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.

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.

Crenshaw Announces Two Promotions

As summer comes to a close, we are proud to announce two promotions at Crenshaw Communications. After nearly 2.5 years at Crenshaw, Katharine Riggs has been promoted from Account Executive to Senior Account Executive. Katharine established herself as a first-rate media guru on accounts like MediaRadar and Fractal Analytics. She works hard to support our clients and her team on everything from media relations to content, and we’re excited to see her grow into this new role. 

Ilana Weinberger has been promoted from Assistant Account Executive to Account Executive. Since Ilana joined in March 2019, she has offered excellent media and account support across clients like Bnai Zion Foundation, DoubleVerify, LiveIntent, Arkadium, and SmartGlass. No matter what we throw at Ilana, she takes it on and delivers excellent work. We’re delighted to see her develop now as an AE. 

Pictured above: Ilana Weinberger (L) & Katharine Riggs (R)

6 Ways To Break Through The Noise In PR

Public relations professionals are always seeking new ways to get their clients’ stories out – from pinning down the right message to crafting a perfectly tailored journalist pitch. It’s not always easy. If you have a client or your business is looking to build buzz, here are a few ways to break through the noise and be heard.

Use strong language

It’s critical to know where your business sits within its category. At Crenshaw we work with clients in B2B technology industries like adtech and cybersecurity, and it’s a challenge to understand every specific niche and sub-niche. But good messaging is based on a deep understanding of key audiences and influencers and a thorough exploration of the company history and its value proposition. To be meaningful, company messages need to go beyond jargon. Translate them into relevant language that isn’t techspeak or a list of corporate buzzwords. Use examples. Look for analogies and emphasize benefits, not just features.

Tap your inner contrarian

It pays to be different. An unpopular or contrarian opinion can help you stand out or inspire support from others and start a whole new conversation. Agencies and clients alike need to be monitoring current trends in the industry. If the business is acting differently than others, that can be a story, but even a different opinion about industry trends, the future of your business category, customer behavior, or the financial markets can help distinguish a business leader as an interesting thinker. The opinion, however, must be authentic, well-founded and well articulated.

Turn over every stone

In our experience, something the client company has overlooked might resonate big time with media. We had a entrepreneurial client who had been approached at a very early stage in the life of his business by a much larger company, but he turned down their offer to acquire his business. That inflection point in his company’s history and his personal reasons for deciding as he did became the basis for our storytelling. Another client narrowly survived a terrorist bombing while traveling for vacation. The experience led him to question what he was doing in his life and career and became a motive for what he did later – launch an entirely new business.

Stalk journalists

Not literally, of course. Yet understanding the top journalists in your industry helps cut through the noise. It’s good to start with 20 media at first-tier publications, whether it be at a mainstream outlet like the New York Times or a trade like Adweek. Grabbing their attention can be tricky but is made far easier by studying their coverage and engaging with them personally or on social platforms. Setting up in-person meetings over coffee or food will give the client face time to sell their story. If a company wants to be in a specific publication, agencies should find the best journalist and sell a story perfectly catered to their beat. PR professionals need to constantly study those relevant journalists, understanding what stories they’re planning and building rapport. To sum it up, help the journalist help you.

Have an engaging pitch

This one’s obvious, but it’s easy to fall short. The art of writing a pitch is one thing, but having the journalist actually engage with the pitch is a different beast. After pulling in the journalist with a catchy subject, it’s best to follow with a pitch that’s pithy, direct, and easy to understand. If the pitch goes too far into the weeds they may not even finish reading it, leaving it with the hundreds of other mediocre pitches they saw that day. Stick with useful information that imparts the right messages and let the journalist take it from there. Once an interview is set up, it’s important to prepare the spokesperson in a similar way. Gently keep them from going off on tangents and focus on colorful language and snappy quotes.

Be visual

Striking visuals are a great way to make an impact. Not only are they attention-grabbing, but the right visuals will be more engaging for viewers. When we hear information, we’re likely to remember only 10% of it three days later. By contrast, we will retain 65% of the information if paired with a visual. Taking advantage of infographics, still images, and video will be much more eye-appealing, and it makes a journalist’s job easier if strong visuals are involved. Accompanying data reports with graphics can offer a big boost to a story, too. General rule of thumb, if a visual makes sense for the story, go for it.

