PR Advice For Building Better Media Relationships

Every PR agency team appreciates the importance of relationships with key media outlets and personnel. This is particularly true in B2B PR, where we tend to approach the same business and trade journalists on behalf of client executives and their brands. The most successful agencies have contacts ready to go for any type of announcement or story, but making a connection with a reporter is only part of the equation. Building it to ensure a long-lasting relationship is the real trick. That requires thoughtful attention and a strong sense of how media work. Below are 7 ways that PR professionals can tighten those all-important journalist relationships.

Stay up-to-date

Occasionally checking a reporter’s recent work is not enough. The best PR professionals know what journalists are planning before they actually publish the piece. First, have a clear understanding of the reporters you work with most frequently and try to check what they’re writing about, even if you don’t have an urgent media inquiry. Often a journalist will hint at what they plan to cover next, offering the opportunity to give client commentary. It’s also helpful to understand the reporter’s perspective on the major topics in the industry. For contacts you don’t know, this is essential so your spokesperson can understand whether the interview will be easy or could present challenges. But for familiar media contacts, knowing their interests and thoughts on major topics can expedite media opportunities. This is because you not only know what stories they will cover instantly when a story breaks, but how they’re likely to approach, which enables a more targeted pitch.

Understand and manage deadlines

Working at the convenience of the reporter and the client can be a tightrope walk. Often between gathering commentary and trying to meet a deadline, the reporter will be nearly as stressed as the PR person. Offering timely and relevant commentary is a great way to improve a relationship, but we’re often stuck waiting on commentary from a client. Although there isn’t a golden rule, keeping the reporter up-to-date on the status of the information you’ve promised is a good idea and helps build trust.

Be first

Building better media relations means making reporters’ lives easier. One of the best ways to do this is by being the first to offer a spokesperson’s thoughts for newsworthy stories. This can be done through close monitoring of important dates like company earnings reports and major tech events where commentary is useful. Often during major announcements, reporters won’t have time to reach out to their reliable PR contacts, so the onus is on the PR team to be proactive. It’s helpful to make a note of any feedback a reporter shares about the next major story, event or announcement they’re planning. You can then take the initiative to offer commentary as soon as a the story is relevant.

Be transparent

Be honest about what you’re offering, especially if it isn’t a perfect fit with the reporter’s needs. It also pays to be truthful about deadlines. If your expert spokesperson can’t meet a deadline, or even if it looks like they might be late, it’s a good idea to let the reporter know. Otherwise, it’s likely the reporter won’t reach out again as they now think you’re unreliable. Being upfront with reporters will lead to more coverage in the long-term even if it means missing an opportunity in the short-term. 

Think outside the brand

A big misconception among PR people is that they can only offer up a spokesperson to speak about the company’s story of the day. Our job is to think outside the strict product news parameters, and that creative thinking can benefit journalists. For example, a tech company focused on connected TV can offer thoughts about what the company did to keep their employees engaged during the pandemic. While you certainly want to pitch and focus on the areas of client expertise, it pays to expand the definition of expertise beyond self-serving announcements. 

Interact on social media

Interaction with a reporter on social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can be beneficial. First, it’s a nice gesture. Social likes and shares will be noticed and appreciated. Successful PRs can also learn a great deal about a reporter’s interests that go beyond simply looking at their recent pieces. Journalists often announce they are switching outlets on social media, providing an opportunity to not only wish them luck on their new endeavor, but also build a relationship with a new publication. It also gives you a heads-up to start looking for new go-to contacts at the media outlet the reporter left so you’re building relationships without losing any. 

Use email well

PR people often struggle to find a middle ground between pitching a reporter too often and failing to pitch them enough. There are ways to work around this dilemma. First, make sure the agency team is coordinating outreach so they aren’t contacting a given reporter too much. Second, make sure to acknowledge or thank the reporter following an interview or inclusion in a piece. Finally, make sure you’re only emailing them about relevant content. This is essential for every pitch, but emailing a contact about a story that clearly isn’t up their alley could burn that bridge and hurt future opportunities. 

5 Traits Of A Top B2B PR Specialist

There are many skills that are valuable at a B2B (business-to-business) PR agency. Whether it’s that keen news sense or superb research chops, it’s important for B2B PR teams to master a diverse skill set and to have an aptitude for fast learning. Yet at many specialist agencies, some characteristics are more important than others. Here’s our nominations for desirable traits of a PR person who is focused in the B2B sector.

They’re always up-to-date

What’s the top priority of a PR person, if not making staying on top of the news? Without it, there’s nothing to track or pitch. Of course, this is true for nearly anyone on the front lines of public relations, but it’s more specialized in B2B. It’s why they’re always checking for updates, even off the clock. 

We track major media outlets and writers on Twitter, subscribe to scores of newsletters, buy analyst reports, and follow whitepapers on relevant topics. We also use monitoring services to catch breaking stories in areas of interest to client companies. On our team we’re following trends and breaking news in ad tech, digital security, SaaS, and more. Then there are the trends in our own PR and comms industry, so there’s plenty of information to digest. 

