Media love data. As most PR people know, data offers a powerful news hook in a way that even a product launch or partnership often doesn’t. It can easily feed a story to make it stronger, and data-driven stories can easily be made visual, which adds to their appeal. Business and tech media in particular have an ongoing appetite for research, studies and surveys.
For B2B companies, this presents a massive PR opportunity. To meet media demand, B2B tech brands in particular can build out their own research assets. An asset that can earn branded media coverage is valuable — and that’s not all. Data-driven coverage can establish a brand as a category expert or leader. Moreover, it can attract the attention of media, analysts, and business customers. It’s pull marketing 101. These audiences look for category insight and find… you!
Our client Uberall is a good example. Uberall is a Berlin-based location marketing platform that seeks to build its brand here in the US. To help it be seen as an expert on location marketing, one of our first initiatives was to develop branded research on “near me” mobile searches. Our first study drove story volume and quality while also presenting Uberall and its team as rightful authorities on location-based marketing.
But developing research and generating data that media find worthwhile is easier said than done. To be successful, here are three best practices that B2B tech companies and startups need to keep in mind.
Your data only goes so far
When I start discussing branded research possibilities with a client, their first inclination is to point to their own data. This is natural. Most scaled B2B tech companies are sitting on a pile of interesting data. It’s also inexpensive and easy to access. But, more often than not, internal data doesn’t work for B2B PR. Keep in mind that a company’s data is usually selective because it’s based on customer research. Unless you have massive scale, it’s not often representative of a mass category or even a segment.
Media tend to be conservative when it comes to covering a brand’s own data as well. This is why the best ongoing research programs for B2B PR rely on a combination of client data and third-party paid research. Third-party “commissioned” research delivers a fuller sample and is often seen as more credible. For leading data management platform Lotame, for example, their data and third-party surveys are both important, and they often work together.
Don’t make research a sales pitch
It’s important to develop research and data that speaks to core themes, messages and products. BUT it’s equally vital to be restrained in how self-promotional the data is, or media simply won’t cover it. They are inherently skeptical of research from brands because they know brands have a vested interest in the subject matter. So the best research work is grounded in hot buttons and trends, with the brand’s core themes and messages lightly baked in. For B2B tech brands, walking that line is important. This is meant to be a soft sell, not a hard commercial pitch. It’s pull marketing to promote a sense of thought leadership. That’s why brands should avoid featuring their name in the headline of any survey content like a press release. Focus on the findings instead.
A good example is recent research done by event success platform Bizzabo. It’s a rare example of a client’s internal data analysis being more compelling than an outside survey or study. Bizzabo examined the gender split among the keynote and panel speakers across 60,000 conferences, and the research showed that we have a long way to go in achieving gender diversity. Bizzabo let its data shine and was featured in Bloomberg, NPR, MarketWatch, VentureBeat, and more.
Don’t run away from consumers
When B2B tech brands consider research options, they can be quick to write off developing data that polls or surveys consumers. For example, a technology startup that offers delivery and returns software to retailers may say no to polling 1,000 consumers about BOPIS or mobile shopping. Instead, they ask that the focus be on polling retail executives. This is a mistake. Consumer survey data can be pitched effectively to relevant B2B media just like a poll of 300 retail executives can. Additionally, consumer surveys are often sexier to a wider group of media — instead of pitching only retail trades, you can level up to business and technology — and can be done at a fraction of the cost.
By keeping in mind the balance between media and client needs, B2B brands can create a reservoir of data that hits the sweet spot, drives visibility and builds leadership over time.