Want To Work In Tech PR? Here Are 5 Questions

Tech PR is an intensely competitive sector. Jobs are more in demand than ever, as brands in every vertical and size have come to recognize the value of positive reputation and third-party endorsement. As it has grown, PR has become more specialized, which has affected recruiting. Filling PR agency positions is harder than in the past, when press relationships, networking ability, and writing chops were all that mattered.
Specialized agencies have specialized needs. Take my agency; we focus on tech PR, with a particular focus in B2B technology. Press relationships, strong networking, and content skills still matter, but they’re table stakes. Understanding and articulating strategy as it relates to tech and vertical trade media and currency in hot topics like artificial intelligence or blockchain — these qualifications are now equally critical for success. With that in mind, here are five questions that anyone interested in tech PR — especially B2B tech PR — should be able to address in a job interview.

Good questions for a tech PR interview

 

1. Where do you get your news?

This is a make-or-break question— at least for some of us here. If you’re being interviewed for a role that supports several ad tech clients, for example, you might be expected to rattle off several relevant publications like Adweek, AdAge, Digiday, and AdExchanger. If you’re expected to support clients that build B2B AI solutions, you might boost your cred if you get news from publications like Forbes, TechCrunch, Wall Street Journal, and CIO.

2. How would you support a product launch for [insert client]?

I like to ask candidates how they would support specific product launches from a media relations point of view for our B2B tech clients. Sometimes we get down in the weeds, discussing whether an embargoed or exclusive strategy might work, and though smart people can disagree, we’re usually looking for a realistic and informed approach. Would the New York Times care about an exclusive for a feature update from an AI-powered supply chain platform? Unless it’s a game-changing innovation, probably not. But VentureBeat or SupplyChainBrain might. Answers to these hypothetical strategy questions are very telling.

3. What are three interesting tech trends you keep reading about?

Successful tech PR pros routinely keep their ears to the ground, monitoring hot topics and trends for general intelligence and newsjacking opportunities. Being able to name several high tech trends — from AI to blockchain to voice and beyond — that are interesting or relevant can showcase your interest in the space and reveal an ability to identify new media engagement opportunities for clients. If you’re hired by a tech PR agency, you will eat, sleep, and speak these trends on day one, so you had better have some knowledge and interest in the sector.

4. Are you on Twitter?

This seems like a dumb question. Most in tech PR use Twitter religiously, either to catch breaking news in real time or to build relationships with key media. But that’s the point. I ask this question a lot and am always surprised by how few candidates can claim a true Twitter presence. For a tech PR expert, it’s this generation’s new RSS feed. If you tell me you don’t use it much, or, even worse, aren’t on it, I’m immediately skeptical.

5. What’s your crisis PR background?

In technology PR work, there is no shortage of land mines. I once worked on a well-known e-commerce platform that allowed you to design and sell personalized merchandise. At first glance, it seemed like a “safe” brand, unlikely to encounter reputation threats. But it turned out that a small group of designers were creating veiled racist apparel and selling it through the service. Problems erupt in this sector, often unexpectedly and with long-lasting impact. In B2B tech, the threats can be even worse, with data privacy and compliance issues potentially often lurking below the surface of the public conversation. One bad moment can lay waste to a brand reputation. For these reasons, I always ask about a candidate’s last client “crisis” and how they helped navigate it. If someone with several years’ experience can’t name anything significant, I may question their readiness for an account position.

These are several questions that, if answered adeptly, can help you land a coveted tech PR agency role. And, if you’re an agency, these questions can help you weed out weak candidates and compete for the best talent. As any industry becomes more competitive and specialized, asking the right questions will be essential to candidates and employees alike. See this earlier post for more on how to nail a dream PR job.

How To Make An Impact At A Business Conference

Love them or hate them, conferences and trade shows are key venues for any business to generate public relations, marketing, and sales returns. If you’ve ever attended a major tech trade show, you know they can be a blur of handshakes, branded swag, business cards, and mediocre meals. How to make the most of a time and dollar investment in a trade show or conference? Our own Chris Harihar offers some sage advice on navigating the world of B2B conferences.

