B2B PUBLIC RELATIONS: HOW DO I GET MEDIA EXPOSURE FOR MY COMPANY?
Are you interested in building out a thought leadership PR strategy? I was recently a guest on the Predictable B2B Success Podcast hosted by Vinay Koshy. The Predictable B2B Success podcast is a marketing podcast for B2B marketers and public relations professionals. During the podcast, we discussed:
- Best practices in B2B Public Relations
- How to create a B2B PR Plan
- Modern PR
- Brand Positioning
Kris Ruby, CEO and founder of Ruby Media Group, shares how to drive your B2B marketing results with a powerful PR plan.
Listen to the podcast to learn:
- The best way to approach setting up a PR plan that drives B2B and healthcare marketing results
- Where a healthcare PR plan fits into your broader B2B marketing strategy
- How to make sure your PR strategy succeeds with defined KPI’s & ROI
- PR plan templates to track and monitor the progress of your campaign
- The 5 ways to ensure your PR plan enhances your brand positioning
- How to reach your target audience through PR in digital platforms
- How to maximize SEO value from PR related content and media coverage
- Why personal branding is critical to getting your future partners and audience to pay attention to your business and practice
- The significance of video in your PR plan and strategy
PLUS: How to distribute your content and press placements after coverage has been secured.
Listen to the full episode here:
What is B2B PR?
Business-to-business (B2B) public relations targets a specific business audience, whereas business-to-consumer (B2C) public relations targets a general audience. With B2B PR, you are selling from one business to another. With B2C PR, you are reaching the public at large. Consumer PR and B2B PR are different fields within the public relations industry. A B2B PR campaign can help a business owner reach a target audience of C-suite executives through earned media coverage in trade publications or business verticals. A B2B public relations campaign can give your business a significant competitive advantage over your competitors through earned brand awareness. PR has tremendous value for mid-size and large companies that need to build up trust as a competitive asset.
B2B PR is ideal for:
- Generating awareness among key decision-makers
- Changing public perception of your company
- Aiding in lead generation (but not responsible for lead gen)
Every business has goals they want to achieve and PR can be a useful tool for solving certain business problems. For example, maybe you are looking to increase revenue or need traction and name recognition for a startup brand. If so, a strategic public relations campaign is a valuable solution to fix this business problem. As a PR practitioner, I help solve unique business challenges with the expertise of 12 years of PR experience in Public Relations.
How important is B2B marketing?
There are several benefits of B2B PR campaigns for executives and business leaders. B2B marketing and PR can:
- Enhance your digital authority
- Build your online reputation as a trusted advisor
- Increase trust and credibility with prospects
- Close your sales cycle faster
- Generate more qualified leads
Do you come across as a trusted advisor or a spammy salesman on social media?
Does your content help your prospective clients and patients evaluate your expertise and industry insight?
Does your content address the problems and pain points of your target audience? Or is it always about you? (Yikes!)
Quality thought leadership content leads to more informed decision making on B2B purchasing decisions.
It is not enough to be an expert. You must learn to become a visible expert in a digitally-driven economy. This must be highly specialized expertise. Google is the new storefront. You must carefully think about what you are displaying.
The perception of your thought leadership expertise must match the reality of it.
Don’t have time to listen to the full interview? Read the expanded interview transcript below:
BEST PRACTICES IN B2B PUBLIC RELATIONS
Vinay Koshy: Pleasure to have you, Kris. I’m curious, you’ve got a string of accomplishments under your belt. What would you say is your personal area of strength?
Kris Ruby: My personal area of professional strength is combining public relations and personal branding. I like to figure out how I can take people and turn them into brands and create brand equity around their value in the market.
Vinay Koshy: What in that area of strength is something that businesses don’t know about public relations, but should?
Kris Ruby: PR can move the needle more-so than traditional marketing if executed properly. For example, having your business featured on the cover of a trade publication can help your business development efforts way more than a traditional advertisement ever could. However, in order to get the maximum benefit out of PR, you need to create a B2B PR strategy first before you delve into tactics.
I see so many business owners today that want to jump at the next shiny marketing trend or offer. Whenever someone tells them that “this is what you need,” they go for it and try and get it. I don’t think that is necessarily a great public relations strategy for their business.
Instead, what you need to do is open up Microsoft Word and take the time to figure out:
- What are my business goals?
- What are my marketing objectives?
- Where do I want to be in the next five years?
Only then after you have done that work, do you say, here’s how I’m going to plug in PR to the equation. Here’s how my personal brand plugs into that. Here’s how digital marketing plugs into that. But no one actually takes the time to do that work. Instead, they just say, ‘my competitors are active on social media, so I need to be active, too.’
MODERN PR: THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Vinay Koshy: You have a lot of experience in PR. What would you say modern PR looks like?
Kris Ruby: Traditional PR has changed so much. With traditional public relations, you had all of these media gatekeepers that made it significantly harder to get press coverage unless you had a massive PR firm and it was more challenging to get featured in mainstream publications. Now what we’re seeing is that so many of these media outlets are being rolled up and acquired, so the market is shrinking as well as the number of traditional media publications that exist. This has led to the rise of digital PR, which is a field in and of itself. For example, a lot of executives that approach me don’t want traditional PR placements in print media because the opportunity for links doesn’t exist with traditional PR. One of the greatest benefits of digital PR is the integration of SEO and content marketing into your B2B public relations strategy. All of this working in unison can be a powerful weapon for propelling your B2B thought leadership marketing strategy forward.
