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Pride and prejudice in B2B PR agency success

Written by Simpatico PR

Posted on 2023-09-20

One of the smartest questions to ask any B2B PR client prospect is “what does success look like to you in say a year’s time.”

This may seem like an obvious question. But more often than not it is never actually asked.

In a pitch or consultation with a prospective client, agencies will interrogate a carefully written B2B PR agency brief that seeks to set out the context, objectives, outputs and organisational requirements. Or they may pick these issues apart in conversation.

And they’ll put together a proposal setting out how they’ll tick all those boxes.

But what does success really look like in the minds of those who run the company? It is a more human and direct way to think about the challenge. 

Does asking this question really matter?

I think so.

The trouble is B2B PR challenges are always more nuanced and complex than the approved brief.

And this is particularly so when leadership personalities with strong opinions and a vision are involved – which typically is the case.

Preparing for B2B PR

Clients looking to enhance their media profile face three key questions and these should inform briefs and the conversation around them:

Do you really know what you want to achieve with this investment?

If you do, do you really know how it can be achieved?

Do you know who you need to achieve it?

It’s worth looking at each in turn.

PR Pride and prejudice

Obviously, every business is different and faces unique challenges and opportunities. Setting aside that, it is possible to break goals or achievements down into categories of success. For example:

Brand fame. This can embrace recognition, admiration, interest, influence achieved across specific audiences like investors, prospects and customers as well as a wider range of people.

Talent acquisition. Achieving media exposure that showcases your culture, benefits, inclusivity, company vision and success. In effect, supporting you in the battle for talent by projecting the business as a great place to work.

Business growth. Creating media exposure that aligns with who you’re seeking to sell to; specifically supporting propositions or arguments that promote your business as the best choice, or create single media moments that help you win a specific brief/customer.

Leadership team expertise and respect. Ensuring your team is recognisable through media exposure. Your peers or customers are referencing pieces they’ve seen by your team? The team are establishing themselves as thought-leaders.

Protecting your reputation. Businesses that have achieved much of the above over the years may be concerned that the good reputation (growth/capability/innovation/people) they have achieved is maintained. Sustaining positive media momentum or dealing positively with corporate change through the right mix and tone of coverage may be a critical need.

Pride. This is almost always unspoken. But often pride is a vital, hidden emotional factor in the perception of success. Leadership teams want to feel good about media acknowledgement, about themselves and their company’s success. And so does the wider team.

Sometimes only certain media coverage will deliver that feelgood factor.

What is the balance of all of the above that ladders up to “success”?

It is worth agreeing specific media and communications outcomes as well as the impact these have had on overall perception and performance of the business over time and how that will be measured. Think about the balance of ambitions.


But then you have to ask how this will be done?

Yes, your B2B PR agency will supply answers and set out a strategy.

But do you have preconceptions and assumptions about what success looks like that might get in the way of success?

For example, how do you really achieve brand fame – that is, fame that helps business performance?

It is very unlikely a B2B business will achieve sustainable brand fame through national media articles on their own. There are multiple reasons why and yet some people can be fixated on this ambition.

Reputations take time to build. A few quick hits of fame will do little to nudge the needle in the long term.

Even the most relevant national media will hit only part of your audience at any one time. Yes, LinkedIn can amplify what you achieve but it’s only part of the solution and only helps if you are pumping out a lot of good material over time.

Business journalists on nationals read the trade press. They will want credible sources of expertise or to write about businesses of note. A business that has built up fame in its core trade media as well as vertical customer media sectors has a far better chance of winning national exposure.

Fame is a layered pyramid of media coverage and other marketing activity – you need to allow your team to build the foundations and project a coherent set of messages.

To do this they need a clear strategy, a content programme and engaged expert spokespeople.

Think about national media as having a halo effect – it provides a glow of positive re-enforcement, will make people feel good. But without consistent visibility across the full range of media, it will do little.

So, a mix of media is critical and yet some leaders are prejudice, seeing little value in even the best trade coverage or assuming it is a given for their company.

Think again.

Your B2B PR people

Finally, have you got the team, structure, culture, mix of internal and external talent that will enable you to achieve success?

A leadership team that are not tasked to be spokespeople and not assessed on their engagement with PR, will struggle to achieve success.

Likewise, do you have a capable, organised and empowered marketing team that will act as the lynchpin of internal and external communications and marketing strategy?

Do you have an agency team that is informed and able to interrogate what you are saying and ultimately translate your story into material that journalists will see as useful or interesting?

The success question is worth asking as it opens up all of this to scrutiny. And it may be the starting point for actual B2B PR success.

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