7 ways to make an impact at a business conference

Choose wisely

There’s a business conference for every conceivable vertical, niche, and sector; and they come in various sizes and cities around the world. Since the ideal lead time for earning a speaking opportunity is six to nine months, and sponsorships take planning for maximum benefit, a PR team must incorporate a conference strategy in its annual planning. Is the goal to generate awareness, leads, and sales? To build an executive profile? To grow relationships with influencers, media, and colleagues? A sales-oriented trade show like Cloud Expo in New York may work for many goals, while a more ideas- driven one like Fortune Live Media may align better with thought leadership objectives. A consistent presence at carefully selected conferences year round can produce good ROI, as well as support PR goals.

For maximum impact, over-prepare

A B2B company can set itself up for success with some logistical planning and research. The first step is to work with organizers to earn speaking and event opportunities at the most advantageous times. The team should study the layout and the schedule well ahead of time, as well as the attendee and exhibitor lists to scope out a plan to be in front of the right people. A good PR team will get a list of attending media to plot their outreach and set up briefings. Some even create a “facebook”-type schedule with head shots of key contacts to maximize networking opportunities. Armed with advance intelligence, a company can create its own minute-by-minute schedule to avoid wasting the considerable time and money invested in the conference.

Bring the news

If a company has news to share — an acquisition, new product launch, or growth milestone, the conference backdrop can add sex appeal and offer the benefit of a captive audience of media and insiders. Experienced PR professionals often coordinate an announcement with a major conference appearance to maximize interest and visibility. Yet with so much noise at trade events, it’s hard to draw attention to your brand. The trick is to pay close attention to timing; even a company’s big news can get lost in a wave of similar announcements. At last month’s Microsoft Ignite, there were so many announcements that Microsoft had to issue a media a 27-page booklet for attendees. Consider making an announcement the day before the conference through a media exclusive slated for breakfast the morning of the first day. Or, sponsor a mealtime slot for breaking news — a time-honored trick that helps turn out press hungry for stories as well as lunch.

Bring PR to the show

Having a PR team member on-site for media relations support at a key conference isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. PR can continuously rove the event floor to wrangle relevant media and influencers to engage. While the sales team is working at the booth or in private meetings, the PR team can take the offensive as your advocates. There are often video assets developed by conference coordinators on-site to promote the event through digital and social channels. PR teams can chase down those opportunities as part of a plan of attack well in advance of the conference.

Get creative to stand out

It’s not enough to simply sponsor, exhibit, or speak at a conference these days. To maximize the value of the investment, think outside of the programmed opportunities. Rather than putting big dollars into a larger booth, consider using some of that budget to host an off-site dinner or cocktail hour, to which the PR team can invite press, clients, and prospects. This helps a brand separate itself from the crowd and earn a captive audience. B2B tech conferences can often get monotonous. An offsite happening allows a company to shake things up a bit, keeping it top-of-mind among the right audiences.

Be social

It’s remarkable how many brands still don’t optimize their event presence through social media. In advance of a conference, brands should consider paid and organic content strategies to gain more ownership of the event’s hashtag. For example, while Facebook isn’t a huge lead-gen source for B2B businesses, creating content for Facebook Live can be repurposed well after the conference ends. These videos can be easily shared with media who may not have attended but want more information about key announcements or trends. See our earlier post for tips on how social media drives B2B PR. But note that when the conference ends, the work does not.

Follow through

If a good one is available, the company should use the event video of the thought leader’s speech or panel appearance by posting on its owned media and amplifying on social channels like LinkedIn. An executive appearance can bolster the individual’s reputation, building a resume for other earned conference engagements. Additionally, the PR team may develop the speech into a white paper or byline. PR will nurture all the new media and influencer connections it made, just as sales will follow up on its leads. When a company has mastered the trade show experience from preparation to follow-through, it can build a consistent brand presence on big thought leadership stages year-round.

How Social Media Drives B2B PR

We associate social media platforms with splashy consumer campaigns, but social is increasingly important in B2B public relations. B2B buyers are often looking for as much information as possible on vendors and products before they buy, and they rarely buy on impulse.

