How (And Why) PR Pros Should Use TikTok

There’s a new social media app taking the world by storm. It’s called TikTok. Ever heard of it? 

Seriously, TikTok has been on the PR radar for a long time, and most recently it made news for different reasons. Media interest peaked over the weekend with reports that a deal involving TikTok, Oracle and Wal-Mart would avert a ban of the app in the U.S. The agreement is still tentative, but it’s meant to resolve the simmering controversy about the app as a potential security risk.

TikTok’s users, however, don’t seem concerned. The app has surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, with 1.65 billion downloads to date, more than 30 million active monthly users in the U.S., and more than 500 million active users worldwide. TikTok is currently the sixth largest social network in the world. 

What started out as a Snapchat-like platform for younger generations of social media influencers and general users for sharing video snippets has grown into an essential platform for marketing and advertising. Whether a brand’s focus is fitness, fashion, food, or anything else, TikTok can connect it to a highly desirable and sometimes elusive audience. 

Why TikTok? 

New and creative social channels should be key elements for consideration in any PR plan, especially for brands aiming to reach a younger audience. TikTok is essential for this demo, as 60% of U.S. users are between the ages of 16 and 24. The app is intrinsic to its users’ lives;  the average Tik Tok visitor opens the app more than eight times per day, spending about 46 minutes on it daily.  

One of the most appealing aspects of TikTok, especially for those younger users, is that everyone is a creator. It’s open to all formats, and there are no distinct guidelines or rules on how the app should be used. Creativity is the only rule. Videos range from singing and dancing, to comedy, reaction videos and challenges. On the flip side, users can find more serious content, with videos focused on topics like politics, climate change, and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Depending on individual users’ personalized recommendations, TikTok plays videos instantly upon the app’s opening, immediately drawing viewers in. This is TikTok’s most central feature – its AI-driven algorithm that shows videos based on user preferences. This same feature helps guarantee that a brand’s videos will reach its target audience – an important distinction TikTok has over other social media platforms. 

TikTok is a powerful brand marketing platform

TikTok makes it easier than ever to promote a brand – reaching the right people in the right ways. Over the last year, it introduced self-serve advertising platforms, including branded hashtags, video ads, branded lenses and much more. Based on a company’s wants and needs, there are a variety of formats to choose from. 

Branded hashtags drive discovery

Branded hashtags encourage users to create videos with a certain hashtag, often accompanied by a specific song or dance move. Videos with branded hashtags are not only available in a user’s normal feed, but also in the Trending section of the Discover tab, making these videos widely viewable. In fact, with TikTok, users rely heavily on hashtags to navigate the app. It’s “For You” discovery page engages far more than Instagram’s “Discover” page, for example.

Pepsi’s #SwagStepChallenge, a great example of a branded hashtag campaign, spread like wildfire on TikTok, as well as on Twitter and Youtube. The challenge became the fastest hashtag challenge using a branded effect to reach one million video creations globally and a whopping 95.5 billion views through user generated content (UGC) on the platform.

Video ads for the win

Video ads are understandably the most common format for ad and marketing purposes on TikTok, with brand takeovers, in-feed videos and top-view videos being popular. Brand takeovers are pop-up ads that typically last 3-5 seconds. They can be videos, GIFs, or images that include links to a landing page. TikTok only allows one brand to take over a category per day, but it guarantees five million impressions, a promise that may well be worth the investment for many. Additionally, brands get immediate attention, as the ads display upon opening the app. 

Branded lenses jump on trends

With branded lenses, brands partner with TikTok to create 2D and 3D lenses for users to “try on” and share. Branded lenses also let companies land in the Trending section of the Discover tab for ten days. According to Prowly, about 64% of TikTok users have tried facial filters and lenses, making it another valuable option for marketers. 

Influencer partnerships spice it up

For any marketer wanting to incorporate TikTok into a brand PR strategy, TikTok influencers are essential. As on other platforms, TikTok influencer marketing ads partner brands with creators to generate and share sponsored content. When the partnership is authentic and the creators are given freedom, these partnerships can be highly successful. 

For example, David Dobrik, one of the most popular social media influencers, with more than 22 million TikTok followers, partnered with Chipotle for its Lid Flip Challenge, a Cinco de Mayo campaign to promote the chain’s free delivery for digital orders. Chipotle discovered that Gen Zers order delivery more than any other segment, making them the perfect audience. To participate in the challenge, users only needed a phone and a Chipotle burrito bowl. 

According to AdAge, in just the first six days of the Lid Flip Challenge with David Dobrik, 111,000 videos were submitted and the promotion garnered a record-breaking digital sales day for the chain, driving app downloads and delivery among the key Gen Z audience.

But Can It Work for B2B?

