For PR teams, earned media placements are a key deliverable of a strategic public relations campaign. Typically they’re articles or broadcast segments that feature a given company or brand in a positive way. Earned media offers credibility even though we give up perfect control over the message.
But earned media doesn’t always achieve the frequency we need to promote client brands, and some stories have a lengthy gestation period. Earned results aren’t usually enough for a robust PR program. And given the ubiquity of social media, there’s an almost endless need for content, content, and more content. Here’s a look at the most reliable ways to generate content that supports a B2B brand outside of earned media.
A white paper is a workhorse
One form of content that works particularly well for B2B brands is the white paper. A high-quality white paper does double or triple duty: it showcases a company’s expertise in its given area; offers solutions to customer problems or needs; and it often works as a lead-generator as well. Yes, they’re often lengthy, but white papers can be enlivened with graphics, images and stats to hold the reader’s attention. They’re an impressive document for anyone wanting to take a deep dive into a specific business or technical topic.
The findings or data from a white paper can also be pitched out to the media. However, to make a lengthy document more digestible for journalists, boiling the findings and content down into a short release may be the way to go. We always link to the full white paper in the release, in case the reporter wants to dive deeper or include it in their story. While white papers are often a heavy lift when it comes to time and research, once complete, they can generally be shared and repurposed for months or even years.
Podcasts are popular (and pretty painless)
The most popular alternative to the “traditional” media placement is unquestionably the podcast. Over the past several years, the medium has grown in popularity along with the acceleration of mobile technology. Many publications and companies have their own podcasts, and there’s a show out there for basically any topic under the sun.
That’s why podcasts should be on every media pitch list. A C-suite exec, entrepreneur, or company expert who’s knowledgeable and passionate about a topic or who has a compelling backstory will make the best podcast guest. The conversations that take place during a recording are more laid back than a typical interview, and questions are often shared in advance so the guest has time to think through their responses. Any PR strategy that leaves out podcasts – or social audio in general – is probably missing out on opportunities.
Thought leadership events keep on giving
Another excellent way to generate topical content, particularly for a B2B brand, is through a customized event. If you think about events as just one-and-done initiatives, think again. We regularly organize panel discussion events for clients that bring together a company expert or CEO with other (non-competitive) industry experts and a journalist as moderator. The panelists can include other industry executives, analysts, academics, or journalists. We invite media to attend and cover the discussions, but the real value of the panel events is typically the content that results. And it can have a much longer life than a two-hour event.
While COVID has put a halt to in-person panel discussions, virtual events work well and can even draw a wider audience of attendees. The discussion can be released in edited video snippets, bylined articles, contributed blog posts, op-ed pieces, and even on-site interviews.
Customer case studies sell benefits
The humble customer testimonial still works. In fact, there’s almost no better way for a B2B company to showcase its success than with an example that shows how its product or service helped solve a problem or address an issue for a customer. Case studies tend to be far shorter than white papers, and they don’t typically require in-depth research beyond the interview with the customer. The best media strategy for promoting a case study is to condense the story to a few pithy lines to pitch it for placement in a trade publication or other vertical media outlet. Alternatively, a short and compelling video testimonial can work well as part of an explainer video or even on a business platform like LinkedIn.
While case studies are clearly self-serving, if the story is good enough, they will find a good home. It’s important that both companies involved have a spokesperson who is willing to speak to the media. Many journalists won’t write these types of stories without participation from both parties. Some companies produce more case studies more than others, where customers may be reluctant to go public for competitive reasons. But for us they’re a tried-and-true way to showcase what our client companies can do.
Contributed content from brand advocates has power
Influencer content isn’t just for consumer brands. All types of organizations can create quality content by hooking up with brand advocates or experts. For B2B brands, these can mean a formal “board of advisors” or simply a loosely organized set of contacts. They might be analysts, academics, other recognized experts, or even professional organizations brought on for paid partnerships. We’ve had stellar success using influential experts for customer education events (often with media participation), sponsored surveys or research reports, or top-shelf white paper content.
As times change and media channels mulitply, it’s important to diversify the content mix. Earned media, “owned” or branded content, and well-crafted events work together to make for a high-impact PR program for any business brand.