According to an IDC study, 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level/vice president executives use social media to make purchasing decisions. Business vendors who have overlooked social media strategy in the overall PR or marketing plans are missing opportunities. Here are seven ways to maximize the power of social media as a brand visibility and lead generation tool.

Offer useful information and insights

B2B companies can engage and attract followers through educational and entertaining content. It doesn’t have to be dull; look at Hubspot, IBM, or Novartis. Because of the longer selling cycle for business products like insurance or software, engagement through social channels may actually pay greater dividends for B2B products and services. But for business customers, the stakes are higher, and the products more expensive, so they need real answers and information. Social content is most effective when it offers something not directly related to the company in question. An enterprise software provider is better off posting inspiration for managers, practical advice, or stories about fostering innovation than hard-selling their product.

Cultivate media and influencers

Influencers like industry analysts, authors, and even journalists typically have powerful followings on key social platforms like LinkedIn, Medium, and Twitter. It pays to engage them over the long term, and where it makes sense, form business relationships for customer education. Third-party experts can be excellent content resources and are excellent additions to customer education events, webinars, and other customer-facing initiatives. Journalists, too, are approachable on Twitter, especially if the approach is less transactional and more about offering the journalist an industry resource over time, as B2B PR people have done since the beginning of time.

Educate future customers

For B2B companies, an educated customer is like gold. Many invest in real-world customer education events to build relationships and offer high-quality business insights, especially in fast-changing industries where decision-makers may struggle to keep up. But physical events can only go so far, and they are costly. A B2B social media team can act as curators of great content tailored for its audience. Along with other thought leadership initiatives, sharing educational content on a consistent basis helps establish the company as an authority in its industry. And becoming an authority in one’s industry automatically boosts credibility and trustworthiness. Journalists use social media, too. It can’t hurt for reporters to read your consistently informative posts. But the key to keeping audiences coming back is tailoring the material to their needs.

Gather intelligence

B2B audiences are by definition narrower than their mass-market counterparts, which makes it easier to target them with relevant social campaigns. As noted, business customers are generally seeking information on business problems, intelligence that might give them an edge, or practical advice. But if you’re stuck for relevant content or campaign themes, why not ask customers what they need? Social listening and monitoring offers a wealth of information about customers where they live and work.

Build a community

By extension, business customers can also help one another. That’s where tech services that cater to small businesses, like Hubspot and Zendesk, have done a great job. Both CRM Hubspot and customer service software provider Zendesk create customer case study videos with high production value that live on dedicated YouTube channels, like Hubspot’s YouTube Customer Success Stories Channel. social media as a PR driverThe video stories are shared on all other social channels. Software provider Zendesk regularly posts customer success stories on its LinkedIn page, doing a great job of thrusting the client into the spotlight instead of themselves.
For example, even though they link back to blog posts on Zendesk’s page, the substance of the post focuses so much on the client LendUp that it almost amounts to a feature story. These business relationships are powered by social media posts, which become engagement multipliers.

React to news in real time

In the same way PR teams monitor trending news for reactive media pitching opportunities, they also use social channels for business leaders to offer bite-sized commentary on such news. It’s another way to bolster a company’s authority and to share its point of view. Companies can offer insight by chiming in on an industry best practices debate; it can also show leadership by speaking out on a social issue – which can humanize a B2B company in a dry or technical area. Cisco is a multi-national conglomerate that sells and makes various hi-tech products and services — yet its Twitter feed brings a decidedly human tone, speaking with passion, empathy, and humor – sometimes on social issues. In this example, a Cisco SVP takes advantage of a conference to offer a strong opinion on diversity in tech — while leaving a general impression of Cisco’s progressive orientation.
socia media drives PR

It’s all about video

Perhaps the most trending social marketing and PR tool for two-way engagement is live streaming video, which can be done on Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn with YouTube. Companies can livestream product how-to demos, webinars, events, company tours, or crowdsourcing of tips and ideas. It’s a great chance to introduce a human face to B2Bs; plus the live immediacy encourages participation. Adobe routinely livestreams well produced tutorials, like this one on illustrations from last week. The live videos generally draw from 500 to 2500 views, encouraging engagement through live chat, liking, commenting, and sharing. But the logistically easier practice of pre-recorded videos also drives interaction. Brightcove found that social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined.