B2B companies might be hesitant about TikTok because it’s so consumer-oriented, but they shouldn’t count it out. Companies wanting to reach business customers have the same end goal of reaching and forming lasting relationships with their target audiences. So, for B2B companies, how can TikTok help? 

With any brand, it’s important to feel approachable. Stronger relationships can be formed when customers feel connected to your brand on a more personal level. TikTok users want the platform to stay a creative, authentic channel for human-to-human interaction. Do you have a CEO with a unique story? Maybe how he/she established the business, or maybe insights on building a strong culture at work? Sharing tips or short stories in visually appealing ways can engage viewers and make lasting impact. For example, marketer Adrian Brambila shares his success story on TikTok by explaining how he established himself as a marketing leader, and to date, his videos have generated more than 4.7 million likes. 

TikTok is overflowing with innovative, fresh ideas, so brands must be clever with their posts to be noticed. Even for brands thought of as “boring” that is doable. For example, just before the global shutdown in March, The Washington Post began sharing content on TikTok, but they weren’t posting videos of daily headlines. Rather, the outlet shared relatable videos on the daily struggles and adjustments of working from home, incorporating popular trends. They must be doing something right, because the content has generated more than 25.8 million likes. 

Staying relevant, influential and top-of-mind is important for all brands, whether B2B or B2C. Keeping up with content trends is one way of doing that, and some of the best, most buzzworthy ideas online are shared on TikTok. Viral TikTok videos make great templates for high-performing content on other platforms as well – Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 

With TikTok, B2B companies can connect and engage with more of their audience and show prospects the more creative and personal side of their business. B2B companies not leveraging the app may be missing out on opportunities. 

TikTok: making connections and driving lasting impacts 

TikTok is the first app of its kind. What separates it from other social media platforms is the creativity it affords users. It lets them be both creators and viewers, and exposes them to an endless stream of personalized content. More importantly, the sense of community on TikTok is what draws users in and keeps them coming back for more. It will continue to play a key role in the PR efforts of brands appealing to younger users. If you’re looking to engage with the elusive teen or young 20s demographic, chances are you will find them on TikTok.

6 PR Tips For Staffing A Media Briefing

In B2B public relations, one of the things we do regularly is arrange media briefings on subjects relevant to our clients’ business. Often these briefings translate directly into coverage. But even if they don’t, these meetings are important. They’re useful for relationship building and keep the dialogue going until the time when a company executive’s quotes or comments can be used for a relevant story. 

PR people are nearly always involved in setting up these briefings, and at our agency, we always staff them as well. But to a less experienced PR person, this role can feel awkward. Am I in the way? A fifth wheel? Is this a waste of time when my client can handle it? The answer to these questions is no. A good PR rep should have a role in nearly any media briefing. Below are a few things we should keep in mind when staffing an interview:

Kick things off

It’s usually up to the PR representative to kick off the call and set the tone for the conversation to follow. At the start of each call or meeting, you will want to introduce the spokesperson and have them explain what their company does and what their role is there. Most journalists will do their own research ahead of an interview, but a verbal summary is a good conversation-starter. It also fulfills the important goal of giving the spokesperson a chance to reinforce their expertise on the topic at hand and to steer the interview to the story we want to share.

Be personable

People run late to meetings. If you’re waiting on a conference line and the journalist is first to join, it’s good to introduce yourself and thank them for taking the time to talk. Any good PR person sets up a brief for their client ahead of an interview, but it can also be an ice-breaker when waiting for the interview to start. That’s a good time to ask about a previous article they’ve written, current events or just how their day is going. Not only do you want your spokesperson to succeed, but creating a friendly relationship with a journalist will pave the way for future pitches.

Let the interview play out, but pay attention

If on the phone or Zoom, the PR person staffing the interview should go on mute once things begin. The journalist wants to speak to the expert or executive because they’re knowledgeable about a specific topic, so don’t crowd them. A good PR rep will listen closely and take notes on key points made during the conversation. Company spokespersons often share useful information or data we might not even know during a journalist discussion that can be applied to future outreach. Especially in tech PR, journalists often request data to back up a claim and the PR staffer will of course need to take care of any follow-up. We particularly like listening to briefings with C-level executives because they typically share information freely, have strong points of view about key topics, and will often say something we haven’t heard before.

Chime in if necessary

Occasionally a PR person will need to step in and make a course-correction. It happens rarely, but sometimes a spokesperson can go for too long on a tangent where they wander away from the question. Or they may divulge information not intended to be public. (This one’s tricky and must be addressed right away.) Conversely, the journalist may stray into areas that have been agreed as off-limits for a particular conversation. If this happens, PR pros shouldn’t be afraid to chime in and get things back on track. If a lack of focus is a frequent problem for a given spokesperson, it’s worth a media training session to heighten their comfort level and preparation for future conversations.