B2B PR PLAN: HOW DO YOU DEVELOP A PR STRATEGY?
Vinay Koshy: When it comes to PR, as you said, people get it wrong or can be confused. What would you say is the best way to approach setting up a PR plan that drives B2B marketing results? You’ve already alluded to the fact that executives should have a broad business strategy. But is there a place for a PR plan as well?
Kris Ruby: You should always have a PR plan before you start working with a B2B PR firm. For example, during the first two months we start working with a new client, we create a PR plan for the company that includes a fact sheet, a brand story, a new ‘about us,’ a new boilerplate that can be used in press releases (if applicable) etc. We need time to gather the collateral that we give to reporters. We also create a vision for corporate photography that we can use for new hi-res, headshots, revised executive bios etc. We do this work to help our clients tell the right stories to the right audiences in a consistent, compelling, and authentic manner.
It takes time to create a brand vision first before you ever pitch the media during the B2B public relations strategic phase. It’s not as simple as just saying “pitch the media” if you have no strategic plan behind it.
As part of that B2B PR plan, you want to work with your public relations firm to determine:
What are our high-level public relations goals?
- Are you interested in regional, national or trade press?
Here is a PR secret: business trade publications are a great resource for B2B PR because reporters are more likely to write a full profile on you than a consumer-facing outlet.
Examples of B2B PR goals include:
- Introducing the company to trade focused media
- Increasing credibility with industry influencers through an earned media campaign
- Securing media coverage for a new product launch
- Increasing visibility for the company through a media relations strategy
- Strengthening the position of the company to the target audience you are selling to through press coverage
PR FOR STARTUPS: WHY DO STARTUPS NEED PR?
Vinay Koshy: With the PR plan, where does it fit into the broader B2B marketing strategy? Should you look at it once you’ve reached a certain level in your business? Or is it something that a startup could use straight off the bat?
Kris Ruby: It depends on the business and the startups’ PR goals. Startups can leverage PR if they have the funding to do it. I always tell startup CEOs that you only have one opportunity to get it right with the media when you launch a new business or product. That opportunity doesn’t come around again five years later. You only have one launch. You should promote the press release for a new business when you’re still new. If you miss that opportunity, you can’t come to us and say, “Can you put this out?” No. You launched five years ago. That is no longer newsworthy. Again, all of this starts with having a solid PR strategy for your startup. PR can be a great tool for startups to help build brand awareness, increase funding and round out pitch decks for investor relations. If you want to know more about how to get media coverage as a startup, this PR for Startup’s webinar is a helpful resource.
PR PITCHING: HOW DO YOU PITCH THE MEDIA?
Vinay Koshy: It’s more about the story that would capture the interest of the media and journalists, as well as their audience. Would that be correct?
Kris Ruby: Correct. It’s always about the story. And we can talk about best practices with B2B media relations, too. How do you create a good story? There are different layers of who a story may be of interest to. For example, your story could be of interest to a reporter, but it still may not be of interest to that reporter’s editor or to the audience of that publication. There are always several different audiences and layers at any given time when you’re pitching a story to a journalist.
Before clicking send, you have to think about: who will be most interested in this news?
It’s not enough for a reporter to love what you’re pitching. Their audience and the editor they work for also have to love what you’re pitching. I wrote a media relations guide and it has a lot of helpful tips for your listeners where I include tips from former journalists. One of the interesting statistics is that the ratio is so skewed right now of public relations professionals to journalists– six to one. Just imagine that. Those odds are stacked against you whether you have a PR firm or not. You have so many more PR professionals, and so many fewer journalists, which is making it that much more challenging to get your pitch or story picked up in the media today.
What can you do to differentiate your brand or business? That is what you should be focused on, not Googling how you can do your own PR. Today, there are so many DIY PR courses. I often talk about what I call PR corporate negligence and malpractice because I think that telling a business owner to do their own media outreach can cause long-term collateral damage.
FREE PR AND DIY PR: WHY IT’S A MISTAKE
Vinay Koshy: What sort of damage could people expect with DIY PR strategies?
Kris Ruby: Oftentimes, C-suite executives that try to do their own PR and media outreach without formal media training do not understand the intricacies of how the media works. For example, these are the people who read a free e-book online or spent $99 on a course and think they’re ready to click send on a pitch. These are the same people that speak to the media and say, “Oh, this may or may not be off the record.” Then a story comes out and they want it fixed and they don’t understand that they can’t get it fixed because it’s not a paid advertisement. They don’t fundamentally understand the difference between public relations and advertising from the start.
PR VS. ADVERTISING
PR is a storyline that you put out that you lack any control of. Advertising is something that you pay for. It’s a story you put out with graphics and creative, but you control it. PR and advertising are very different communication channels. One is earned, and the other is paid for.
ROI OF PUBLIC RELATIONS: HOW DO YOU MEASURE PR SUCCESS?
Vinay Koshy: What about ensuring that the story actually drives your business objectives? Because you can have a great piece of content that people love, but say, “Oh, that was great,” and move on, as opposed to taking some action. Can you speak to how that drives the ROI of a particular B2B PR campaign?