Show a personality

Since business-to-business is really people-to-people, it bears reminding that social media content need not be as dull as Apple user agreements. B2B companies can show personality, as companies like Wistia, SalesForce, and Eventbrite have demonstrated. Use gentle humor to outline business challenges. Post about pop culture references to make content topical. Tell customer stories. Recognize employees. As noted in last week’s post, employees can be powerful brand advocates if encouraged to create and share social content within a sensible framework. B2B customers are people, so there’s every reason to think they can build attachment and loyalty to brands that help and engage them in real time.

Social media is a PR amplifier

The most fundamental utility of social media for B2B companies is amplification of other communications. B2B PR teams work hard to produce informative owned content like case studies, white papers, blog posts, webinars, and ebooks. Buyers in all stages of the journey hungry for assistance should find this content wherever they look, from the website to influencer blog to vendors’ social posts. B2B social channels should be sharing every piece of PR content, linking back to its home on the company’s website. Naturally, all earned media placements and positive analyst reports get the social treatment as well. Basically, everything gets amplified via social, provided the posts are in the right voice, in alignment with the PR plan, and educational. As a bonus, social engagement affects search ranking.

Influencer Relations For B2B Brands

Most people think of third-party influencers as YouTube stars with millions of subscribers, or Instagram gurus pushing beauty products. Yet influencer PR for B2B brands is also an effective way to reach prospects throughout the customer journey, from lead generation to purchase and beyond. For B2B companies, programs that involve third-party influencers can require more time and effort than consumer programs, but they yield far-reaching results over the long term.

The association and advocacy of unbiased industry experts is a time-honored way to build brand trust through earned media, high-quality content, or special events. Influencer relations is a logical extension of media relations, but less transactional and more collaborative.

But where do PR teams find third-party influencers? Before jumping in, the PR and marketing teams should develop a detailed strategy, complete with goals and KPIs.

6 Sources of B2B influencers

Analysts

A PR team often fosters good analyst relationships in much the same way they do with media. Because analysts are viewed as impartial experts, an implied endorsement builds credibility and holds greater weight than that from a paid consultant or endorser – even though some analyst relationships are paid. Media and influencers read analyst reports and white papers, so the reach can become exponential. See our previous post for more on making the most of solid analyst relations.

Authors, experts, and academics

Known or up-and-coming authors, academics, or consultants are often the most accessible influencers for B2B companies. Look for authors of recently published papers and studies, books, or industry consultants who teach as adjunct professors. This is a sign that their expertise is relatively up-to-date, and academic credentials are a plus, particularly when it comes to being quoted in media interviews.

Business partners

Companies in related industries can also make great influential partners. A software targeted to small businesses may look at other service providers for SMBs – those that offer accounting, networking or loans, for example. One way to reach many potential influencers with a single initiative is a partnership with a professional organization. For example, we arranged a joint study between a client wishing to target HR professionals and SHRM, the professional human resources organization. The study’s results were featured at the group’s annual meeting and in local chapter seminars.

Industry events

Attending conferences and trade shows benefits young companies in many ways, not the least of which is the opportunity to network with various breeds of influencer. If you have booked your executive as a speaker or panelist, you’ve created opportunities for face to face connections with analysts, journalists, and other thought leaders. A conscientious PR pro will work hard to nurture these relationships in a mutually beneficial manner, perhaps by offering to collaborate on content

Media contacts as influencers

In some niches, journalists can do double duty for a brand, although a working journalist is very unlikely to serve as a paid endorser. Key journalists are industry insiders, so their presence adds gravity to any event, attracts other influencers, and boosts the social media reach at an event. They don’t even have to do a story on the event, although that may be a goal. But just the association can generate good word-of-mouth.

Marquee customers

Another category of industry influencer is the brand-name customer who is able to endorse your brand in published industry testimonials or appear at high-level conferences to discuss your work together. If your company has an innovative product and/or great customer service, you’re in a position to ask clients to write online reviews or blog about their great experience using the product. The worst thing that happens is they say no.

Top ways to work with influencers

Bylined content

White papers, simple bylined articles, or guest blog posts are very effective and SEO-worthy ways to collaborate with influencers.

Video testimonials

The key here is to make any customer video short, sweet, and shareable.

