What is B2B PR?
B2B PR is a specialist PR discipline that focuses upon helping one business to sell its goods and services to another business, rather than the general public.
For this reason, B2B PR usually takes a sector approach, targeting decision-makers in highly specific industries.
Traditionally, B2B PR has focused on top-of-the-funnel activity, raising brand, product and service awareness within a target sector. The primary tactic employed to achieve this has been media relations, using trade and sector media as a conduit to deliver key messages to target audiences.
While traditional media remains a vital channel to engage potential buyers, the increasing influence of social media and web searches has led to it becoming just one of a number of tactics that can be deployed during a B2B PR campaign.
Leading UK B2B trade titles include the likes of The Grocer, The Engineer, EG, Marketing Week, Facilities Management Journal, The Caterer, Builders Merchant Journal, PR Week, Utility Week, Meat Trades Journal, The Manufacturer, The Installer Magazine and Construction News.
Trade titles typically work with PR agencies to populate their magazines, with editorial opportunities for businesses including:
• Company news (generally found at the front of magazines)
• Features (containing advice and detailed discussions around key topics)
• Company profiles (often found in the centre of a magazine)
• Appointment news (towards to the end of the publication)
• Classified advertising (final pages)
Misconceptions About B2B PR
Many people think B2B PR is only about writing press releases, announcing product launches, new appointments, contract wins etc. While this can form part of an ongoing PR programme, it should never be the sole focus because it inevitably focuses on product attributes rather than customer benefits.
At WPR, we call this product-pushing – and we advise clients that this approach will only get their B2B PR campaigns so far.
Push v Pull Marketing
All marketing can fall into two broad categories – push and pull. The former tries to push products towards customers using advertising and PR to put products into the minds of customers. The latter pulls customers towards the product by showing that a business understands their needs and has the products or services they are looking for.
Good B2B PR includes elements of both push and pull, but will have far more of the latter, and takes a customer-centric approach.
This is because what B2B buyers really want is advice and guidance from industry experts – a theory corroborated by research, such as the Demand Gen Report, which shows that 96% of B2B buyers want content with input from industry thought leaders.
Much of B2B PR is, therefore, about thought leadership, or issues-based PR, which is less focused on getting a quick sale and more concerned with engaging customers long-term.
It is also much more aligned to the solution-selling approach favoured by many salesforces. Very few good salespeople sit in front of a client and say, “how many do you want?” Rather, they take the time to find out the dynamics of a customer business, what the challenges are and what they want from a product or service. B2B PR needs to do the same.
This is particularly true of service sector organisations that, by definition, have no product to sell – only their expertise and knowledge.
One of our most successful B2B PR campaigns in recent years was a campaign for Lloyds Register that aimed to raise the organisation’s profile in the food sector for its assurance services. With no product to sell, we demonstrated Lloyds Register’s capabilities by identifying ‘hot button’ issues for food producers, such as mislabelling and food contamination, before offering relevant advice and guidance.
How to Identify Customer ‘Hot Buttons’
A good B2B PR campaign will not focus on product attributes. This information can be easily found in the product guide, in a brochure or on the company website.
Instead the primary concern will be to find out what problem or challenges the product or service solves.
Expect a B2B PR person to ask questions like, “what keeps your customers awake at night?”, or “what problem is this solving?”. This issue or problem can then provide the focus for the PR campaign.
For example, we were asked to devise a B2B PR campaign to launch a below-ground drainage system for one of our clients, which was very much a ‘me-too’ product similar to various competitor products already on the market.
In talking to the product manager however, it became clear that different types of drain should be used in trafficked and landscaped applications. When the wrong type of drain is used, the ground becomes unstable and dangerous. Safety was clearly a key issue and we devised a campaign to advise groundworkers and contractors to fit the right drain in the right application.
Match the Channel to the Customer
As we have seen, good B2B PR is highly focused on the end customer, which means not only identifying the key problems they want to solve, but also engaging them on the media channel of their choice.
There is still a strong and relevant print media in the UK, but increasingly social media is providing new opportunities to engage B2B decision-makers.
LinkedIn has always been viewed as a B2B channel, but for some B2B sectors it is not the channel of choice. For ‘on-the-go’ B2B audiences, such as central heating installers, Twitter is a more popular platform, while architects are very active on Instagram.
The best B2B PR campaigns start by understanding their target audiences and their media consumption patterns before developing content that engages them, and are served on the channel of their choice.
B2B PR therefore includes a wide variety of tactics to engage a buyer e.g.
- Press releases
- Appointment releases
- White papers
- Industry reports
- Social media
- Guest blogging
- Email marketing
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.