Kris Ruby: You’re touching on a really interesting topic, which is the value of PR for the sake of PR without a strategy. A PR firm could secure a top-tier press placement in a national newspaper, but if it’s a story of you talking about something that has nothing to do with your long-term business objectives, then was it still valuable, and what is the ROI of that placement? The ROI of that may not be what you’d expect if it has nothing to do with your business objectives.
I always tell people, “It’s not about the ROI of any one individual press placement. It’s about the ROI of all of these press placements together over many years.”
That’s why you’ll see that most PR firms will require six-month agreements or twelve-month contracts. No one’s really doing a one-month agreement in PR. And ideally, you should be working with a PR firm for many years. The reason I say that is not just so that they can keep you on retainer and have your business for eternity. It’s so that they can represent you to reporters and develop relationships with them over a long period of time, because maybe that PR firm will pitch you right now and the reporter can’t use you as a source. But they could use you a year from now or two years from now. That’s why I think it helps the client in the long run.
For example, I have pitched clients to reporters and sometimes hear back from the reporter months later that they want to use the source in a story. Don’t you want to be around when the reporter asks if you are available for an interview? If you aren’t, the PR firm will let a reporter know that they have another expert (instead of you!). This is why sticking with one PR firm pays dividends in the long run. PR is a marathon, not a short-term sprint. Your investment goes significantly further when you allow the seeds you have planted with a PR firm to “bloom” with reporters. If you leave before spring, and the flowers start blossoming and you are gone, you are shooting yourself in the foot.
As far as the ROI of public relations, there are many ways to evaluate and measure it.
First, you want to look at Google Search Console and then analytics on the back end of your web site and take a look at:
- What web traffic did this article or this press placement drive?
- What is the conversion rate of the traffic?
You can also look at:
- Increase in inbound links
- Referral traffic from press coverage
- Branded search traffic (has the traffic increased for your CEO’s name?)
Some PR measurement questions to consider:
- Did the press coverage in a national business publication increase web traffic by X sessions or visits?
- Did a blog post generated by the PR team result in X shares on social media?
- What is the year-over-year increase in business press coverage?
- How many new reporters at top-tier outlets have been exposed to your company?
- What is the conversion rate of pitching to placements?
- Is there a particular article mention or op-ed that is sending consistent, referral traffic to your website?
Metrics-driven marketers often fail to see the value in PR.
Often, the results of PR are intangible. Just because you can’t immediately see something or measure it the same way does not mean it is not valuable.
MAXIMIZING PRESS COVERAGE: HOW TO AMPLIFY & LEVERAGE EARNED MEDIA
Kris Ruby: PR for the sake of PR means nothing if you’re not doing anything with the press coverage you have secured. It’s not just that you record a podcast interview or you get featured in a magazine. You have to take that coverage and put it on your website. You have to take it and keep a list or a log of all of the press placements that you’ve done so that it becomes impressive to a producer, journalist, podcaster or reporter when they are searching for your brand name online. You also want to leverage your press coverage for your sales process as well. One mistake I see people making is that they do all of these incredible interviews with the media. They get these amazing national media interviews and they do nothing with it.
And I bang my head against the wall and wonder why are they even doing it? Because if you don’t organize that content for people (the media or their audience), then it becomes less impressive. The onus is on you to do that, not your PR agency. That’s actually a separate service that most PR firms don’t offer.
If you really want to take your PR campaign to the next level and build a brand, you have to package that content together to build your personal brand. This is where branding comes in and personal branding is not the same thing as traditional public relations.
A branding consultant is skilled at taking your entire body of work and packaging it together in a way that differentiates you in the market, whereas a publicist is skilled at securing interviews for you with the media. They are in two different fields.
Vinay Koshy: So, it makes sense, therefore, to have some sort of spreadsheet to track all the stories and PR releases that you’ve done over the years. Does it also make sense to have some sort of PR template that you could use to build out your plans as they evolve over time?
Kris Ruby: That’s another document you can save in Microsft Word or Google Drive where you can keep periodically updating it. For example, when I first started out in PR, I was more of a generalist. I became more of a specialist in healthcare PR and corporate communications. If I were creating a PR plan today, that plan would be different than when I first started my company in 2009. Today, I would want to do more targeted outreach geared towards getting on the radar of healthcare reporters so I could reach a highly targeted audience as opposed to doing more general media outreach, which is too broad. When you are clear on your business goals, you become clear on your communications goals, too. This clarity will help you redirect everything from your PR plan to the advertising dollars you are spending, and the outlets you are placing paid media in.
B2B MARKETING STRATEGIES: BRAND POSITIONING & PR
Vinay Koshy: I would presume that laying out your brand positioning goals is also a key part of that B2B PR plan?
Kris Ruby: In B2B PR, it’s not about being everywhere. It’s about being somewhere and targeting the ideal person or end user that you want to target. For example, let’s look at a comparison. Option A could be a national talk show. Option B could be a highly specialized B2B podcast. Which is more valuable to you? If your goal is to say that you got national media coverage, you could choose option A for the talk show. But if your goal is to get more clients and conversions where you have an opportunity to talk about what you do and educate your prospective audience, it is option B. I think that that’s something that people don’t understand.