They’re geeks at heart

Supply chain optimization PR? Monetization tech for convergent media? What about automated customer communications management for highly regulated industries? In B2B especially, understanding a given industry can require a deep dive. Not everyone comes in as an expert in, say, ad tech or cybersecurity, but after a thorough onboarding (and a few years of experience), it comes more naturally. Above all, it’s essential to understand the revenue model(s) of a given business, its competitive sector, and the problems and challenges they solve for their customers, because they can be quite complex. 

Since many B2B agencies work in the tech space, they’re also fans of clients’ technology, and sometimes their best critics. You don’t need to be a programmer or a data engineer in this business, but it pays to be fluent in tech and to understand the rapidly accelerating cycles that drive the business economy. 

They know how to harness research 

Knowing how to create, interpret, and communicate research findings is an essential PR skill. Here again, it’s more detailed and specialized in B2B work. Familiar with the Gartner magic quadrants? Know how to synthesize market data in a single slide? Happy to structure a business customer survey to assess the value of key service differentiators? Then you’ll probably do well in B2B public relations. Data often drives news, so B2B PR requires expertise in interpreting it as well as creating it. We collaborate with survey and other market research partners to create relevant insights and fresh data for clients to make news, share with customers, or drive a leadership position in their sector. 

They’re excellent writers

A PR expert HAS to be an excellent, fast, and productive writer. Even in the age of Tik Tok, one of the most important parts of the job is producing clear and coherent content, especially if it’s about technical products or services. There’s a good reason for the cross-pollination between journalism and PR, because we produce a great deal of content, from press releases and bylines to pithy email pitches. 

Yet there may still be a skills gap when it comes to quality writing. A Tech Marketing Council study shows that 62 percent of B2B tech organizations struggle to find writers who can deliver thought leadership content. Which leads us to the final trait on the list.

They grasp “thought leadership”

You’ll often hear B2B PR agencies promise to make key executives “thought leaders.” It’s true that tapping the expertise and point of view of a business principal or entrepreneur can be transformative for a business brand. But making a thought leader goes beyond excellent writing. It’s more than getting a client executive in the news. Real thought leadership is about harnessing the power of ideas, insight, innovation, and influence. Check out Richard’s post on PR tech and tools for thought leaders, or  Dorothy’s original thoughts on how great thought leadership campaigns are made.

3 Emerging Social Media Platforms B2B PR Pros Should Know

Remember when the only social media platforms considered significant by PR pros were Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn? For many, they continue to be the trinity of social media. But by the end of this year, an estimated 3 billion people will be using social media, and not just on those three sites. What’s more, new platforms are popping up regularly.

New platforms can work for B2B PR 

That means there’s greater potential for B2B brands to reach an engaged audience of business users. The opportunity to reach specific audiences goes beyond the social sites that currently dominate. For example, TikTok has taken the world by storm and no one wants to miss newer sites that could gain similar prominence. Here are three emerging platforms that PR pros should track. They can work particularly well for B2B visibility programs.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse was launched in 2020 and breaks the mold of traditional social media platforms. It’s audio-only and connects the audience and speakers by letting them share information in real time. What kind of conversations take place on Clubhouse? A little bit of everything! Topics range from relationship discussions to starting a business.

Another thing that sets Clubhouse apart is its exclusivity. It’s invite-only – at least until its official release. Users act as gatekeepers for the platform’s daily ongoing conversations by holding three invitations that will allow new users to join. Those who don’t have invitations will have to join the waitlist until the official release. Having said that, it’s fairly easy to score an invitation.

Since its launch Clubhouse has become a hub for tech types, artists, and entertainers. Can B2B senior executives also find their niche here? Yes. For B2B clients Clubhouse can be another social media tool used to drive thought leadership, especially those who are subject-matter experts. Savvy business leaders are well suited to host rooms and later start their own clubs. The platform offers PR teams a new way of storytelling for organizations and gives business personalities who are talented speakers with a strong point of view about industry trends an opportunity to ride the social audio wave.

Twitter Spaces

In a bid to get in on the social audio experience, Twitter released Twitter Spaces in December 2020. It’s still in its early stage, but there are new features and updates in the works. One driving force behind the creation of Twitter Spaces seems to be the challenges Clubhouse faces regarding its community standards. Unfortunately, Clubhouse’s conversations on sensitive topics such as identity, ethnicity, gender, and racism have led to abusive behavior by some users. Twitter Spaces is seeking to offer a more inclusive environment.

So how does Twitter Spaces work? Those who want to host a conversation must have a Twitter account. They can create either impromptu Spaces or schedule them up to 14 days in advance, all within the Twitter app. Up to 10 people can be invited to speak in a created Space at any given time. Spaces are public, so anyone can join as a listener, including people who don’t follow you. To issue invitations, hosts can simply post a link by tweeting it, sending it through Twitter’s direct-messaging, or posting it elsewhere. 