Follow up 

Be sure to follow up with a journalist after the interview. Besides offering thanks, you will want to recap the major points discussed and note any specific requests for data or clarification. You will also want to know how the journalist reacted to the information and whether anything was incomplete or unclear. As PR pros we never want to be overbearing, but if you’re expecting a story to go live quickly and don’t see anything, you will need to follow up again to get a sense of timing.

Offer spokesperson feedback

It’s also important to offer feedback to the executive or expert spokesperson who participated in the interview. We like to be constructive, but candid. It may be that the exec didn’t explain his line of business fully, or that he spoke over the head of a non-expert. Or, maybe he was thorough but could have gotten to the point a little faster. Constructive feedback will strengthen the relationship and help all parties improve even a good performance.

3 Tips For A Killer Media Tour

The media tour has been around for nearly as long as the PR industry. It helps build relationships between a brand spokesperson and multiple journalists over a short period of time. The term is a little misleading, however. It dates back to the days when authors would travel from city to city to promote a new book in a blitz of media interviews, or when celebrities push a film to 20 cities in an afternoon of local TV chats via satellite. Today most media tours aren’t exactly like that. They happen when we set up back-to-back in-person meetings between an expert and carefully selected reporters who find his story particularly relevant.

There are many reasons why media tours have survived so long. Maybe an executive is based overseas but will be in the U.S. for a short time. Or perhaps a spokesperson with unique expertise is available on a limited basis. Often these meetings serve more of an introduction than a formal interview, but the tour may also be centered around specific industry news, like a new product or executive change. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a successful media tour, whether in-person or virtually.

Manage expectations on both sides

Make sure the nature of each meeting is clear – whether it will be a casual background conversation or a formal, on-the-record interview for a specific story angle. There should be no confusion between the reporter and the spokesperson, who should be prepared with sample questions and background on the journalist (see below). During the meeting, individual PR reps may operate in different ways, but in general, the PR person is there to observe, occasionally steer the conversation, but not to have an active role in the discussion. Of course, we need to be prepared to jump in if things go off-course, or if the spokesperson needs help in reponsing or obtaining data.

Put thought into scheduling

Be sure to schedule meetings with attention to detail. If the tour’s goal is to introduce a brand executive from overseas to U.S. media, be mindful of jet lag and cultural differences — even on Zoom. Don’t plan meetings too closely together unless the spokesperson is very experienced or the schedule requires it. Be discreet when arranging interviews with publications that compete with one another to avoid awkward moments. Also, remember that no matter how much thought you put into prep for a schedule of meetings, things will go wrong in small ways. Journalists will run late or cancel, security lines for office buildings may be long, technology will fail, or Ubers may not show. Be flexible, build in extra time, and make sure your phone is charged and its address book holds the contact information for all relevant parties. 

Overprepare

Although some media tours are set up as a general introduction, all spokespersons should be prepared with the full background of the journalist involved, the media outlet’s orientation and history, and the interviewer’s goals. A sample Q&A is always advisable, even if the two already know one another. We typically prepare a full briefing doc beforehand.  In addition to helping the conversation flow, it’s useful to keep certain topics top-of-mind so the interviewee won’t be caught off-guard. The most successful media meetings occur when there’s a dynamic conversation and flow between the spokesperson and reporter.

After a successful media meeting, the reporter is far more likely to have the organization and spokesperson on their radar and to reach out for future stories. In this way, in-person chats are invaluable. We can’t wait to return to that old-fashioned way to meet!

Newsletters Every PR Pro Should Subscribe To

Every good PR person has the same best friend – email. In the business of public relations, email is essential for communicating with partners, journalists and future clients. We’re not alone in this, but in the communication business, email still reigns supreme. It keeps us up-to-date on meetings, client communications and industry changes. In fact, email newsletters are a fast way for PRs to scan the daily headlines from a given publication in the hope that a long awaited exclusive has finally gone live, or simply to shape the day’s media outreach. Are you looking to spice up your inbox? Check out these 10 newsletters every PR pro should read.

PR News: The Skinny

Curated by PR News, The Skinny details the top stories in the communication industry, covering social media, crisis management, media relations, content marketing, technology, and digital PR.

PR Daily News Feed

For those just starting out in PR or seasoned pros, PR Daily News Feed newsletter gives a great overview on recent campaigns from brands, thought leadership articles on hot PR topics and often reposts of content from PR firms.  

AdExchanger

AdExchanger’s newsletter gives subscribers access to business intelligence they won’t find anywhere else, exclusive invites to peer networking events, and ‘members-only’ discounts at industry conferences, while providing insight into all things adtech.

Digiday 5 Things to Know

For tech PR pros, Digiday is a great publication and considered a top tier placement. Their weekly newsletter shares an overview of their articles about publishers in this online era and digital trends to keep an eye on.

NRF Smartbrief

For retail junkies, this one is a no-brainer. NRF SmartBrief is a free daily e-mail newsletter offering the latest need-to-know news and industry information on store closing and retail innovations.