There’s still this allure, which I think is a fallacy, of national media. “National media!” “We want that!” and it’s challenging for me to understand as a PR practitioner because I look at what’s happened with the fragmentation of media and I think there are so many great opportunities to get your message out to a highly specialized audience today. That audience may be smaller, and you may think it’s not worth your time and you’re dead wrong because something smaller and specialized is way better than something that reaches the whole country that may not be who you want to be reaching or want to do business with.
Vinay Koshy: Certainly, and we can bring this back to brand positioning. I would imagine that really identifying and clarifying your unique selling proposition (USP) would be a key factor. Is there anything else that we need to keep in mind?
Kris Ruby: In terms of brand positioning, in the media relations guide I talk about the five W’s as well. Why now? Is this time-sensitive? For example, let’s say you are a physician, and you’re a specialist within the field. What do you want to be known for? Because there are a ton of cardiologists. What makes you different? Do you have a specialty? And then I keep going further. You have to really niche down and keep going deeper and deeper into that and what that looks like. Because just saying, for example, that you are a doctor in this field- that’s not having a brand or a strong value proposition.
A personal brand that is primed for the media is when a reporter can go to you and know that you are the subject matter expert in that specific vertical. That doesn’t only happen because of the PR firm you hire. The onus is on you to do the work and to make that happen.
People make this mistake where they think, “I’m going to hire a PR firm and they can do that work for me.” No, they can’t. All of these people have one thing in common, whether they work with me or another PR firm, they’re still subject matter experts and key opinion leaders in their field. The difference is that they don’t know how to translate that subject matter expertise in digital platforms. And that’s where I come in as a PR professional. However, their authority and offline influence still exist with or without us. If you think that you can hire a PR firm and they’re going to create that for you, think again.
No one can create that for you. No one can join the organizations that you need to join to show that you’re involved in your industry. No one can publish op-ed articles for you. No one can publish in trade journals for you. You have to do the heavy lifting. And then it’s the PR firms’ job to take that and package it. But you have to understand that you need to give someone something to work with. And just saying, “I’ve arrived” is not enough.
People don’t realize that they have to round out their brands offline before their branding package is complete online. Your brand has to be malleable, and you must be open to constructive criticism, feedback and change if you hire a personal branding firm or PR consultant. Many times, I make recommendations on what someone needs to modify before I can start pitching them to the media.
If you ignore these suggestions, your success rate is going to be limited in the coverage you get.
PR CLIENT ONBOARDING: WHY THE DISCOVERY PROCESS IS CRITICAL
Vinay Koshy: Do you find a bit of an educational process with new PR clients before they’re even ready to be taken on as a client?
Kris Ruby: Yes, it’s a steep learning curve. I know another PR practitioner who says, “I always ask how many other firms have you worked with?” And I say, well, why do you ask that? And he says, “Well if I’m the first firm, I won’t do it. Because the learning curve is that steep.” And then there are so many questions that first-time PR clients have. For example, if you give interview answers – your answers may not be used. Someone who is new to the world of PR and journalism doesn’t understand that. They think, “I gave the answers, so what happened to them?” Well, remember, let’s bring up that six to one ratio because anytime I’m pitching, a reporter is getting hundreds of other answers too from other experts. And then there’s also teaching people how to write better interview answers to increase their likelihood of getting quoted in media interviews. There are so many nuances and layers to media relations and media training that are critical for B2B marketing success.
We have a proven process for showcasing your expertise through 3 pillars: content marketing, social media and public relations. Want to find out more? Contact us today.
MEDIA OUTREACH STRATEGY: HOW DO YOU PROMOTE A B2B COMPANY IN THE PRESS?
Vinay Koshy: How would you identify the best media outlets to reach your target audience through a B2B PR plan? I would assume that if you’re not engaging a PR firm for the first time you would have some idea. But are there other ways to start refining where your audience hangs out? Whether it be in terms of journals or other places online or offline?
Kris Ruby: Everyone typically has an idea of who their target audience is and how they want to reach them. If you start talking to an executive, they will typically say, “oh, well, we’ve advertised in this publication.” That can be a clue when you’re putting together the PR & Marketing history in the onboarding stage of where someone has previously been featured in, although that history may not actually be indicative of where they should be going, but it helps you understand what they have done from a marketing perspective, and what was most successful (or not).
When you are creating a PR strategy for a B2B company, you want to spend the time to identify their business goals and objectives and understand the key answer to why are we doing this? The answer is not because they believe something is newsworthy. There is a problem in the PR industry where a client will say, “this is newsworthy and put it out.”
More PR practitioners need to push back and say, “No, it’s not.” They have to provide that lens of the reporter. If you look at PR firms or publicists and if there’s one line of how you could differentiate them, there are the ones that push back with clients and there are the ones that don’t. And the ones that push back, I would argue, get more media coverage for clients, because they’re thinking like reporters. And that’s why you see so many people in the PR industry today who are former producers and journalists who have a deep understanding of how a newsroom works.
I wrote for Observer for over two years. As a columnist, I understood the internal process of what it took to write for a digital publication after being on the other end of receiving pitches. That’s an invaluable experience for me to have as a publicist. I have also done over 100 national TV segments and have first-hand experience in a breaking newsroom environment. I understand how quickly TV news works, the pace that it works at, and how those pitches look from the other end regarding what producers are looking for when they’re looking for guests. And that’s just an invaluable experience that is relevant. I think more PR professionals need to have boots-on-the-ground training and real-world experience to provide the best guidance to their clients.
