a degree of credibility that is far more powerful than with a rented celebrity.

Yet unlike a cartoon character or a role played by an actor, a real-life human being can betray a brand – even if unintentionally.

Jared may be an innocent bystander here. He hasn’t been arrested or charged with a crime, and it’s certainly possible that he simply made a terrible hire. But rather then helping Subway, that fact probably complicates its PR dilemma. For every customer who is horrified by the brand’s indirect link to an accused pedophile, there’s someone who slams Subway for not standing by its spokesperson.

So how to manage the risk? No strategy is foolproof, but there are some steps that can help prevent a reputation meltdown.

Have an actionable crisis plan. Crisis prep is something that many companies give lip service to, but it should be more than a document that’s drafted and forgotten. A true crisis plan should address the most likely adverse scenarios based on past experience and include concrete steps for severing a spokesperson relationship and managing fallout in the wake of misbehavior or worse. For textbook examples, look no further than Lance Armstrong, Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, or Oscar Pistorius. Even Donald Trump’s licensees got more than they bargained for when Trump tossed his hat into the presidential ring and his opinions on hot-button issues were suddenly news.

Hedge your bets. Many legal experts suggest spokesperson contracts of relatively short duration, like two years. When Tiger Woods’ reputation hit the rough, consulting giant Accenture was particularly vulnerable because it had built its longtime marketing campaign around Woods. The longer a brand spokesperson is used, the thinking goes, the greater the risk of damage if something goes awry. Similarly, a brand should have a Plan B. An entire marketing or reputation campaign built around a single individual – whether that person is a celebrity or the CEO – is too risky for most companies.

Act decisively. In this instance, Subway was right to quickly distance itself from Fogle. But what’s surprising is that the company must have known about the potential for negative PR at least since April, when the Jared Foundation employee was arrested. It may have done better to have acted even sooner than it did, despite not knowing if Fogle himself was culpable. It’s not necessarily fair to cut ties at the first sign of trouble, but it’s often the wiser course for brand reputation.

Consider risk insurance. The damage from a truly disastrous public brand meltdown may be incalculable, and cash alone can’t compensate. But for large global companies, a so-called public disgrace policy is a viable step. Insurers have developed products designed to offer financial protection in the event of a reputation crisis, covering expenses like replacing or removing a brand spokesperson, costs to redo ads and marketing materials, or coverage for events like product recalls. Ironically AIG – fresh off its own reputation troubles – began a few years ago to offer something called Reputation Guard, which will pay for consultation with a top crisis PR agency in the event of a reputation disaster. I guess they should know.

For smaller companies, the lesson seems to be caution when a third-party ambassador of any type is used for brand marketing or PR, and for serious limits on the marriage of a brand and a flesh-and-blood brand spokesperson.

Strategic PR Tactics That Can Drive Business

The outcomes of strategic public relations can be hard to predict, and while certain metrics can help define success, a common question PR agencies face from clients looking to grow their businesses is this: how can PR improve my bottom line?

This can be a tricky question. PR goals should be clearly delineated from the outset of any program, and expectations managed. But in our experience, PR tactics can dramatically help a growing company’s business, opening up new partnerships and driving sales. Here are just a few examples.

The simple call to action. When it comes to earned media placements, sometimes a simple “download now” with a link to the offering is all that’s needed. We recently worked with a company whose newest product was an app that aggregated magazines, and often basic stories that included a link to a site where readers could access it yielded a strong spike in downloads.
But consider this tactic with measured expectations. There are cases where a direct call to action for a product was included in stories in top-tier publications, with few results. While click-through traffic spiked in most cases, sometimes it didn’t convert. For brands, it’s important to know your audience and understand the typical sales cycle.

There’s “riches in niches.” This was a favorite saying of a former client who worked in a niche industry, and it follows closely after “know your audience.” When the product or brand tends to appeal to a highly specialized audience, securing stories in niche media outlets is often effective. When our agency supported the product launch of a new beer from an iconic American brewery that had been reverse-engineered from a “lost” recipe, we knew it would appeal to hard core craft beer aficionados. And while plenty of mainstream outlets covered the launch with glowing reviews, it was niche outlets like Beer Advocate that drove business.

Is it local? Borrowing a phrase from Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, is there a way to play up the local angle with the hometown news outlet? For a business still looking to establish itself, making connections in the local business community is often a key to long-term success. Joining the local Chamber of Commerce is one thing, but when the Chamber’s president reads a compelling profile in a local business publication about your company and invites you to speak at the next meeting, well, that’s something else. That’s what happened for a recent new client, Five Elements, the only American commercial firm manufacturing personal robots domestically. Never underestimate the power of a local, homegrown story.

“Measure programs, not tactics,” is another PR mantra. It’s a good reminder that even the most effective public relations tactics don’t typically work in a vacuum, but as part of a brand-building campaign over time.