CNN Reliable Sources

CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter gives daily analysis of how the world’s most powerful news organizations are covering the biggest stories, including media and entertainment. Our own Chris Harihar has been featured in a few issues for his commentary! 

The Daily Skimm

A personal favorite of mine, The Skimm is great for those who want fast headlines and a very short blurb on what they need to know about hot topics of the day. It gives you the who, what, where and why in one convenient place.

The Morning Brew

If you’re looking to stay up-to-date on the business world, The Morning Brew provides all the need-to-know business developments. It prides itself on being “the only newsletter where you’ll see Federal Reserve policy, Spotify streams, IPOs, and Shaquille O’Neal all in a single email.” 

The Social Media Examiner

If you love all things social media, this newsletter is a roundup of articles and social media marketing news for the PR pro who wants to be current on the latest social trends. 

HARO

Don’t all PR people want to Help A Reporter Out? HARO is daily email newsletter outlining requests for sources or experts on specific topics from journalists, ranging from technology, healthcare, consumer and business. It is a great way to connect with new journalists for media coverage!

What are your must read daily newsletters? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr.

5 Ways to Build Better Journalist Relationships

For PR people, few things are more important than media relationships. Ties with journalists don’t guarantee results, but they’re an important entree to getting out the stories we tell for clients. Good relations with reporters and producers usually means your pitch will get a hearing at the very least. Often it means you’ll get valuable feedback even if every offer doesn’t turn into a quick story.

With that in mind, here are five ways to stay on the good side of journalists to ensure that you build — and maintain — strong relationships. 

Always make it relevant 

When approaching media, it’s critical that the news you’re sharing is relevant to their specific beat and the types of stories they cover. The way to ensure this is to do your research. This can be something as simple as a Google search on a reporter, or browsing the publication’s website. Familiarizing yourself with their work will allow you to bring them stories that fit their beat and interests. That, combined with keeping a close eye on breaking news, can give you a serious advantage over others. Jumping on breaking news is a relatively easy way to get your client covered. The key is timing and making sure you’re not late to the game.If you wait even a few hours to reach out to a reporter, you could miss the boat entirely. 

Schedule face time 

Today, the bulk of media correspondence takes place through email and phone. And while this is convenient for day-to-day, when possible, it helps to put a face to a name and meet with a reporter in person. This can be anything from post-work drinks to a quick bite — even something like group karaoke. Getting together can help humanize you outside of a professional setting and help build trust with the reporter. Since COVID-19, in-person meetings aren’t possible, so Zoom happy hours have filled the gap. They’ve become a common networking tool that plays a similar role to build relationships between PR pros and journalists.  

Don’t be a nag

Journalists are often juggling multiple stories and tasks, and their job requires undivided attention. As a result, they may not respond to emails right away. This shouldn’t be a reason to constantly follow up. It’s best to spread out any follow-up emails or calls so that you’re respecting their time. Bugging reporters too much also comes across as desperate. Further, they could be even more likely to ignore you and not consider your ideas for future stories.

Use social media..but thoughtfully 

There’s no denying the importance of social media in today’s culture. And most journalists are active on various platforms, particularly Twitter. They use social platforms to share their stories and to comment on current events in the industries they cover. For PR pros, commenting, retweeting and interacting with their posts in any way shows that you’re interested and knowledgeable about the topics they cover. Connecting with journalists on social media is also a less formal — but definitely effective — way to get their attention before sending them a formal pitch on email. But preferences about social media approaches to journalists vary, and they should be made only when you know the reporter. 

Be yourself

When sending pitches or emails in a professional environment, it’s easy to abandon your true personality for something that’s more formal, or even robotic. In PR, however, it’s more acceptable to be yourself. Keeping things human can strengthen your relationships with media. For example, I like to keep pitches casual. If journalists feel like they’re getting an automated email instead of an approach from a real person, they’ll be less likely to respond and take it seriously. In addition, it’s always good to be transparent about what you want from a reporter. Don’t beat around the bush. If they feel like you’re leading them on or have some sort of ulterior motive, it’ll turn them off and they likely won’t cover. So when communicating with reporters, treat them in a similar (but, of course, appropriate) way as you would a friend.

How To Get Media Coverage When You Have No News

When big things are happening at your organization, it makes the PR roadmap fairly clear. But what if you have no news? What happens when your big story from last quarter has run its course? Media relations can be a lot like that Ariana Grande song, “Thank U, Next.”  You’re only as good as your last story. 

One skill of a great PR team is in generating opportunities to keep an organization relevant and visible, even in the absence of hard news like a new product launch or a CEO change. Here are three ways to get media coverage when your company has no news. 

