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


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.

8 PR Tools for B2B Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is part of public relations best practices, and it’s particularly powerful in B2B and technology categories. By shaping and serving up a unique perspective, expertise, or insight, a young company can gain a competitive advantage over larger and more established companies.

If you’re a company founder, you have expertise that others don’t. Chances are, you’ve come up with a solution to a problem that differentiates your company. Even more significant, you’re an innovator whose job it is to foster that same spirit of innovation at your business. You’re full of informed opinions, fresh ideas, and predictions about your industry. How do you leverage that thought capital?

The answer may be a strategic thought leadership plan. But remember that thought leadership is not directly about capturing new business. Before you begin, make sure you or your key executive has a novel point of view and is committed to joining — and staying — in the conversation.

Here are 8 tech PR tools for a B2B thought leadership plan

Stellar bylined content

Seeing your byline next to an article in VentureBeat or AdAge is a great feeling. It’s a sexy way to display a CEO’s unique insight and often a great way to tell a story. The PR team should be constantly generating ideas for articles to pitch to journalists. But be sure to adhere to best byline practices. Consider editorial policies and trending topics, and be strategic when targeting technology media outlets.

Seize the stage at conferences

A well-researched speakers’ bureau can vault a little-known company into the media (and influencer) spotlight and help turn an established company into a market leader. A CEO delivering a speech, sitting on a panel, or giving a “fireside chat” can elevate their stature as an industry player. Until the conferences start contacting you, your company will need a team member dedicated to submitting to strategically targeted annual conferences. For a PR guide to executive speaking gigs, go to our earlier post. Women entrepreneurs in particular are in demand.

Expert commentary

Tech and business media are uniquely receptive to interviews and commentary from executives who are subject-matter experts. An impressive resume, coupled with a track record of blogging or speaking on a given topic is often all it takes to launch a founder as an SME. At that point, he or she can be offered to key media for comment on relevant news of the day. Are there rumors of a merger in your category? Activate your CEO for a comment on what it might mean. A scandal like a privacy breach? Perhaps it’s a chance to confirm your own security protocol. Relevant legislation pending? Offer an analysis to the business broadcast press. Here’s more about how to build a resume as a subject-matter expert.

Reach out to analysts

Establishing relationships with influential industry analysts like Gartner and Aberdeen Group is a great way of establishing impressive expertise that can lead not only to inclusion in analyst reports, but in the top-tier media who read the reports. The reports can influence customers, investor interest, press coverage, and general reputation, and they typically have a long shelf-life. But an analyst program required meticulous thoroughness and preparation. See this earlier post on making the most of analyst relations.

Publish your manifesto

The founder should be contributing to the latest industry scholarship by penning insightful white papers, which offer the opportunity to take a well-differentiated point of view on a topic of interest. It’s okay, in fact, desirable, if the opinion is lightly controversial or even contrarian. Additionally, if the CEO has a truly unique insight and/or an inspiring origin story, then publishing a full-length business book can yield substantial B2B thought leadership content and visibility. Long-form written content can reinforce the executive’s expertise, thereby elevating the brand’s authority.

Blog early and often

We feel that in the ideal world, a business technology founder should be publishing a regular blog series on the company website and on LinkedIn, dedicated to offering a perspective in the form of entertaining, informative content. One or two weekly posts can demonstrate an executive’s broad insight and communicate a distinct brand voice. Additionally, the CEO could strive to guest post on trade industry blogs. See our earlier post for a deep dive into blogging best practices.

Be the host with the most

Your founders need not wait to be invited to participate in other people’s panels. Create and put on your business discussion panel about a hot-button topic on which your CEO has a specific insight. Invite other distinguished business leaders, experts, and tech journalists to either be on the panel, moderate, or attend as an audience member. Thought leader panels can yield a ton of useful content like white papers, videos, bylines, and blog posts. We do this routinely for our B2B clients, with great success, and we have lots of information about business panel best practices.