Like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces is an emerging platform that can work well for thought leadership. It features live discussions, training sessions, and Q&As, among other things. The hosting capacity for Twitter Spaces is still limited, but in May Twitter announced that accounts with 600 or more followers are now able to host a Space. According to Twitter Spaces, these accounts are likely to have a good experience hosting because of their existing following. Audience quality is another thing to consider on top of having a charismatic speaker host. Though Twitter Spaces is still in a fledgling stage, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on for PR plans as it picks up steam.

Instagram Reels 

There’s no denying TikTok’s influence on the launch of Instagram Reels. This new feature is actually in competition with TikTok as it offers similar video creation capabilities.  

Instagram Reels can be used to promote brand awareness and even recruitment. The feature offers a fun, creative way to display your brand’s product releases, how-to’s, and even its workplace culture. There’s no need for a production team – all you need is a smartphone. You can also reach out to an industry influencer to create reels in your interest.

Finding which new social channel to onboard 

Being one of the first to join an up-and-coming social channel and learning the lay of the land can place you ahead of competitors who lag behind. However, time spent experimenting with new platforms must be balanced with refining strategies on already established ones. 

Determining which new platforms are worth the time and effort of watching and experimenting might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! We recommend keeping the following in mind when navigating new channels:

-Track growth. Big numbers signal that the platform is gaining momentum and that the chances for engagement with a broad swath of users are high.

-If a platform doesn’t offer specific metrics (like Clubhouse), but it has buzz, it’s probably worth a trial.

-Pick platforms that your audience can easily use and enjoy.

-While you should pay attention to the level of adaptability, you should consider how your audience wants to consume media. If you’re looking to target business decision-makers they’re more likely to sit in on a discussion of industry trends on a platform like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces.

-If you can’t come up with any interesting ways to tell your brand’s story on a niche platform, you might want to hold off on making an account. A boring or dormant account can signal that the brand isn’t ready to engage.

Questions PR Grads Should Ask In An Interview

It is that time of year again. The PR world has gained new fresh college grads eager to join the workforce. While searching for possible internships or entry-level jobs is exciting, it can also be overwhelming. Or even frustrating. According to Glassdoor, the average interview process from first contact to a possible offer can last up to 23 days – varying of course based on the industry.

Interviews are a conversation between candidates and employers to understand their experience better. Resumes can often look the same but they don’t necessarily tell employers about the person beneath the experience or how she stands from the crowd. It’s the interview where a candidate can show a company why they’d be an amazing addition to their team. 

One nerve-wracking part of any interview is when the employer asks if the candidate has any questions for them. PR grads, be prepared to ask questions! This is your opportunity to get to know a company better. With this in mind, what are the go-to questions aspiring public relations employees should ask in an interview?  

Why do you love this company and why should I want to work with you?

If a future employer cannot answer this question, that’s a big issue.  What is it about this job that would make others want to work here and with you? What is it about this company that sets it apart? Do they offer great benefits, fun and innovative clients, or is it the co-workers that make them stay? Future employees should be able to list several things they love about their company to make it appealing. If someone has to think about it, maybe that’s a sign.

Is there an opportunity to grow in this position?

One of the benefits of working in a small PR agency is the relationships you build with your co-workers and senior management. In larger agencies, you could be just a name on paper and get lost in a corner somewhere. Working in a smaller environment, an entry-level PR person should have an opportunity to work closely with team members across many levels. It’s also a fast way to learn your own strengths and preferences. Are you a strong writer, social media whiz or maybe have a special touch when it comes to media relations? It’s best to make sure you hear from team members who have been at the agency for a while to hear how they have grown and evolved.

Can you describe the company culture?

Culture can be hard to describe, but it’s important. In a traditional workplace, days can be filled with non-work talk or catching up with friends on downtime between calls and meetings. It is corny to say, but your co-workers become like family since we spend so much time together during the work week. Think about what’s important to you in a company culture. Do you want a place that values their employees as much as their work? One way to explore those values is to ask how a company stayed connected during the pandemic. At Crenshaw, we made a vow to continue up on Thursday happy hour Zooms where we have an activity planned. (Some of our favorites were Family Feud, Pictonary and Jeopardy.) 

Where do you see the agency in the next five to 10 years?

Growth is extremely important in any company. The PR industry is constantly changing with strategies, platforms, and tech tools. You want to be in a learning environment, and one that fosters that environment through growth. Does the agency plan to hire more talent? Expand horizontally to offer new services? Open new office locations? Things and plans that are working today but may not be relevant in the future. This can be a very open-ended question but it is good to get a sense of where the agency sees itself in the future and if that sounds like something you want to be a part of.

What is your timeline for next steps?