Panel appearances and other speaking opportunities

These are often covered by trade or industry press and can be converted into bylined content.

Customer education events

Investing in one or more big-name influencers for a private customer or prospect education event – whether a webinar or an exclusive black-tie dinner – can pay dividends in PR, word-of-mouth, and customer good will.

Sponsored surveys or research reports

Co-sponsored research, while it comes with a price tag, is one of the most effective ways to tap the expertise of a partner like an academic expert or even an industry trade group.

Finally, although influencers are often paid for their time, compensation shouldn’t be the foundation of your relationship. For an influencer program to thrive, it should be founded on the individual’s credibility and based on a relationship of mutual respect and collaboration.

5 Reasons To Fire Your Tech PR Firm

An early-stage company with limited resources expects a good return on investment from any tech PR firm it uses. This is true of any organization, but for a startup, the stakes are a bit higher than for a long-established business. Young companies may not have much experience outsourcing public relations work, and they may not fully realize when they’ve chosen the wrong team to help lead them to greater glory.

Any new agency of record deserves a 90-day trial period. Good PR pros still make mistakes. No PR firm is perfect, but chances are, there’s an agency perfect for you. If a young tech business enters a partnership with the right like-minded agency, then it will be better equipped to compete in a crowded marketplace.
Instead of moving forward wondering if your agency is providing the best possible service, let’s take a look at some of the warning signs that it’s time for a come-to-Jesus meeting.

A great PR team has eyes on the prize

The big picture, that is. If, after placing your story in a key outlet, your agency congratulates itself and moves on, they may be wasting valuable opportunities for building momentum. A good PR agency will have a plan to ride the wave with additional tactics like follow-up interviews, panels, and bylines. They should also offer ideas for merchandising high-value earned media placements. Some teams are good practitioners, but if they execute from week to week without looking at mid and long-range goals, they’re shortchanging the client. A unified PR or communications strategy that is revisited once per quarter will support the strongest outcomes.

If they don’t create, they wait

Your agency should be producing a consistent flow of fresh new ideas. They should call you with new angles for bylines in key outlets. They will skillfully insert you into trending conversations within media and influencers. They should make your brand a fixture in relevant industry conversations with minimal lift on your part. The best PR teams will seek out and build new relationships with influencers, analysts, and media – on your behalf. Rapidly growing businesses usually don’t have the time to come up with all the ideas, or to nag about deadlines. They need a team who waits to be told what to do like they need a third leg. If your agency is just an arms-and-legs team skilled at execution, that’s okay, but it’s not optimal.

Your PR team should bring it — and measure it

A startup or mid-sized tech company should expect specific deliverables and outcomes – and the two aren’t the same thing. Your thought leaders should have at least one published byline each month and meet with industry analysts each quarter if those are key plan elements. In addition to weekly calls, you should receive a monthly results report, with specific industry-relevant KPIs. The PR agency should send over press recaps promptly after a story runs. If the agency is not producing desired results, it should be able to clearly explain and offer solutions to course-correct. They should be accountable and reliable.

They feel the connection

If they don’t “get you,” then they won’t be able to inspire the press and the public. They need to speak the language of your brand fluently. The agency should show genuine passion for your story, and know how best to tell it. This is not to say that they shouldn’t push back or question aspects of the brief, the PR plan, or the messaging. In fact, critical thinking is an important benefit of a PR agency relationship. But the ideal agency team shows an understanding of your ethos and mission. If not, they must be able to get up-to-speed very quickly.
Your agency contacts should feel like seasoned members of your own team. If your PR agency of record behaves like a distant vendor who mechanically does the minimum, it’s time to make them permanently distant.

Never get ghosted

A good technology PR team will respond in short order to any emails or calls. They should be enthusiastic and well prepared for a regular check-in phone call at least once a week. These are communications professionals. They should be aces at proactive communication. You shouldn’t feel like one of many in a long roster of clients. If your agency of record is ghosting you, it’s time to make them disappear.
If your company spots one of these red flags, it need not be fatal. A candid conversation may clear up misconceptions and improve performance. But if your PR firm is dropping the ball on more than one of these issues, a conversation may not be enough. For additional guidelines on what companies should expect from their agencies, see this earlier post.