Vinay Koshy: I’ve noticed that a lot of PR firms hire content managers or editors with a news or journalism background. Would you say that could potentially double as the experience and the need to know for a potential PR opportunity?
Kris Ruby: There is definitely some overlap there. It’s great to hire former writers and journalists to spearhead the content marketing and PR division. However, the challenge that I’ve seen with that is that someone who is a great writer may not necessarily be thinking about the best SEO strategy for your website. And someone who is also a great writer may not be thinking about your SEO goals or what content will rank and how that ties into your PR strategy. If you publish content that doesn’t incorporate the words that people are using to find your business or medical practice on search engines, you may be limiting your chances of ranking on search engines and in featured snippets on Google.
Here is the problem at a 360-degree view: You have business owners who are hiring all these marketing and PR consultants who are working in a silo and none of them are communicating with each other. You’re paying people for marketing and PR jobs, but there’s no high-level strategy. Tactics are being done and no one is communicating with each other, so you are not getting as much value out of the activities or engagement as you could be if there was more cross-channel communication between agency partners.
It’s not just about having one skill set. You must have an overlapping skillset and you need to have someone that’s driving that overall public relations strategy and managing how that interfaces with all of your other digital marketing initiatives. PR in a silo is just that. PR in correlation with content marketing, SEO, and lead gen activities becomes a powerful machine. It is like buying one part for the engine of a car and asking why the car isn’t running.
You can’t just buy a few pieces under the hood. You need to buy all of the materials required for the car to start. And ideally, all of the materials should be coming from the same manufacturer so that there is some level of consistency when the car is finished. But, what we have today is people “car shopping” or “agency shopping” from several different car dealerships and trying to put a Mercedes with a Toyota and wondering why it’s not working. Of course it’s not working, because you are trying to integrate competing forces that end up working against each other with different brand philosophies. How could it possibly work?
When you set people up for disaster, disaster will ensue. When you set people up for success, you will have a successful campaign. At the end of the day, it is as simple, or as complicated, as you make it. And so much of that starts with you- the business owner. The number one way to tank a campaign fast is to add too many cooks in the kitchen. The focus becomes more about strategic differences and philosophical views than it does on execution. Choose one agency, trust the agency you are working with, and empower them to do their best work, autonomously, without micromanaging them.
To make the most out of your investment, you need to integrate your public relations program with your B2B marketing campaign for the greatest chance of success.
Collaboration across all verticals and teams is critical for the success of the PR program. This includes sales, marketing, public relations, content, social media and external agency partners. Additionally, when you treat your agency like a vendor and don’t give them the respect of sharing the high-level strategy that you are doing across all verticals, it will wear on them over time, and it will hurt the long-term agency relationship. Mutual respect is critical, especially as lines become blurred across marketing divisions.
PUBLIC RELATIONS & CONTENT MARKETING: HOW DO YOU GET PUBLICITY?
Vinay Koshy: In terms of creating the type of content that you would use for PR in conjunction with anything else that might already be going on, blog posts or other educational informational pieces that they’d be putting out, how does a PR practitioner need to coordinate with the in-house team to develop and coordinate the publishing of content?
Kris Ruby: Our clients spend a lot of time answering interview questions, but not all of those answers will get picked up by the media for a number of different reasons. We keep track of the interview answers in a master document. If a placement doesn’t run, sometimes their answers are so good, actually, that I hope that may not be used so they can be used as a blog post on their site. So that process starts where if that happens, we have a separate service now, which is a blog writing service where we will take that as the backbones and the skeleton of a possible new post for them, and then integrate with the director of content or SEO and optimize it. But what’s great is that the writing is already done by the client. Any writing that’s done on someone’s blog should come from them. I don’t believe in ghostwriting, I believe in editing and optimizing.
I don’t believe in writing on behalf of a client. And perhaps that’s because I work with a lot of doctors in the medical field, but I think it needs to come from them. I know there’s some debate about that in the content marketing community where people think, “Oh, I’m going to hire a service and they understand medicine, they can do it for me,” and I just think well, then how are you really a subject matter expert? Your personal brand that I’m putting out there, or anyone’s putting out there for you is supposed to be because you are the go-to authority. It’s challenging to trust that someone is a go-to authority if someone else is writing on their behalf. No one knows what’s inside your head, only you do. You have to take that knowledge, put it on paper, and then let someone edit it and optimize it. That’s how PR and B2B thought leadership programs need to work together.
Vinay Koshy: Is there an element of planning together as they create that PR plan, in terms of content that will be put out or produced?
Kris Ruby: At a larger PR agency, you’re going to see more of that. For smaller PR firms, unfortunately, I think you don’t see that and it’s separate. But it really depends on the size of the client, the PR agency and resource allocation for the campaign.
Vinay Koshy: Once you have a rough piece that you think has the potential to be used as a PR pitch, how much more needs to go into developing it to make it pitch worthy?
Kris Ruby: For blog posts, you’re looking at hours and hours of work to optimize that content. And you also need to keep doing Google searches to see what other questions people are asking to optimize that content. PR pitches are different. So that work is going to be more about formatting it properly, making sure you’re answering any questions that a reporter has.