This is a valid question, and it shows interest. The interview process can be long and tedious. It can be a lot of back and forths of internal conversations evaluating candidates. Understanding the interview process can help ease your mind and manage your own expectations for the process. After hearing next steps, maybe offer writing samples or additional references to help speed the decision. If nothing else, it means you are serious.

To all the new PR grads, good luck interviewing and if you’d like to hear more about life and opportunities at Crenshaw Communications, get in touch @colleeno_pr

Five Benefits Of Working At A Small PR Agency

PR agencies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big, flashy and have a long and sprawling client list. Other agencies — often described as “boutique” — are smaller and less known, yet capable of producing work of the highest quality. When considering a career in PR — or a pivot from another industry — size can matter. In general, larger agencies have a more traditional work atmosphere and all that goes with it — a more formal hierarchy, multiple layers of management, and set policies about work hours. Smaller agencies are often less formal and can be less organized when it comes to personnel matters. Both, however, can offer a very positive experience and top-level learning.  

With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of working at a small PR firm. 

A strong culture 

A small PR agency is like a small town. Whether you like it or not, everyone knows you, and you know them. PR pros at smaller agencies tend to develop relationships with one another that just wouldn’t be possible at a bigger place. We know a lot about one another’s personal lives, and it’s not hard to develop almost familial bonds at work. It makes work more fun and less stressful. In between client calls, meetings, or drafting content, it’s typical to talk about the day’s current events or pop culture or sports. At a small agency, everyone gets to know each other, whether they work on the same accounts or not. Fewer people ultimately makes these interactions easier and more meaningful.  At a larger agency, you make more contacts, but there is less interaction with people who aren’t a member of your own account team.

Opportunities to thrive 

Mobility, mobility, mobility – those are the three reasons many people start off at a smaller firm. Every young PR professional wants an opportunity to show their true value and what they’re made of. A small agency will typically offer a faster rise through the ranks than a larger firm, because those ranks are thinner. Yes, there’s still a hierarchy, and that’s an important part of any functioning business or company. But fewer employees and layers of management mean more opportunities to move up, and to try new things that just wouldn’t be possible at a larger agency. This could be anything from putting together a quarterly PR plan to being a part of a new business presentation. At larger agencies, these are usually reserved for senior team members. In a small environment junior folks get a chance to be a part of them. There, you can accelerate your skill set and move up more quickly.

Team collaboration 

Another benefit of working at a small agency is the chance for high-level collaboration. Sure, there’s also that opportunity at larger agencies. However, with so many voices in the room, chances are you may not have the occasion to share your ideas and thoughts. At a big agency, these meetings usually consist of the same couple of high-ranking folks dominating the conversation. As a result, junior staff are often muted or intimidated. A small agency, on the other hand, affords the chance for your voice to not only be heard, but also be seriously considered. For example, it’s common to get together with team members to figure out the most effective way to roll out a product announcement for a given client. Since the teams are smaller, you have a real chance to be a critical part of the collaboration and decision-making processes. 

Greater client ownership

At a mega-agency, the client organizations tend to be larger, so they require more staff — often multiple layers and levels of staff. In a smaller environment, by contrast, you may actually work  on more individual clients, but because they are small or midsize companies, you have more ownership over the work and the client relationship. It’s a great way to develop a deep understanding of what a client does and how to help them achieve success. For someone starting off in PR, this means you can dig in and understand the nuances that go along with PR work. It’s a win-win for both you and the client. 

Skills broadening

As a team member at a small firm, you learn different aspects of the job very quickly, often by necessity. Yes, smaller agencies may still offer specialist services, like content development or speakers bureau. But chances are, even during your first months on the job, you’ll have the chance to write, pitch media, research business categories, and even participate in high-level creative sessions and business development meetings. Smaller firms tend to be flexible and nimble, and those skills will come in handy no matter where you build your career.

I feel that a boutique PR agency is the best place to learn everything you need to know and offer a chance to get your feet wet. They also allow someone new to the industry to make their name and reputation quickly. To me, there’s no question that a small agency provides the best work environment to make the most of your skill and become the best PR person possible. 

Cybersecurity Pubs Every PR Pro Should Be Reading

Most of us who work at tech PR agencies stay glued to various media to track breaking news and inform reactive pitching to promote visibility for our clients. Yet our main goal is not always to secure top-tier media coverage, although that’s always a win. We may also work to earn media coverage that will be read by a rarefied audience that ranges from senior executives to CEOs. Often we work with trade journalists who cover highly technical categories and need commentary and background from specialized experts. 

Cybersecurity is one of those categories. From data hacks to new ransomware, PR pros who work in the cybersec space need to stay connected to developments and track trends in the business. Trade publications can be just as important as top outlets like The New York Times or Wall Street Journal. They often break news before anyone else. In fact, if you work in cybersecurity PR you should be reading these top publications on a daily basis.   