Be a pod(cast) person

Guesting on a technology or business podcast can be another interesting platform for your CEO to shine. For guests, podcasting typically requires less effort and preparation than television appearances, and the medium offers an intimacy that print media cannot match. Like other media, podcast shows exist in every conceivable niche. Whether your company specializes in API, blockchain, or AR, there’s a podcast that fits the bill. For some cool shows check out our PR guide to tech podcast gigs.

Staying Cool Under PR Pressure

When you work for a PR agency in New York, things can heat up even when it’s not the thick of summer. Whether you’re at an agency, in-house, or working with a PR firm, the business tends to put the pressure on.

How to beat the heat: Tips for staying cool when the pressure is high. 
So what are the keys to keeping one’s cool under any circumstances?

Prioritize, and address the most urgent issue first. This is a tip from an air traffic controller. It’s easy to get flustered when a number of pressing matters are vying for your attention. Perhaps that reporter you spoke to yesterday has three follow up questions and her deadline is in one hour. Meanwhile one of your team members has questions about an important document you’re working on that needs to be sent out ASAP. What’s more, the industry event you’ve been charged with leading is right around the corner, with dozens of details yet to be worked out. Learn how to distinguish the urgent from the important, prioritize, and bring your focus to each one in turn.

Stage a mental dress rehearsal. When facing a high-pressure presentation or perhaps a sensitive media interview, take a cue from a cancer surgeon in Dallas, who mentally runs through all the details of a procedure the night before, playing it “like a movie in my head.” That same strategy worked for swimmer Michael Phelps, who learned to “play the tape,” as his coach told him, internally visualizing the steps of a successful race day. This included imagining how he would respond to problems such as gear malfunction. So one day, when his goggles filled with water during an actual Olympic race, he was prepared. Phelps famously closed his eyes, counted the strokes he estimated it would take him to complete the race, and swam blind (setting a world record!) Vividly envisioning the scenario as you want it to play out is a powerful tool to keeping one’s cool and focus under pressure.

Focus on “wins” to avoid getting buried. “Staying positive” can sound trite, but it’s actually important to keep one’s outlook bright when facing pressure from all sides. Did you land an epic media placement using your cunning media savvy? Did you turn a potentially negative PR situation into something that made your brand look good instead? In the face of mounting pressure, savor the small (or big) wins that made you proud, and use them as fuel to get to the finish line in the new tasks you’re facing.

Use your support system. With some smart thinking and a little luck, you’ve made the right choices and have surrounded yourself with a strong team. When the pressure is on, don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek clarification. A solid communications team knows the key to success is to help one another out when in need.

How To Use B2B PR For Lead Generation

Can the right B2B PR program generate customer leads? Our answer is a qualified “yes.” The key lies in knowing how to generate earned media articles in quality publications, in addition to great company-produced or “owned” content. The result can be a 1 + 1 = 3 boost in SEO rankings and desirable referral traffic.

According to a recent survey of 5000 B2B marketers from the Content Marketing Institute, 86% of respondents are using content marketing as a formal business discipline, and 70% are producing more content than one year ago. But what they may not have is a strategic PR program designed to generate trade or business interviews, bylined articles, company features, customer testimonials and executive speaking opportunities that can be merchandised to prospects.

Here are best practices for using B2B PR to generate leads.

Have SEO and PR work together. If those functions are being handled by separate agencies or divisions, make them talk to one another. Although the languages are different, the lines between the two disciplines are increasingly blurring, and the outcomes should be aligned. Even if your PR program is designed to support brand reputation rather than to promote products or services, it will be useful to coordinate content schedules and topics.

Step up the earned media placement. Media created by the company, like press releases or blog content, are important, but earned media from reputable publications and blogs is typically more credible. A profile in a trade magazine or a quote in a business media is often more persuasive than a company post, and trusted publications confer a high domain authority, which boosts SEO.

Use keywords judiciously. By generating original material containing industry-specific keywords, B2B PR can increase high-quality inbound links to a website that will boost page rank. But Google prizes fresh, high-quality, and original content that reads like it was written by human beings, so good practitioners refrain from keyword stuffing and focus on a mix of earned and original content. A good ratio is 2-to-1 for owned vs. earned.