Chase a breaking story

With credit to David Meerman Scott for the name, “newsjacking” by any label has been around for decades. It can be an excellent way to generate visibility in between announcements. Newsjacking involves injecting your brand into a breaking news story that isn’t generated by your organization. When done correctly, it can generate extensive media coverage and reinforce expertise or even leadership. 

In my experience, the best way to newsjack is to offer a select number of reporters a quote relevant to a breaking story through email, shortly after the news hits. This way, reporters working under tight deadlines can use and attribute the quote in their reporting. Those who have a bit more time may respond with questions or ask for a briefing, which is ideal. But in many cases journalists covering a breaking story don’t have time to chase quotes or do interviews. So sharing a timely comment will increase the chance of your company making it into the piece.  

For example, when we saw reports that President Trump would sign an executive order to boost research and development for artificial intelligence (AI) in the U.S., the Crenshaw team offered select journalists expert commentary from executive leadership at Fractal, the world’s leading AI-provider for Fortune 500 companies. The news gained plenty of coverage, and Fractal’s CEO Pranay Agrawal was quoted in many of the resulting articles, from The Wall Street Journal to TechTarget

There are other ways to take advantage of breaking news stories, especially those that stay in the news cycle for several days or weeks. A company blog post on a newsworthy topic will often help media and influencers link a subject-matter expert with a breaking story. So will joining social media conversations about the news. If all else fails, the calendar is filled with predictable occasions and events that editors and producers tend to cover regularly, like seasonal items, or live events like the Super Bowl or the presidential election. 

Create your own news with research data

Another way to create buzz when you have no news is to make your own news through a well-designed survey. Timely research can spark coverage where there would otherwise be none. And for B2B companies, a survey can strengthen a brand’s positioning as the first port-of-call for relevant data in a given industry. 

Surveys are relatively inexpensive when conducted through a respected third-party research partner. Often the responses can be packaged into a press release or news nuggets for sharing with key media. A recent example is a survey we designed for Lotame, a leading unstacked data solutions company that works with marketers, ad agencies and publishers. 

Our team built a research report around the state of data quality with the goal of communicating Lotame’s credibility and leadership around those issues, which are paramount in the ad tech category. We pulled the most intriguing insights and offered them on an exclusive basis to Adweek. The exclusive was published in advance of a wider outreach, setting the stage for additional media conversations. The survey generated 11 stories that reinforced the company’s standing in its sector, and the data was useful for sales, marketing and analyst relations as well as PR.

Branded content pays long-term dividends

Bylines or longer-form content can be very useful for communicating a brand’s point of view or mission. And as a bonus, a well-written byline can be searchable for months or even years, adding brand visibility and promoting media requests for interviews when news does break.

Our team is very active when it comes to content creation, because it works particularly well for companies with deep expertise and insights who may be hampered in sharing news due to customer confidentiality. One recent example is a piece our team helped generate for Qure.ai, a leading healthcare startup, about the promise of smart intelligence for trauma caregivers. It’s an important topic, yet a specialized one where branded content that offers education and insight can work even harder than product news.  

When offering a bylined piece, bear in mind that each publication has different guidelines for contributed content. Their preferences for inquiries also vary from wanting a short pitch to asking for the complete piece. Also, some publications are seeking regular contributions while others are fine with one-off articles. 

It’s also important to target content thoughtfully. For QURE.ai example, we targeted a publication that reaches leading medical professionals and healthcare decision-makers for the trauma care piece, and it found a home with DOTMed. A strong bylined piece will generate coverage in between announcements, while also reinforcing brand expertise and leadership at the top to the right audience.

Media can have short memories. If you want to be on their radar, look beyond the obvious news stories or devise ways to create your own. 

How To Supercharge B2B PR With Newsjacking

“Newsjacking” is how public relations people secure reactive coverage by jumping on a story that’s already in the news. Unlike proactive pitching, where we push out client data or offer a company announcement, reactive pitching leans on the news cycle to maximize coverage.

A fast news cycle invites B2B newsjacking

Today’s news cycle is ultra-fast, and the number of unfolding stories, like the presidential primaries or the spread of Covid-19 Coronavirus, is almost dizzying. It’s challenging to find a place for a business story, and one way to do that is by newsjacking. For us in the B2B tech space, riding a news wave can be very successful. The year has already brought huge changes in many digital technology categories, like the news that Google will end cross-site third-party cookie sharing. The announcement may mean nothing to most consumers, but for our clients in media, ad tech, data privacy, and digital security, it’s a big deal. It’s also an opportunity to communicate a strong point of view and offer insights about what it means and what business customers should do. Here’s how to take advantage of newsjacking for B2B companies.

Have a plan in place

Advance planning will streamline the newsjacking process and shorten reaction time. It’s best to make sure that key players are aligned ahead of time on which types of stories are relevant, and which exec will be offering quotes and availability for interviews when news breaks. We can’t anticipate when a relevant story will break, but having to track down the right expert in another country, or reach someone who is unprepared to speak is a good way to lose opportunities. It’s useful to create a spokesperson matrix involving several SMEs (subject-matter experts) who can be tapped on short notice.