Dark Reading

Dark Reading is perfect for enterprise IT and network security professionals, providing the most up-to-date information about products, management strategies, architectures and security policy. It acts as a security dashboard for IT professionals who don’t have the time or the luxury of combing wirefeeds, multiple bug feeds or vendor sites to find out what’s new or how well it works. 

Wired: Threat Level

Threat Level, a subsection of Wired, offers insight into the latest news and happenings related to hacking, cyber crimes and new methods to protect personal data online. PR pros will also enjoy the in-depth stories with an insider’s view on cyber attacks.

ZDNet: Zero Day

Looking for new research on tech and IT, while reporting on the latest threats and vulnerabilities in the cybersec space? ZDNet’s Zero Day covers that while providing technical in-depth pieces which professionals will appreciate. 

CSO

Aimed for high-level security professionals, CSO offers content on security-related products and services to assist CSOs in the decision-making process. Their goal is to underscore the need for security personnel while building a high level of trust among chief security officers and tracking the tools and techniques they need to make smart decisions.

InfoWorld

InfoWorld is published for IT leaders who hope to bring their companies a competitive edge through understanding emerging technologies and advances. It focuses on personal computing in enterprise and offers reliable product information to corporate volume buyers who are purchasing for client-server environments. 

ThreatPost

Threatpost covers Internet and computer security news on virus alerts, new hacker threats and attacks, and advances in security research, webcasts and white papers. It’s also a great source for breaking news with expert commentary. 

SC Magazine

SC Media gives info security professionals the in-depth business and technical information they need to tackle the countless security challenges they face and establish risk management and compliance postures that underpin business strategies. It’s also a great place for in-depth op-eds by industry leaders on current trends and topics.

Krebs on Security

Founded by investigative reporter Brian Krebs, Krebs on Security provides content on day-to-day software and information technology, executing daily internet tasks and also good security practices. He also offers articles for not-so-savvy cyber pros by breaking down the latest cyber attacks and helping explain their impact.

CyberSecurity Dive

Under the Industry Dive umbrella is Cybersecurity Dive. It provides in-depth journalism and insight into the most important news and trends shaping cybersecurity, like breaches, vulnerability, threats, and more.

InfoSecurity Mag

Infosecurity Magazine has given readers over ten years of insight into the information security industry. It focuses on hot topics and trends, in-depth news analysis and opinion columns from industry experts. It’s also a great place for webinars and other free educational content!

Bleeping Computer

Bleeping Computer aims to serve as a helpful resource for novice computer users to learn the basics of computer tech. It’s also a good forum for discussion of trends, tools, and hot topics.

TechRepublic

TechRepublic serves as the ultimate professional resource and community for members of the IT sector, from CEOs, to IT professionals  and everyone whose job requires making decisions about technology. It includes a family of virtual communities called republics, which organize editorial by job function, providing expert niche content, as well as peer-to-peer advice. 

infoRisk Today

infoRisk Today covers topics in risk management, compliance, fraud, and information security. It provides credible, timely information that security leaders can use as they craft comprehensive information security strategies so critical in the industry.

How To Convince A Reporter to Cover Your Story

One of the most frustrating parts of working in PR or media relations is getting the “too busy” response. You have a solid pitch or a compelling announcement, but the feedback from media is that they have too much going on to cover this story. While breaking news will often take precedence, skilled PR teams will do everything they can to nail that interview or story.

People who move up at PR agencies know the best tips and tricks for persuading media why a story is newsworthy. We know what makes the perfect pitch. Still, we avoid using words like “guarantee” or “definite” when predicting media coverage. In the end, it is up to the journalist or their editor if our news is worth their time. 

What can PR pros do to convince reporters to cover their story when they claim they are too busy?

Show them how the story fits with their audience

Why is this newsworthy or timely? Put yourself in the shoes of the publication’s audience. Who is reading this potential article, would it be interesting to them? Give useful information for their readers will want to know. We want to keep and form relationships with key media. Help guide them on the possible story you’d like to explore. Grab their attention with that snappy subject line and prove to them in the pitch why you are a credible news source. We know everyone is busy in the news world but with the right attention grabber, you’ll never have to worry about someone being too busy for your story.    

Have supporting assets 

They say a picture is worth a thousand pitches. You don’t want to miss out on that opportunity if a journalist asks for additional assets like images or graphics. When preparing to pitch this story, think about what assets the media could use in addition to commentary. For larger announcements, create a Dropbox file with anything media could use in addition to the usual executive headshots, visuals, and company logos. Journalists are often juggling several stories, and sometimes great visuals can make the difference.  

Be flexible 

Are you pitching a timely story or trend that won’t be relevant in a few days or a founder story that can be discussed at any time? If it’s the latter, consider revamping the timeline for a quieter news cycle. Any good PR pro knows when not to pitch company profile pieces. If a journalist says no, tell them you understand and ask if you could check back in a few weeks to revisit the conversation. Work with them and keep them on your radar for a better time.  

