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How to deliver an effective b2b PR and thought-leadership programme

Written by Simpatico PR

Posted on 2022-05-18

Everything has changed and yet nothing has – in the world of b2b PR and marketing that is.

On one hand, the way b2b audiences work, communicate and absorb information has transformed.

In many professional service sectors such as business SaaS, adtech, design innovation, branding, CX and marketing, leadership teams have become distributed, conversations increasingly virtual, strategies developed in closer collaboration with clients.

News and business content consumption is now almost exclusively digital and often mobile. There’s more time for social media. LinkedIn has become central to b2b communications and a content medium in its own right.

Speed of market events and innovation in the tech and marketing space has become a constant influence.

B2b clients, contract decision-makers and influencers are of course aware of innovations and trends. 

Expertise within clients, including increasingly technical knowledge and knowhow are a defining leadership currency.

What b2b decision-makers want from service providers in addition to their skills and services is knowledge - original insights and views that add value to their professional life.

Good b2b thought leadership is a conversation starter and indirect sales facilitator because it keeps service industry clients and their organisations ahead, helps them make contractual choices or reinforces ones they have already made.

Although business decisions are always judged on outcomes and performance, there’s growing evidence that many opinions and judgements are emotionally as well as intellectually driven. In many ways unconscious decisions drive business

And, nothing has changed

The importance of b2b marketing remains a constant. A recent study suggests almost 80% of marketers say b2b marketing is vital to business growth.

While a great deal of attention is given to digital channel innovations and data – rightly so – the truth remains that content is still king. Without brilliant content channel management and other communications tech is irrelevant.

So how can you make your b2b PR and business thought-leadership strategy fit for 2022 and beyond?

Below I have set out some principles and thoughts that can provide a framework or action list.

Interesting stuff?

Sounds trite, but actually being interesting is not always easy. Internal politics, being too close to business sales propositions, coping with a high volume of social of PR news output, erodes objective thinking.

Being original is tough. But there are ways to approach it.

Your business should know the combination of challenges and opportunities that are the cues for potential sales conversations. This can provide a frame-work of what will be useful i.e. the subjects prospects will be interested in.

If you need to refresh that, you could think of it as a journalistic exercise – who, what, why, where and when etc. 

Engage your leadership team. But be realistic – not everyone will contribute useful ideas or want to.

An objective voice that will help you think laterally and identify stories that can stand up as good thought leadership and potentially of interest to media, can be critical.

Repeat, focus, pivot, repeat

Repetition is a vital aspect of PR.

Just think about the shear volume of trade media news, national business stories, business blogs, podcasts, radio news, documentaries, LinkedIn posts, Tweets, email bulletins, research report etc. revealing or debating market issues every day.

It is impossible to read everything you’d like to.

How on earth does a b2b brand cut through?

As well as being interesting you must disseminate your story repeatedly by organised and selective use of content and media out-reach.

Message matrix

Sitting across your b2b PR strategy should be a couple of core messages or themes that underpin everything.

These messages or story lines should be woven into most of what you do – enabling you to consistently present your business story over time.

Tag your b2b PR thought-leadership and other output with the job it will do – e.g. profile building or presenting your expertise in a specific field or highlighting a service capability. Consider how your content ideas apply to vertical sectors, different contexts, news events etc.

You’ll end up with a matrix of what you can use when and why.

Fewer can be better

Rather than reaching everyone at once, it is far better to reach the small number of decision-makers that matter. In a way “focus” is the essence of good b2b PR. Trade titles can have impressive reach but the bit of the audience that matters, can be tiny.

So as well as quality content, consistent media exposure over time in a selection of priority media is important.

But so is squeezing the most out of every good piece of content.

A project that delivers media exposure and an event that attracts 10-20 of the right decision-makers, good LinkedIn output and a genuinely good report for direct marketing, can be as powerful as national TV.

Twist, turn, rotate

Subtlety and flexibility in what you transmit is important.

We know much more about b2b audiences. This creates an opportunity for b2b PR to become more nuanced, flexible, targeted and effective.

You and your team should think about how to say things differently to people as the market moves, issues come and go and events change perceptions.

Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) is a good example of a big trend gaining traction and influencing perceptions and actions. But even within this important space, there are nuances and opportunities to act and make a difference.

B2b PR MVP-style

Better to have an MVP-style b2b PR programme than a plan that won’t achieve lift off.

For most people in an organisation PR and developing thought-leadership is extra work. So, a realistic programme with achievable goals and deliverables that can scale is the way to go.

Divide your b2b PR and thought leadership into two types. Knowledge and ideas that exist already and second, new insights and data that would be useful for marketing.

The bigger your budget the more you can invest in the latter. However, time can be the biggest influence on what you do. A good b2b PR research project with a spin off event and report will take three to four months minimum to deliver.

Don’t despair if you have no money for a YouGov poll or specialist b2b research, some creative thinking can produce great content with what you have already.

Manage internal expectations and argue the case if you need to, for the right kind of media exposure over the glamorous.

Examples

Here are a couple of examples of market visions that provide the launch-pad for effective b2b PR and thought leadership content.

Owning the evolution of CX

@Merkle_EMEA present the argument that delivering great customer experience is becoming the defining principle behind business strategy, organisation and management thinking.

Why? Because increasingly we live in an expectation economy in which our purchasing decisions are influenced by the quality of experiences brands deliver. CX is in other words the key to business performance.

It's a compelling, evidence-back argument which also feels, intuitively, emotionally correct because we all experience good and bad CX every day). It gives Merkle a huge backdrop against which to create insights and project ideas.

The sound of branding

Meanwhile, amp argues that sound and music are becoming pivotal elements driving the performance of marketing. Amp explains that the way our brains work means that sound is actually more emotionally powerful and memorable than visuals.

A world of apps, smart speakers, contactless payments, automated and increasingly screenless interactions has made sound in marketing so much more that a radio jingle or the latest chart hit soundtrack to a TV ad.

Again, this market vison backed by academic and industry evidence, provides amp with huge scope to explain the role and rationale for holistic audio branding.


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