Stay alert for B2B technology changes

Being able to identify which stories to jump on is a key skill for PR pros. Even with strong quotes and a speedy reaction time, it will not be an effective newsjack if you’re not working with the stories that flag reporters’ interest. Google alerts and news apps are a great way to stay on top of important industry-related news, and it helps to monitor tech pubs like TechCrunch and WIRED on at least a daily basis. It’s also helpful to keep up with reporters on Twitter, to see what they are interested in right now and which industry events they plan to cover.

Act quickly 

To work as a newsjacking opportunity, a piece of news must be relevant, and the media outreach around it must happen within hours. The nature of the news cycle is that it’s constantly changing and if you’re late to a story, the cycle will move on without you. To react in a timely manner, after identifying a cycle, immediately flag it to relevant clients and begin implementing your newsjacking plan.

Build a library of prepared content

A working library of client quotes that hits home and is media-ready once a story is out speeds up the newsjacking process, making commentary readily available. Ask your clients in advance for general quotes that can be tailored later to be more exact to the breaking news you’re jumping on. For companies in cybersecurity, for example, where reacting to security breaches or commenting on hacks might happen on a regular basis, it helps to have pre-approved language to describe the nature of various threats and solutions. Or, if you know your client is attending a conference like SXSW, be sure to get quotes well before. Then after the conference, you can get more “canned” quotes by working in takeaways from the event.

Be quotable

The point, of course, is to be quoted, so you must be quotable. As with pitching in general, newsjack pitches should grab reporters’ attention by leading with a punchy subject line and including short and sweet content and commentary that adds value, color, or insight to a story. Pitches should be easily digestible and generally limited to 100 words or less. Also make sure that you’re pitching relevant reporters at a relevant outlet, of course.

Be sensitive

In the rush to position a client as relevant to the day’s news, some people become overeager. If a story involves death or injury, it may be wise to steer clear, unless the expertise offered is truly helpful. For example, an emergency services provider might legitimately offer information or assistance to businesses in the wake of a severe weather event, but simply promoting products while people are suffering will draw justifiable criticism. When in doubt, don’t jeopardize brand reputation by seeming to take advantage of a crisis or tragedy.

5 Ways To Ensure A Worthwhile Analyst Meeting

In today’s B2B PR, good analyst relations (AR) are essential. Technology analysts at firms like Gartner, Forrester and IDC can meaningfully shape the overall direction of a category and directly impact a B2B technology provider’s business. This can occur in two ways.

First, most analyst firms publish in-depth research that potential clients and existing customers buy on an ongoing basis. These reports are meant to guide technology decision makers on the best vendors, or at least the most relevant ones.

The most famous examples are Gartner’s Magic Quadrants and the Forrester Wave. Companies pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to have access to analyst reports, so vendors that are well positioned in the the reports benefit.

The second way analysts affect a category or industry is more informal. Analysts are constantly being tapped as thought leaders by media for stories, as expert panelists and speakers by event coordinators, and more. They have a platform to share their opinions and perspectives on who matters in a space.

This is why AR, and building bonds with relevant analysts, can help a business stay top-of-mind and be referenced. A mention by an analyst confers immediate third-party credibility for a solution by someone with real authority in the industry.

But how do B2B tech companies build long-term relationships with industry analysts? Many have paid relationships, of course. Any analyst company is more likely to listen to a client company, especially one in a hot category. But it is possible to get their attention without paying an analyst company? Ultimately, it all starts with an analyst meeting, and in maximizing the opportunity once secured. I’ve sat in on hundreds of analyst meetings over the last seven years. Here’s what I recommend.

Bring your best deck

Every analyst meeting, unless otherwise directed, should start with a cogent presentation that outlines a company’s mission statement, positioning and differentiators, core features, pricing, clients, use cases, and scale. These presentations should be more in-depth than a typical media overview, of course, given analysts’ level of expertise. And they should be less focused on marketing jargon — analysts can see right through that — and more focused on the technology. The overview should last roughly 10-15 minutes.

Bring your best demo

After B2B tech companies offer up an overview of their platform, it’s important to walk through and demo it. Again, this demo differs from a media demo, which is generally very top-level, if provided at all. Instead, an analyst demo should be more comprehensive and in the weeds, calling out any bells and whistles competitors don’t have. The demo should be the centerpiece of the briefing and take up the majority of the time. Given its importance, it’s critical to bring a top demo provider. If this means passing the baton from a CEO or C-suite exec to a product manager, then so be it. Whoever will deliver the best experience should be the demo point person.