Shift gears as a last resort 

If after all, your PR tricks for convincing journalists don’t work but you feel strongly that your company is a great resource, offer your spokesperson to talk about another topic within their area of expertise. Gauge the journalists’ attention by asking what else they’re working on and how you can incorporate your company into that article. As PR pros, we understand the value of the “thought capital” that executives and subject-matter experts offer. We should bank a full roster of topics that they can easily discuss with media with little prep time. Just because a journalist said no to the topic you originally pitched them does not mean no to future conversations. Try to convince them that you have new data coming out soon that you’d love for them to get a first glance at, when the time is right, or tease an exclusive story to them. Journalists love having the opportunity to break a story first and by dangling something in front of them, you may have them on the hook for your next story. 

How do you work with media in covering your story during a busy newscycle? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr

5 Tips For Killer PR Case Studies

Every PR person knows that strong customer case studies are powerful additions to the B2B PR toolkit. They also work well for sales and marketing. A great case study can actually help move prospects down the sales funnel to the point where they’re ready to buy. Ideally, it serves as a third-party testimonial for a company or its product, building credibility and demonstrating key product attributes.

Most customer success stories are written to generate earned media coverage, or to run as bylined pieces in trade or business media. They’re also an asset for industry award submissions. But what makes for a stellar piece of case study content that will win awards and attract media attention? A big part of my job is writing award entries for our various ad tech, martech, AI, and cybersecurity clients. Their customer success stories make up the substance of almost all our submissions. Here are a few fundamentals I’ve gleaned by crafting award entries for our B2B technology clients.

Anatomy of a successful B2B case study

Virtually every case study contains the same basic structure, and the order should be logical to guide the reader. As Digiday explains, “using our prompts to prove how X client was able to achieve Y through the use of your platform.” That sums it up nicely.

First, state the problem that the customer needed to solve with the use of your company’s technology. Second, outline the objective of the campaign. Next, detail the strategy used to achieve campaign goals, followed by a description of the actual execution of the campaign, which is where the tech solution gets the spotlight. Finally, summarize the success of the campaign in both qualitative and quantitative terms, citing as many success metrics as possible. Additionally, every great case study includes one or more testimonial quotes from the user.

Quantifiable success beats anecdotal info

The most important case study ingredient is its demonstrable success. Even the most well-written and compelling story won’t succeed if the results aren’t evident. The case must show the customer’s success in the language of hard metrics. Anecdotal descriptions along the lines of “campaign achieved a great increase in inbound leads and awareness” will not bring home the trophy. It’s not likely to attract the attention of reporters, either. For most major industry awards, the ‘tangible results’ portion represents 40% of the judges’ criteria. The KPIs can vary depending on the the technology spotlighted. In martech and ad tech, metrics such as CPM, impressions, CPA, lift, clicks, and cost-per-lead are common. While these are all excellent measures of a solution’s effectiveness, judges tend to value metrics like ROI and ROAS (return on ad spend) the most. While it can be challenging for solutions providers to get customers to agree to go public with ROI and revenue numbers, they should make every effort to capture such proof points.

Tell a compelling story for the win!

The above elements of a case study may appear coldly methodical, but they’re not the only key ingredient. To make the content live and breathe for journalists, prospects, and judges, package them in a story format with a beginning, middle, and end. Especially in the B2B tech world, where software and data solutions are festooned with esoteric, highly technical jargon, the PR writer must translate abstract concepts and algorithmic technology into easy-to-understand language. Even in high tech, a case study is simply people trying to solve a problem and finding a way to success against obstacles.  An award submission should be tough to write, so that it’s easy to read. Judges see hundreds of entries, so the narrative must keep them engaged. Poor storytelling will make an entry dead on arrival.

Get creative with solutions

Although 40% of award criteria are judged on the hard numbers, the other important factor to a winning case is the creativity of the campaign. Again, judges in major media and tech awards like The Drum and Digiday read lots of entries that may sound similar. If the approach was truly innovative, the case has a greater chance of making the shortlist. Case study writers should accentuate any creativity or innovation used to achieve the user’s goals. We can’t control the innovation quotient, but it should be a key factor when considering whether to submit for an award.

Big brands use cases are often winners

If a well-known brand has used your solution in an interesting way to meet business objectives, you should prioritize getting approvals on a public case study with them.

When it comes to both winning awards and generating media opportunities, the marquee brand names attract attention from media and awards judges. Asking for a customer’s permission to brag about their solution can be daunting for a B2B marketing or PR team. Yet awards can be an easier sell, since the brand will earn exposure if they win. So, customer success teams that are adept at gaining approvals for public case studies set their brands up for greater success in PR. Plus, awards wins and glowing mentions in the press can improve client relationships, so it’s worth the ask.

Robust public-facing case studies are critical to a B2B company’s success, especially in competitive sectors that feature a lengthy buyer’s journey. Case studies are absolutely compulsory when it comes to competing for tech industry product awards. While early-stage companies and startups may not have the customer track record to produce such success stories, they should be proactive in setting the stage to create them down the road, building client relationships that will make it natural to ask for approvals when the time comes.

