B2B PR doesn’t have to be boring. But business-to-business content and PR programs, particularly those that promote a technology product or service, do have that reputation. And while it’s true that the B2B sales process is usually longer, more complex, and more highly targeted than on the consumer side, the PR need not be bland. The B2B game has been revitalized by the growth of social media, and the range of creative content choices has opened up new opportunities for communicators.
What some B2B marketers don’t realize is that classic consumer PR techniques can also go a long way to add juice to a B2B PR program. That’s because, despite significant differences, both depend on the same thing — capturing the end user’s attention.
By now, most B2B marketers know to tell a story visually through real-time data, infographics, slideshare presentations or short videos, and most have crafted a strong narrative around the company or its offering. Here are some additional ways to add flavor to a vanilla B2B tech or professional services PR program.
Borrow interest from pop culture or breaking news. Most consumer PR programs are built around seasonal calendar changes or other predictable happenings, from back-to-school to the Super Bowl. Journalists are always looking for a fresh take on the humdrum seasonal story. Beyond the obvious, you can tie content to the latest web meme, film release, or entertainment personality in the news. One of our clients, Exponential Interactive, gains attention and visibility by using data science to forecast the outcome of big events like the Academy Awards, with outstanding results in marketing and entertainment press. (Don’t bet against them!)
Use conferences for targeted promotions. Conferences and trade shows are a great opportunity to use contests, scavenger hunts, or other promotional tactics within the business bubble of the show. Contests and giveaways that could never be driven through expensive mass media channels can work well when amplified by a trade show daily, direct-mail list of attendees, or through conference hall “street teams.” (And, yes, most PR people have a few “street team” stories in their repertoire.) Some best bests here include product giveaways, social media contests, or even a conference-themed gaming app.
Think beyond LinkedIn and Twitter. Getting creative on social media, or adopting a new or counterintuitive social channel, is a great way to break through the noise. IBM, for example leverages its company history on Instagram and Tumblr through #throwbackthursday vintage photos that highlight company milestones and illustrious employees from the past. It earns Big Blue currency with prospective customers while reminding us of its storied heritage.
Leverage people, not technology. This may be heresy within some technology companies, but communications that highlights pure technology is rarely a winner. A story about an engineer obsessed with developing a better algorithm for fraud protection, or a data analyst who can apply her skill to predicting flu trends will gain far more traction than buzzwords or white papers. As MLT Marketing Creative Director Billy Mitchell puts it, “It’s not really B2B or B2C, it’s about H2H, or human-to-human.”
Crowdsource content. The B2B company’s best resource is often customers, so why not let the hive mind of client contacts revitalize your content? Crowdsourced material from customer surveys, testimonial interviews, or simple social-media-driven polls or quizzes can help create entertaining, relevant, and shareable results. There are some clever companies who market to the PR industry who have mastered this technique; they interview “thought leaders” like agency heads and corporate communications executives on topics of the day and count on us to promote the stories where we’re featured. Simple, targeted, and highly effective.