Ask them what they think

Analyst meetings are an excellent opportunity for a software company to gather valuable feedback on company positioning, products and features, pricing, and more. Too many B2B technology companies will treat an analyst briefing as an opportunity to steamroll an analyst with an information dump. I find that the best meetings, however, are more conversational. Pausing to ask an analyst for their opinion on something leads to a more engaging dialogue, and will likely elicit candid insights and feedback that can shape your market strategy. This takes on even more importance if you’re not a paying Gartner or Forrester customer, since you have limited access to the analysts.

Become a valuable resource

Just as an analyst can share their opinions on your company’s positioning, a rising business can set itself up as a valuable information resource for the analyst. Don’t be afraid to share insights into current or future industry trends relevant to the analyst’s coverage. They appreciate an informed perspective from the front lines on the space and competitive landscape. This will show that you care about the demands of their job – and that your company is a thought leader. If you can become a reliable resource, your company and solution will resonate that much more with the analyst moving forward.

Make sure PR is in touch

Once a meeting has wrapped, PR teams should incorporate the analyst into their outreach plans. This means pinging them about significant platform updates, new product launches, customer wins, and more. This will allow a constant drumbeat and ongoing communications between formal briefings or meetings. (As with media, outreach must be tailored and personalized.) A failure to nurture these relationships can result in your outstanding solution not getting the visibility and market share it deserves.
AR is a key piece of any B2B technology PR or marketing program. Cultivating relationships with analysts can move the needle for your business and brand and elevate your positioning in the marketplace. These tips can help you maximize the value of an analyst meeting and ensure ROI. Are there any tips I’m missing? Let me know on Twitter at @chrisharihar.

3 Best Practices For Using Data In B2B PR

Media love data. As most PR people know, data offers a powerful news hook in a way that even a product launch or partnership often doesn’t. It can easily feed a story to make it stronger, and data-driven stories can easily be made visual, which adds to their appeal. Business and tech media in particular have an ongoing appetite for research, studies and surveys.

For B2B companies, this presents a massive PR opportunity. To meet media demand, B2B tech brands in particular can build out their own research assets. An asset that can earn branded media coverage is valuable — and that’s not all. Data-driven coverage can establish a brand as a category expert or leader. Moreover, it can attract the attention of media, analysts, and business customers. It’s pull marketing 101. These audiences look for category insight and find… you!

Our client Uberall is a good example. Uberall is a Berlin-based location marketing platform that seeks to build its brand here in the US. To help it be seen as an expert on location marketing, one of our first initiatives was to develop branded research on “near me” mobile searches. Our first study drove story volume and quality while also presenting Uberall and its team as rightful authorities on location-based marketing.

But developing research and generating data that media find worthwhile is easier said than done. To be successful, here are three best practices that B2B tech companies and startups need to keep in mind.

Your data only goes so far

When I start discussing branded research possibilities with a client, their first inclination is to point to their own data. This is natural. Most scaled B2B tech companies are sitting on a pile of interesting data. It’s also inexpensive and easy to access. But, more often than not, internal data doesn’t work for B2B PR. Keep in mind that a company’s data is usually selective because it’s based on customer research. Unless you have massive scale, it’s not often representative of a mass category or even a segment.

Media tend to be conservative when it comes to covering a brand’s own data as well. This is why the best ongoing research programs for B2B PR rely on a combination of client data and third-party paid research. Third-party “commissioned” research delivers a fuller sample and is often seen as more credible. For leading data management platform Lotame, for example, their data and third-party surveys are both important, and they often work together.

Don’t make research a sales pitch

It’s important to develop research and data that speaks to core themes, messages and products. BUT it’s equally vital to be restrained in how self-promotional the data is, or media simply won’t cover it. They are inherently skeptical of research from brands because they know brands have a vested interest in the subject matter. So the best research work is grounded in hot buttons and trends, with the brand’s core themes and messages lightly baked in. For B2B tech brands, walking that line is important. This is meant to be a soft sell, not a hard commercial pitch. It’s pull marketing to promote a sense of thought leadership. That’s why brands should avoid featuring their name in the headline of any survey content like a press release. Focus on the findings instead.

A good example is recent research done by event success platform Bizzabo. It’s a rare example of a client’s internal data analysis being more compelling than an outside survey or study. Bizzabo examined the gender split among the keynote and panel speakers across 60,000 conferences, and the research showed that we have a long way to go in achieving gender diversity. Bizzabo let its data shine and was featured in Bloomberg, NPR, MarketWatch, VentureBeat, and more.

Don’t run away from consumers

When B2B tech brands consider research options, they can be quick to write off developing data that polls or surveys consumers. For example, a technology startup that offers delivery and returns software to retailers may say no to polling 1,000 consumers about BOPIS or mobile shopping. Instead, they ask that the focus be on polling retail executives. This is a mistake. Consumer survey data can be pitched effectively to relevant B2B media just like a poll of 300 retail executives can. Additionally, consumer surveys are often sexier to a wider group of media  — instead of pitching only retail trades, you can level up to business and technology — and can be done at a fraction of the cost.
By keeping in mind the balance between media and client needs, B2B brands can create a reservoir of data that hits the sweet spot, drives visibility and builds leadership over time.