You can check out some great customer success pages of our clients like Verizon Media and event success platform Bizzabo.

Three Ways To Change Up Your Social Media Strategy

Every PR team knows that social media is more than simply a nice thing for companies to have; it’s an imperative. Fifty-three percent of customers who follow a business are likely to be loyal to that business, and 63% of consumers who search for goods and services online are more receptive to those with an engaging social media presence. 

While it’s important to identify and stick with a consistent brand personality for social content, there are times when social content becomes stale. Or, the social content strategy may lag behind trends. In addition to general social media tips such as posting at certain times for maximum views (we like 11:00 AM or between 1:00 and 2:00 PM), PR and social media pros are regularly challenged to tweak social media strategy to increase engagement and attract followers. Here are some ways to do exactly that. 

Mix up your posts

Part of any successful social media strategy includes drawing your audience in through a visually appealing, constantly changing page. If your posts are starting to sound a little repetitive, mix things up. Although voice and messaging may be a constant, one way to keep content fresh is by varying the type of media posted. Alternate between accompanying your post with images, gifs and videos. Definitely change up the images you’re posting on Instagram since it’s such a visual platform. Consider alternation coloration or tone – go black and white, or minimalist or psychedelic. 

Also keep in mind that short videos can be highly effective in engaging viewers. For example, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn native video in 2017, in an effort to expand from being just a long-form content site. With native video, you can record on your phone or computer and then upload recordings to the site. As LinkedIn video continues to grow in popularity, 87% of LinkedIn video marketers say it’s been an effective channel for them. In PR, we make sure to post earned media stories to amplify their reach and to keep our posts interesting – which is effective since LinkedIn posts with images, videos or links get 39% more engagement than text-only posts on LinkedIn. Since 57% of all engagement on LinkedIn is via mobile, the content has to be mobile-friendly – i.e., short and sweet.

Another idea is a social media takeover. If it fits with the tone of your page, have an employee run the social page for a day. Or, consider jumping on the ephemeral content trend, and create content that is scheduled to disappear after a certain amount of time. Ephemeral options are widely available on platforms including Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, and Facebook. In 2019, TechCrunch reported that there were 500 million daily active users of Instagram’s Stories features. By simply changing up your posts, you will notice an increase in engagement and followers. 

Give a go at interactive posts

As we saw in several Super Bowl ads this year such as Mountain Dew’s “Major Melon” ad offering $1 million to the first viewer to tweet the exact number of bottles in the ad, people like free stuff and competitions — and brands should deliver. An interesting way to maximize engagement is to run a contest or giveaway on your page. According to data from social media scheduling tool Tailwind, 91% of Instagram posts with more than 1,000 likes or comments are related to a contest, and accounts that run contests on a regular basis grow 70% faster than those that don’t. Or, consider creating a survey on your company’s Instagram page’s story, and keeping followers posted on results. Of course, having interactive posts also includes maintaining your company’s page by regularly responding to DMs and comments. 

Another great way to be interactive is with livestreams or Q&As, whether on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Livestreams, or online streaming media simultaneously recorded and broadcast in real time, are a great way to highlight news for short, high-profile announcements or milestones. They work particularly well if a brand has an influencer or celebrity-driven initiative. Consider a Facebook Q&A, or going live on Instagram. Showing a face can make the brand come across as more authentic, and it will amplify your story. Remember to promote who is going to livestream and when, through banners on social media, email invites or paid ads on LinkedIn or Facebook. Since you have less control over livestreams than on other forms of social media, you will want to prepare for possible questions ahead of time. You can even ask viewers to send in questions beforehand. In 2018, HBO announced the air date of Game of Thrones season seven via Facebook Live – and attracted around 3.5 million viewers.

Be timely

Although a social media strategy requires advance planning, some of the best engagement may result from day-of content that reacts to real-time news events. Try ranking scheduled posts on a scale of importance from one to three, and then overriding some of the threes with more relevant content from that month, like responses to news stories, reposts, or other timely content. Remember, not all of the content on your page has to be generated by you! Peppering in timely retweets or partners’ relevant announcements will not only prove timely, but also help mix up your page’s content. It may be worth delaying that evergreen photo in favor of more pressing news, whether in the news cycle or from within the company. The goal is to maximize engagement and earn new follows. Jumping on relevant news is a great way of doing that, even if it means pushing off posting some of your planned content.

When social media users choose to follow your account, or when existing followers read and engage with your posts, they are giving you their time, even if it’s only a few seconds. Therefore, if you’re managing a social media page, it’s on you to make the content worth their time. When it comes to social media, the secret sauce is having both quantity and quality for the highest engagement. Meaning, post frequently but make sure frequent posting doesn’t come at the expense of quality content. By incorporating these tips into your next social media strategy, you can create a high-quality social media page that really stands out. And don’t forget to track social media engagement stats so you can figure out what works, and where you can improve next time.

