Eight Questions to Ask a B2B PR Agency

By Tom Leatherbarrow on 13th August 2020

Choosing the right B2B PR agency to work with can ensure you make the jump from good to great PR. So, what questions should B2B marketers be asking of potential PR agency partners? Here are 10 open-ended questions we would ask:

1. What Do You Know About Us?

This is more than just an icebreaker. How your potential B2B PR agency partner answers this question will not only tell you how much research they have done prior to meeting you for the first time, but also whether they understand what you do. Parroting of your website descriptor will not suffice. Good B2B PR agencies will use this as an opportunity to highlight similarities between your business and their experience.

2. What Do You Think About Our Current PR Output?

This is not an invitation to slate the incumbent B2B PR agency. Rather, it is an opportunity for potential agencies to critique your current PR output, good and bad, and offer some solutions that they can expand upon at a later meeting or pitch.

Expect them to have looked through at least a year’s worth of news releases on your website and be able to offer some initial suggestions about improvements, around elements such as key messages, audiences and writing style.

Expect them to ask about case studies, whether you have them on the website or not, and also thought-leadership articles. A B2B PR agency that has done its homework will be able to spot gaps in your current PR output, and will want to know why they haven’t been filled.

3. What Are Our Key Publications?

Any B2B PR person can come up with a media list, but is it the right list and what do they really know about the publications? Most B2B sectors have a wide media landscape, but there is also usually a core ‘A’ list of titles that speak directly to their customer base.

For example, the most important media outlets for machine tools are not The Engineer or The Manufacturer, which are more generalist manufacturing titles. Yes, they would be on our ‘B’ list, but if you are targeting the machine tool industry specifically, there is a specialist subsector of magazines, such as Production Engineering Solutions, Engineering Subcontractor and Machinery. Good B2B agencies will know this and be able to talk in-depth about your ‘A’ list magazines.

4. How Important is Online Media Coverage?

Online media coverage is increasingly important for B2B PR campaigns for three reasons. Firstly, because the ratio of online to traditional press cuttings is moving ever more in the direction of online. For example, for our client Yamazaki Mazak, circa 80% of our monthly coverage is now online across both the UK and Continental Europe.

Secondly, online coverage offers the opportunity to gain valuable backlinks which can help your website’s search engine rankings. A skilled B2B agency will know how to generate backlinks and will report on the number generated with its online coverage each month.

Thirdly, many of the key publications for sectors such as engineering and HVAC have significantly increased their online capabilities. For example, Installer magazine, one of the key publications for the HVAC sector, offers video interviews and guest blogging opportunities, as does Production Engineering Solutions, one of the key publications for the machining sector.

5. How Has Your Business Changed in the Last Five Years?

A key question. You want to be working with a B2B PR agency that has evolved to encompass the changing media landscape, and embraced new tactics and ways of working. Media relations should still be a core skillset, but there should be other skills you can tap into should you need them.
Look for partnerships with different media channels, such as Google, LinkedIn and Facebook, and also demonstrable evidence of campaigns that have embraced new ways of working and new tactics, such as:

6. How Do You Measure Success?

B2B PR has moved beyond merely using media coverage as a way of evaluating campaigns. Increasingly, we are finding that clients want to be able to measure the tangible impact of a B2B PR campaign on their business. Good B2B PR agencies will match the success metric to the client’s sector and the campaign’s overall objectives.

Ask for evidence of campaigns that have used new metrics to quantify the success of B2B PR campaigns such as:

7. What Sort of Content Would Work Best for Us?

PR campaigns cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach, and B2B PR agencies need to have a good understanding of the media consumption habits of different audiences. Where does the target audience go for information? How do they like their content served to them – online or print?

What works in one sector will not necessarily work in another. For example, our work in the HVAC sector targeting what we term ‘on-the-go’ people, such as plumbers and heating installers, often involves using short, snappy, ‘thumb-clickable’ content such as video and animation. By contrast, engineering and manufacturing audiences are generally more desk-based and are more willing to download and consume long-form content, such as industry reports and white papers.

B2B PR depends upon giving target audiences the content they want on the channel of their choice, when they want it.

8. What Do You Think Are the Key Issues Affecting Our Sector?

B2B PR agencies should have a good grounding in the different issues affecting specific industries. Whilst in-depth technical knowledge will always sit with the client, the B2B agency should know what questions to ask and should not need basic market dynamics explained to them.

For example, if you are supplying equipment to the manufacturing sector you can reasonably expect potential B2B PR agency partners to be able to talk about broad sector issues, such as productivity, competitiveness, automation and Industry 4.0. Within the construction sector, key issues such as project delivery deadlines, offsite construction and the skills shortage are very important market drivers.

Good B2B PR agencies should have a secure knowledge base about your sector that will enable them to get a PR campaign up and running quickly.

To find out how WPR can help you, contact us.

The author: Tom Leatherbarrow is a director at WPR Agency, specialising in strategies and content marketing for B2B audiences.