PR Tactics To Differentiate Your Brand

Good public relations can be an essential way for a brand to stand out from the pack, especially in the B2B/ technology sector. The tech space is a crowded category with more startups entering every day, so in order to compete, companies must differentiate their product or service. There are some PR tactics that can help.

6 PR tactics to differentiate your brand

Have a distinct voice

A company can set itself apart by speaking in a distinct brand voice. A consistent but idiosyncratic tone through branded content like blog posts, social updates, and a company’s own website and sales materials can convey an impression of its personality. Is it humorous? Down-to-earth? Aspirational or emotional? But the company shouldn’t just start experimenting with different tones in hopes of finding the one that resonates. Instead, the PR agency or team should work with leadership to commit to a strict definition of the brand voice — and it should come from a place of authenticity. Being outspoken or controversial is a common method of differentiation, but if it’s contrived, it will probably fall flat. MailChimp is admired for its pithy and wryly humorous communications – all of which helps it stand out from bland competitors.

Tell a story

Entrepreneurs tend to be driven to create something the world wants or needs – and most of them have a story of how the light bulb went off or what drove them to take the leap. The origin stories don’t always make for great PR, but if a founder’s journey is fascinating, it’s a differentiator. We have a client here at Crenshaw whose business idea was borne from his brush with death in a terrorist attack. His experience is unusual and must be handled with sensitivity, but almost any senior executive does have a story to tell. Check out these “wacky entrepreneur stories to inspire you” from Inc. Magazine. In addition to origin tales, PR teams should embrace narratives about adversity, unconventional paths to success, small setbacks, or even personal quirks and interests. Who would have thought that a rift between friends could be a big story in Inc. Magazine?  Last month, Inc. told the story of the troubled relationship between the founders of Reddit, their departure from the company and eventual triumphant return. It’s a riveting story, and is part of a recently published book about Reddit – that itself being another tactic for differentiation.

Write the book on it

One of our clients, CEO Robert Glazer, published the first in-depth book on affiliate marketing. His accomplishment has helped cement a reputation as an authority in a poorly understood sector. A book, like a research study or other knowledge project, separates a thought leader from other business executives, and even in the digital age it remains a solid platform for earning media coverage, speaking opportunities, and other executive visibility within an industry. The small B2B software provider Basecamp set out to be different from the moment is began in 1999. Part of the founders’ strategy was to publish business books under the company’s name, culminating in co-founder Jason Fried’s 2010 best seller ReWork. Basecamp is still a small, privately-owned company, but its culture, branding, and ethos help it stand out from the crowd, and the books were a part of that.

Put on a conference or panel event

It’s always beneficial to speak at industry conferences, but a bigger and more lasting step for a company can be to start its own conference where feasible. Because it’s an ambitious undertaking, however, few companies take this step. We’ve found success in mini-conferences we call thought leadership panels. A company that regularly holds its own entertaining and relevant panel events can quite literally earn the label, because it’s taking the lead in an industry discussion on a trending topic to benefit customers. A business that takes the initiative to assemble influencers, colleagues, and key media has found one more way to differentiate itself. See this earlier post for best practices in putting on a successful PR event.

Do some (real) good

We are now in an era of burgeoning corporate social responsibility, in which many in the millennial generation expect companies to take a stand on issue(s) or initiatives designed to contribute to the social good. Last week for World Dyslexia Day, McDonald’s created digital signage in Sweden which simulated what dyslexics see when they read. This type of creative, highly effective activity makes a splash. SalesForce, well known as a differentiated SaaS brand, launched its employee giving program “philanthropy cloud” in early 2018 – not only a dynamic idea, but also in line with its brand voice and stated purpose as a “self-sustaining social enterprise.”

Convey a point of view

Another way for B2B companies to distinguish themselves is to offer expert commentary on trending news — but not just neutral commentary. SaaS company Box Inc.’s CEO Aaron Levie has been speaking out on issues of trust in tech and privacy regulations in the last few months, taking a strong point of view in reaction to the reputation struggles of big tech. Levie is calling for more digital privacy regulations – something not always expected from a software provider. Reactive executive commentary in the brand voice is an excellent tactic to differentiate the firm from the competition.
The PR tactics like the ones listed here can work together to create positive differentiation in a hyper-competitive atmosphere in which every enterprise scrambles for an advantage. While skillful branding and solid performance can set the stage for success, PR-driven storytelling, third-party recognition, social values, and a compelling brand voice can make a brand distinct. Isn’t that what all companies strive for?