HARO: WHAT IS HARO? HOW TO GENERATE FREE PUBLICITY
Kris Ruby: HARO is a great tool but, like any tool, it can be useful or dangerous. Professionals use HARO to find opportunities for their clients but, too often, people who don’t know how to work with the media dive in and probably do more harm than good for their brands.
Some people use HARO, help a reporter out, as a free publicity service. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to use HARO properly. And again, it’s a free PR tool, but what they do is they don’t actually answer the questions. HARO is about answering questions at the end of the day. That’s literally what it’s about. HARO is about helping a reporter out. That’s what it means. It means they’re on deadline. They need you to help them now. Drop what you’re doing and answer them. It doesn’t mean help them ten hours from now. It doesn’t mean help them tomorrow. It means help them NOW.
So right off the bat understanding that is really critical if you want to increase your success rate with HARO. But the next is, are you actually answering the questions? It doesn’t mean answering only the ones you want and skipping the rest or taking questions out. It means answering them. And then the third component of that is giving lengthy answers. Give a reporter a lot that they can pull from. If you give a reporter a one-sentence answer, it’s not usable.
I saw that from the other end when I was writing for Observer and working on two different roundup articles. The sources that gave you exactly what you wanted and where you didn’t have to go back and forth with the publicist ten times were the people who got quoted. Why? Because they answered the questions and supply you with the requested information and make it easier to file a story and move on to the next article. One thing that would help people increase their PR success rate is creating their own podcast or blog and quoting other influencers within their industry. The more you start to do that, the more you understand what’s really required, and how to make it easier for other people to give them what they need. At the end of the day, that’s what PR is about.
Moral of the story: it may seem tempting to try to do your own PR with tools like HARO, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. There is an art and craft to responding to queries that PR practitioners are trained in. This is why you should leave it to the pros instead of trying to do it yourself and hearing crickets back. Also, HARO is not a PR strategy, it is only one tool.
PR TIPS: SCORE MORE INK WITH THESE B2B PUBLIC RELATIONS TIPS
Vinay Koshy: Is there anything else that we should be aware of when crafting public relations pitches for particular business-focused trade journals?
Kris Ruby: When crafting media pitches, the first thing you want to do is research the writer, look at their beat and research the other topics they have written about. And don’t just say, I saw that you wrote about this story, and you left me out. Can you add me? Also, if they previously covered it, they’re most likely not going to write the same exact article again. Take a look at broad strokes, what they write about and then say, “I read these other things that you wrote and I have something that I wanted to add. If you’re working on anything else in this vertical in the future, please reach out.”
Introduce yourself, let them know you are a source. Also, if you’ve published an article in a trade journal, share it with them. You never know if they could add it to what they are working on. Journalists, reporters, and producers always want to have a great Rolodex of sources that they can go to and quote.
It’s not just about getting your pitch picked up. It’s also about letting someone know you’re a source so that when they need you, you’re available.
Vinay Koshy: I’m curious, what would you do in instances where, let’s say you have an editor for a journal or magazine or some sort, but you’d like to be featured in, but they aren’t necessarily producing content themselves that get featured in that journal or magazine? How would you approach someone like that?
Kris Ruby: I would propose the idea before writing the article because you don’t know if they’re going to approve the idea. Then I would say, this is something I’d be interested in writing for your site.
PERSONAL BRANDING VS. PUBLIC RELATIONS
Vinay Koshy: How would you stand out when pitching the media? Most editors get hundreds, if not more, by way of pitches, how would you aim to stand out when you know very little about the actual editor and the interests other than what is published in the magazine?
Kris Ruby: One way to stand out is with a personal branding package where you put together a list of the other links and places you’ve been featured in, and maybe your own writing and your blog where they can see what that looks like. However, I’d also caution people away from the guest posting strategy that once reigned supreme in the digital marketing world. I know everyone still wants to do it to say that they were featured in Forbes or Inc. etc.. The problem is that you lose a little bit of SEO value when you give away your best content to these other sites because every site needs content, but you know, whose site also needs content, your own. People are thinking so much about the PR benefit of being on these other sites to be able to say “As seen on Forbes,” but what they don’t understand is that a lot of these links are no-follow links. Google recently just made some changes with no-follow and maybe it’s going to count. Maybe it won’t.
The point is that some of this will turn into duplicate content if you take it and then put it directly on your site. And again, that’s a whole other debate about, is duplicate content of it. I don’t think it is; some people do. That’s another podcast discussion. You should keep your best writing for your website. If you want to do this other strategy where you write content and you know that you get a follow link fine. I don’t think that you should do it for a bunch of no-follow links. I don’t think that most PR practitioners are having this conversation with their clients. And again, I think it’s negligent. It is important to understand this because you can’t ask a client to put out their best thought leadership content for a no-follow link and not understand what that means. You can’t work in digital PR and have zero understanding of SEO or what that entails in your broader digital marketing strategy. And so much of the traditional PR industry is still operating with their head in the sand about that. And I think that they need to have those skill sets work together as a fundamental component of your B2B content marketing strategy.
Vinay Koshy: I would assume that if you’re going down that route, then developing a PR distribution plan would also be important for your content, once it gets published, and if you’re not accepted there, then another potential publication would pick it up.