Tap advocates. Customer or partner testimonials, analyst commentary, interviews by key journalists and trade show opportunities can imply third-party endorsement, which drives measurable outcomes like page rank and authority from referring sites. But it also promotes the intangible – but priceless – attribute of credibility.

Market ideas and advice, not products and services. Those without the traditional PR mindset tend to go for the hard-sell; however, a more journalistic approach that focuses on what is truly newsworthy, or that offers tips of service to customers, is far more likely to attract and engage prospects.

Maximize use of B2B social platforms. Most marketers are already using LinkedIn as a content platform, but some may be surprised by Twitter’s power, particularly when it comes to users of B2B technology services. A study undertaken by Twitter and intelligence company Compete shows that Twitter users visit B2B tech sites at a higher rate than ordinary web users, and they convert at more than double the rate of non-Twitter people. PR experts know that Twitter’s also a powerful place to engage journalists and tech analysts, so it deserves to be part of every B2B content program.

5 B2C Tips To Add Life To A B2B PR Program

B2B PR doesn’t have to be boring. But business-to-business content and PR programs, particularly those that promote a technology product or service, do have that reputation. And while it’s true that the B2B sales process is usually longer, more complex, and more highly targeted than on the consumer side, the PR need not be bland. The B2B game has been revitalized by the growth of social media, and the range of creative content choices has opened up new opportunities for communicators.

What some B2B marketers don’t realize is that classic consumer PR techniques can also go a long way to add juice to a B2B PR program. That’s because, despite significant differences, both depend on the same thing — capturing the end user’s attention.

By now, most B2B marketers know to tell a story visually through real-time data, infographics, slideshare presentations or short videos, and most have crafted a strong narrative around the company or its offering. Here are some additional ways to add flavor to a vanilla B2B tech or professional services PR program.

Borrow interest from pop culture or breaking news. Most consumer PR programs are built around seasonal calendar changes or other predictable happenings, from back-to-school to the Super Bowl. Journalists are always looking for a fresh take on the humdrum seasonal story. Beyond the obvious, you can tie content to the latest web meme, film release, or entertainment personality in the news.  One of our clients, Exponential Interactive, gains attention and visibility by using data science to forecast the outcome of big events like the Academy Awards, with outstanding results in marketing and entertainment press. (Don’t bet against them!)

Use conferences for targeted promotions. Conferences and trade shows are a great opportunity to use contests, scavenger hunts, or other promotional tactics within the business bubble of the show. Contests and giveaways that could never be driven through expensive mass media channels can work well when amplified by a trade show daily, direct-mail list of attendees, or through conference hall “street teams.” (And, yes, most PR people have a few “street team” stories in their repertoire.) Some best bests here include product giveaways, social media contests, or even a conference-themed gaming app.

Think beyond LinkedIn and Twitter. Getting creative on social media, or adopting a new or counterintuitive social channel, is a great way to break through the noise.  IBM, for example leverages its company history on Instagram and Tumblr through #throwbackthursday vintage photos that highlight company milestones and illustrious employees from the past. It earns Big Blue currency with prospective customers while reminding us of its storied heritage.

Leverage people, not technology. This may be heresy within some technology companies, but communications that highlights pure technology is rarely a winner. A story about an engineer obsessed with developing a better algorithm for fraud protection, or a data analyst who can apply her skill to predicting flu trends will gain far more traction than buzzwords or white papers. As MLT Marketing Creative Director Billy Mitchell puts it, “It’s not really B2B or B2C, it’s about H2H, or human-to-human.”

Crowdsource content. The B2B company’s best resource is often customers, so why not let the hive mind of client contacts revitalize your content? Crowdsourced material from customer surveys, testimonial interviews, or simple social-media-driven polls or quizzes can help create entertaining, relevant, and shareable results. There are some clever companies who market to the PR industry who have mastered this technique; they interview “thought leaders” like agency heads and corporate communications executives on topics of the day and count on us to promote the stories where we’re featured. Simple, targeted, and highly effective.