Does Facebook Work For B2B PR?

As the social media landscape becomes more complex, PR pros debate whether Facebook is still an essential platform. This is particularly true for B2B PR and marketing teams. For B2B communications, LinkedIn is typically the top social destination, and Twitter may also be useful, but few brands prioritize Facebook. 

Yet it may be a mistake to overlook Facebook. It remains the primary content distribution channel for marketers. Forty-six percent use the platform – more than the 33% who use LinkedIn. Facebook also overshadows other social channels with its sheer size. It has a user base of 1.6 billion, who spend an average of 35 minutes a day there. In 2021, marketers should reassess how they use Facebook and make full use of the tools it offers. But are these stats meaningful for B2B campaigns?

When to use Facebook for B2B marketing

Here are B2B social strategies that perform best on Facebook.

Advertising offers a strong return

Looking to build brand awareness? Remember, business buyers are people, too, and most of them are on Facebook. With the right audience data, Facebook advertising can get your brand in front of your targets. Its relatively low CPM offers a better return on advertising spend than LinkedIn in most cases. It may also offer a greater reach, and its ad tools are far superior. Facebook’s advanced machine learning algorithms, user data, and web tracking and analytics enable greater conversion optimization for ads. 

Retargeting is easy

Facebook Pixel, an analytics tool that can be installed on a website to measure Facebook Ad performance, lets you track leads across various devices and retarget visitors with ads on other platforms. LinkedIn offers a similar tool; its Insights Tag can be used for retargeting but is more expensive than Pixel.

Target groups with thoughtful content 

Facebook Groups offer ways to locate a specific audience and direct commentary on relevant topics to its members. Since Facebook changed its algorithm in 2018, the newsfeed has prioritized posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion, which include posts from Facebook Groups. 

Facebook Groups for business give brands the opportunity to organically build engagement while discussing technical and insider information, with lead generation as an added benefit. 

Targeting local and small businesses

Most small business owners find Facebook to be the best social media platform to connect with their customers. For large B2B marketers who target SMBs, Facebook may be an ideal environment. Small business owners are likely to check their feeds on a daily basis, making them easily targetable with product and service marketing messages.

New and useful Facebook features for B2B PR and marketing

Facebook isn’t the same platform today as it was just two years ago. It has introduced new ways for marketers to share content with an intended audience. Here are some B2B marketing tactics that brands should consider using on Facebook.

Video thrives on Facebook Lives

The rise of social channels like TikTok has propelled video as a major content trend in 2020 – and this is projected to continue into 2021. “Lives” marries the content trend to the popular theme of personal connection. Facebook isn’t the only platform that offers its users the Live feature; LinkedIn has a similar feature – but Facebook allows all users access while LinkedIn requires prior approval.

Brands can commit to conducting a Q&A or demo on Facebook Live once a week, which is a brilliant way to increase video content and repurpose it on all social channels. Facebook Live videos can be republished on YouTube or LinkedIn, and edited for shorter clips to post on Twitter. Video summaries of current blog posts are another way to ramp up video content.

Many marketers recommend that 20% of published social media posts have a video element to them – even animated GIFs count! 

Try unpolished images to drive engagement

Marketers know that posts with images are more likely to make audiences stop scrolling and engage. As social media evolves and algorithms change, users are scrolling more and more. One emerging trend on Facebook to stop the scrolling is nixing polished stock photos for more candid-looking, unvarnished images. This trend applies to both paid and organic Facebook posts.

Think you’ll be met with pushback? Consider testing a consistent brand image versus a more relaxed shot of what looks like could have been posted by a friend. That way, any changes will be data-driven.

Facebook Messenger allows personalized comms

Personalized communication is another emerging social media trend. Human-to-human (H2H) conversations in comments and DMs drive more conversions compared to a messaging campaign or post. 

Facebook Messenger, which uses bots to set up and send personalized messaging, can be an effective tool for engaging and converting page followers. Marketers report significantly higher engagement with Messenger as compared to email. Brands can send messages free for the first 24 hours, then assess their effectiveness through automated tools. If a portion of your customer bases uses Messenger and  you have the budget, a Messenger test could be well worth it.

Customer service and customer sentiment 

B2B companies should be actively working to strengthen relationships with their current customers, as well as limiting any reputation damage that results from posts by unhappy ones. Marketing should work with the customer service to address negative posts in real time. Never let requests for help or complaints go unanswered.

A “listening station” that monitors Facebook for any mention of your brand, products, and events, as well as those of competitors, can provide valuable information about activity on the platform.

Change up your social strategy

Social media is constantly changing. Social strategies need to shift with consumer habits, so most brands rethink or reevaluate their social approach regularly. While Facebook may not be the first line of defense for B2B marketing, but the data shows it can be very effective.