Kris Ruby: Sure. If you’re going down that route, you could do that and have a list of media outlets you want to pitch.
Vinay Koshy: So this would primarily go back to the original PR plan itself and the places that you’d like to be featured in. You would just focus on that and just distribute a potential story or a piece of content to those specific places. Would that be right?
PROACTIVE VS. REACTIVE PR: HOW CAN I INCREASE MY MEDIA COVERAGE?
Kris Ruby: Let’s discuss the fundamental strategies for increasing your media coverage. There are two different types of PR approaches: proactive and reactive PR. I’m a specialist in reactive PR, and what you’re asking about is proactive PR. Proactive PR is about coming up with a plan and saying, “I want to reach out to these people,” and then you pitch them. Reactive PR is when you’re reacting to journalists who are already working on a story and saying, “I need a subject matter expert.” I have found that the success rate is significantly higher with a reactive PR approach because you’re giving someone what they already need when they’re working on it, as opposed to shooting in the dark and hoping that maybe someday they’re going to write something. A reactive PR approach is dictated by what a reporter is writing about at that moment versus who you ideally want to be pitching for a larger feature story.
Vinay Koshy: That’s interesting. So, with a reactive PR approach, you have a library of perspectives and content that you can pull from?
Kris Ruby: There’s no library because all the questions are new and different every time depending on the story or segment. The library has to exist in your head. You have to really understand the breaking news in your industry to be able to meet the needs of journalists if you’re going to do reactive PR because they’re going to ask you, “can you comment on this?” and if you don’t know what they’re talking about, then you’re going to lose with reactive PR.
The best thing you can do is follow the news in your industry every day so that you are ahead of the curve when a reporter says, “Instagram is removing the follow feature,” and you know what they’re talking about. Because if I go to a client and say, “what do you think about this story?” and they say, “what are you talking about?” we’re going to lose that opportunity. But if that client is already following the news, they’re going to be able to give me an answer in two seconds. Part of a reactive PR approach is that you have to dedicate at least an hour every day to reading the news.
Vinay Koshy: And I’m assuming that you would very much be using social listening and tools in that space to keep track of all that’s going on, especially with the media.
Kris Ruby: There’s new technology that’s being created as we speak. Something like a HARO 3.0 that will bridge the gap with social media and what reporters are working on. We’re seeing some of that technology come out right now, which is an exciting time for the PR industry. I hope the whole industry shifts in that direction. And one area that doesn’t exist in is TV and getting guests for TV. I would like to see something like that happen in broadcast too- it would be interesting for the industry. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but it would be cool if it did.
Vinay Koshy: Taking that same thought and applying it to social media because even news clips and things of that nature can be viewed on social media. What other tools allow for that engagement with like podcast hosts or live TV, live video streaming, hosts, and things of that nature?
Kris Ruby: There are podcast aggregation sites where you can find podcast guests and a lot of the resources are paid at this point. Cision is also a paid service. As an agency, we spend thousands of dollars every year on paid media query services. That’s part of the value you get when you work with a PR firm. One of the benefits of working with a PR agency is that they’re covering the cost of all of that for you. Similarly, if you work with an SEO firm, you’re assuming that they’re paying for all of those tools, too.
B2B PR THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: WHY IT MATTERS FOR THE C-SUITE
Vinay Koshy: How important would you say video marketing is even if you’re not being featured on other channels, whether it be a major distribution network or a TV station on say, channels, we’re talking B2B here. So, let’s say LinkedIn.
Kris Ruby: Video is a critical component of your B2B PR strategy. LinkedIn is practically giving away organic views right now. In terms of organic video reach, the views are off the charts compared to Facebook. It is what Facebook was many years ago in terms of getting people to see that content right now. If you are a corporate executive, you need to be creating videos in between your press placements and media interviews as an integral component of your thought leadership public relations program. LinkedIn is the best way to reach key decision-makers in the C-Suite.
However, there is one major problem that I want to address. If you were to create a chart of an executive creating a critical mass of media coverage in a very short amount of time, their content has to back up their PR. It can’t just be that you’ve gotten featured in 20 places but you’re not publishing content to support the subject matter expertise behind that, or else it looks like the PR firm did all this great work, but where is the content to back it up? This is what I call strategic PR.
Most PR professionals don’t get involved in this component of it, because their job is to get the client hits. They get the hits and they think their job is done. I disagree. I think it’s not. You need to guide a client with a holistic PR approach to what is best for their entire business. Because if you get a bunch of press placements in all of these media outlets in a really short amount of time, that can almost damage your credibility, because suddenly you came out of the woodwork. “Where did this person come from?” is what people start to wonder, and if you’re not putting out content on a business blog to back that up, it can negatively impact your PR campaign. You need to do all of this in a very integrated fashion.
With media fragmentation and so many live streaming and digital options, people still say, “I only want to be on traditional television broadcast channels.” Look at the success of Cheddar TV or some of those other digital media outlets. Those are great PR opportunities for coverage that you shouldn’t pass up, as long as you can obtain HD video links from the national TV appearances.
Vinay Koshy: For someone uncomfortable with putting themselves on screen, what would you say would be a good place to start and start thinking about content that they could use or create around the video and place on channels like LinkedIn?