How Top PR Agencies Can Do Better B2B PR

PR professionals, do you resolve to keep your B2B PR clients relevant and interesting in 2014?  Have you gone over your strategy list and checked it twice? It’s important to stay newsworthy, while keeping client business goals top of mind. Here are some tips to improve your B2B PR campaigns in the new year.

Secure Strategic Alliances
A well planned partnership with a complementary, non-competing organization or company can benefit your client by adding “new” news, important borrowed interest and sometimes, a cost offset. For example, if your client is interested in sponsoring an industry event but isn’t necessarily a household name in the field, partner with an entity that is. The borrowed interest can help vault your client’s name to prominence, create exposure and keep you on budget.

Infographic Reboot
Infographics are a great tool for creating branded content for clients but often, brands operate on a “one and done” basis and move on the next great idea.  Consider having your client create an infographic that annualizes!  Create a listicle, poll or other way to meaningfully show a stat at the same time each year, building media anticipation.

During New York Fashion Week, we offered media an infographic generated by a digital marketing technology provider that generated a ton of coverage and interest from media. Along with traditional B2B PR strategies like bylines and speaking opportunities, the infographic created a lot of buzz around the client and promoted the company in the B2B and B2C realm despite being a data company. The infographic allowed the client to step out of the digital cloud and we’re already in the works for creating a 2014 version.

Own it!
Owned content in the form of research with some “sex appeal” is a good way to position your client as a thought leader in the industry.  Encourage your client to create a survey on a timely topic relative to the industry, or leverage public domain research in an interesting way and pitch it to media with a twist.  For a financial services client, we recently surveyed consumers asking how much they fib to their significant other when it comes to holiday spending and we’ve maintained a steady flow of interest and coverage from reporters at consumer, business and financial outlets.

Temperature Check
Remember, while implementing these new ideas it’s important to check in and communicate on a regular basis with the client to ensure that their business goals are being reached and the messages are in line with a changing industry landscape.

PR professionals are the stewards of any B2B client’s image.  Always be looking for ways to burnish and safeguard it.

B2B PR Doesn’t Have To Be Boring

As a brand marketing PR veteran, I never thought that one of my finest moments would be leadership of a B2B engagement for a financial services client. McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union markets directly to businesses for whom membership is an employee benefit. Yet, corporate decision-makers are consumers, too. And the success we’ve had raising awareness for the credit union has shown that even B2B programs can benefit from a little creative PR flair.

Here are some tips we’ve gleaned from our experience with this and other B2B clients that can enliven and enrich any business-focused PR effort.

Don’t ignore seasonal news hooks. Business media like to take advantage of the calendar, too. Earlier this year we surveyed consumers to determine how much “love” they felt for their financial institutions, then packaged it creatively to appeal to multiple media segments, just prior to….you guessed it, Valentine’s Day. CNBC and other business/financial outlets responded particularly well to the pitch.

Give your bylines some juice. Although the subject matter may appeal strictly to trades, why not jazz up your writing with some pop culture references, clever allusions and alliteration, or colorful quotes? With so much content competing for our attention, business writing should never be dry. If all else fails, substitute generic words for more descriptive ones. Money market returns aren’t just small, they’re “scrawny.” Bank charges are, high, yes, but what about “rapacious”?

Mix up your messengers. For a B2B monthly speaker series, we recommended shaking up the talks by securing bloggers and other journalists with social media chops as non-traditional speakers. These additions have wowed our audience and provided something extra in increased media coverage of the series as well as digital extensions — twitter chats and other social media outreach.

Get your client out of his comfort zone. When securing speaking opportunities for a CEO or other leader, look beyond typical industry gatherings and category conferences. Strategize about decision-makers in ancillary fields who can benefit from learning about your client’s business, and look to book a gig addressing one of these audiences. Our financial services CEO will be keynoting a conference for HR directors – not an obvious choice? The attendees want to hear how HR can interact better with the C-suite and our client wants to offer up credit union membership as an employee benefit, making for a very good, if not obvious, fit.

For your next B2B PR assignment, make it your business to get a little creative.