Kris Ruby: Everyone is great at doing what makes them most comfortable. If you are uncomfortable in front of a camera, it’s hard for me to say that you should definitely be doing video or live TV, even if the market dictates that you have to do video right now as part of your social media marketing or PR strategy. I can’t necessarily say you should do it. However, you may be more comfortable doing something like a podcast, and therefore that may make more sense for you. You should do what you shine in.
You shouldn’t just do everything because a social media or PR consultant tells you that you have to be everywhere. Do the thing that you’re best at. For example, there are people who are conference speakers and they’re on the circuit and that’s their thing. Those same people may not shine on-air, just like someone who is on-air may not shine being in a conference around a bunch of people because they’re more introverted. You have to know your strengths, and then let someone else know what they are and develop a plan around that. But don’t develop a plan around your insecurities or doing something that you don’t like or you’re not comfortable with because a PR practitioner tells you to.
Vinay Koshy: So play to your strengths.
Kris Ruby: Yes, you know why? Because your content is going to be better. I’ll give you a great example. A woman who wears a dress and they’re not comfortable in it. People always say, well, you shouldn’t wear that. Wear what you’re comfortable in. Because then you’re not thinking about your dress. You’re thinking about what you’re saying- it’s the same logic here.
B2B MARKETING SUCCESS: FINAL THOUGHTS
Vinay Koshy: What would you say is your top tip in creating predictable B2B marketing success?
Kris Ruby: My top tip in creating predictable B2B marketing success is to understand that public relations is not going to be a one-off approach. You have to be doing content marketing, PR, personal branding, digital marketing, plus social media all in unity. You can determine at any time where you want to increase the level of x percentage on each one of those areas. But it’s not going to be something where you just decide not to do any one of those areas for any extended length of time.
I see executives who achieve amazing results with any one of those areas, and once they get results, they rest on their laurels. Unfortunately, that is not a way to have predictable B2B marketing success. You want to understand what’s changing in B2B marketing and public relations so that you don’t feel like a dinosaur. I started my company as an entrepreneur when I graduated from Boston University’s College of Communications at 21. I’m 33 and now and I can still feel like a dinosaur at my age too! I like to share that with people because a dinosaur doesn’t have to do with age, it has to do with the amount of time you have in any given industry, and what changes that industry has had over that length of time. If I were still practicing like I did when I was 21, I’d be out of business. You have to keep innovating and stay in the game.
Vinay Koshy: “Kris walked us through the key elements and issues we should consider in crafting a modern PR plan—one that works well with your B2B content marketing strategy. Have you considered any of these PR tactics? What are you doing to combine marketing and PR that is driving results for your business?”
B2B PR TIPS
Final tips for developing a B2B Thought Leadership Marketing & Public Relations Strategy:
- Develop original and unique perspectives as a business leader
- Showcase your POV on emerging trends
- Post a Speaking Engagement on YouTube
- Share a Conference Presentation on SlideShare
- Post a blog on trending industry Issues or the latest research
- Share key insights on LinkedIn. What is the future of your industry?
- How can you display forward-thinking subject matter expertise to show you are on the pulse?
- Analyze emerging industry trends.
- Share a unique perspective that has not been regurgitated.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
B2B PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANT- KRIS RUBY
Kris is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, an award-winning NY public relations marketing agency that helps companies leverage the power of content marketing to increase exposure. Over the past decade, she has consulted with small to large scale businesses, including Equinox and IHG hotels to name a few. Kris is a seasoned social media strategist with 10 plus years of building successful brands. Kris Ruby has led public relations programs for B2B clients and Fortune 500 companies as well as private NY medical practices. She’s a sought-after digital media strategist and PR consultant who delivers high impact social media training programs for executives, and she is a trusted media source and frequent on air commentator on social media tech trends and crisis communications, and often speaks on Fox News, CNBC and Good Morning America, among other TV networks.
ABOUT THE PREDICTABLE B2B SUCCESS PODCAST
The predictable B2B success podcast is a show that helps business owners, marketing and sales executives achieve predictable growth by expanding their influence. Each episode features an interview with a founder, sales or marketing executive or thought leader in the B2B space discussing topics like marketing strategy, sales strategy, strategic partnerships, customer success, customer experience, people experience, hiring, social media, content creation and marketing, podcasting, video marketing, influencer marketing, agile marketing and much more. The show features well-known authors or hosts of popular podcasts but most importantly you’ll hear from those who have hands-on experience in creating predictable B2B success. Through each episode, the show will help you explore the best ways to create predictable B2B success in your business. This podcast will make you a better B2B publicist and marketer!
PUBLICITY PROGRAMS FOR B2B MARKETING/ B2B PR AGENCY SERVICES
B2B Marketing to Doctors– Medical Practice PR
Elevate your B2B marketing plan with PR services and reach new customers and key constituents with a public relations strategy. As an award-winning B2B public relations agency, we have secured B2B PR results for companies including feature stories in business trade publications and even cover stories in trade-focused verticals. To see our B2B PR portfolio, reach out. RMG specializes in developing publicity programs that work in conjunction with B2B marketing plans to drive increased visibility, leads, sales, and earned media coverage. For a complimentary audit and to learn more about our B2B marketing services, contact us today.
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