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Six ways to re-purpose your b2b PR and marketing on the six-month road out of Covid

Written by Simpatico PR

Posted on 2020-09-24

Boris Johnson’s almost casual suggestion that we face another six months of Covid restrictions, felt like another hand grenade tossed at the business community.

Whatever you feel about the management of the pandemic and whether the Government does or doesn’t have a strategy, at least a roadmap of sorts is emerging against which businesses can plan.

The next six months will be a psychological battle of confidence for business leadership as much as taking the practical steps needed to ensure their companies thrive in the world beyond the pandemic.

Covid represents a period of intense change and challenges from a management point of view. But change in business practice, planning, people’s behaviour, attitudes, politics and of course the environment was already endemic.

It’s been said that the crisis is accentuating or accelerating trends that were already underway – working flexibility being the most dramatic example right now. It’s also true of b2b PR and marketing.

So, since we have six months to plan our way through to the sun-lit uplands of spring 2021, here are six ways to re-set your communications.

One: Long-term thinking.

If it ever did, short term tactical b2b PR and marketing simply doesn’t cut it now. Think years ahead – not just the next twelve months. Create a map of the trends and issues affecting your business, its proposition, growth opportunities, as well as the talent or knowledge within your team. Decide what your business offers in the context of our changing and challenging world. Vision and articulation have never been more important to your growth prospects.

Two: Tell an authentic story.

Your story is not a sales pitch. It must be credible, it must be simple, it must have structure and it must be comprehensible to a general audience. Most of all it must connect with the experiences that your customers have on a daily basis as well as the strategic challenges they face. It must reflect the real world and allow you to express opinions about it. In short it should enable you to lead the narrative in your market.

Three: Plan your communications matrix.

Your story must reach people in different ways. This means creating a matrix of planned communication across time bringing different aspects of your story to life. One way to think about this is different layers of activity from hosted events and in-depth analysis or market research right through to tweets and Instagram posts. Most of it should be proactive and planned – some of the PR can and should be tactical or news driven but thought leadership and content marketing will play a more strategic role.

You can categories your audience as “decision-makers” CIOs, CTOs, CMOs, C-suite etc. But they are people, not just acronyms. They will experience and appreciate ideas, as we all do, in a variety of ways and through the prism of their own experience, opinions and tastes. So b2b PR should always include a mix of specialist and consumer media and your story must be articulated to match the medium.

Four: Appraise what your business stands for and act on it. 

This is different to your business story. It may feed into your vision, but it is about your culture – your people and the way your business affects or influences the world. In a year or so Covid will probably be a bad memory. Awareness of and attitudes towards diversity, accessibility and environmental sustainability are paradigm shifts. Your response to them - your corporate empathy - will increasingly influence your business performance. So human resource and operational policies are key strands of you b2b communications.

Five: Design your business for communications.

Leading businesses attuned to our tech-infused culture are breaking down silos between operations and using technology to create more fluid approaches to service delivery and innovation. The same should be true for communications. Business development, sales, product innovation, marketing and PR should be firmly integrated and aligned to your story.

PR should dovetail with your business development programme. Likewise, join the dots between your research or insight team and your comms team. Diffuse vested interests around on-going insight programmes and make sure anything you do is either directly related to business development or aligned with your business story.

Share knowledge and build a culture of sharing internally. There is a huge appetite for authentic content and meaningful insights – so your best IP should be optimised for communications or it will remain a sleeping asset.

Six: Keep an absolute focus on b2b marketing ROI.

Consider how you will quantify success and ensure your measurement delivers a long-term picture of effectiveness, tracking and aggregating what you have said to whom over time.

Now is the time to ask which elements of your old marketing budget actually delivered value. Awards, events, advertorials, memberships. Covid will drain the swamp of pointless business marketing – goodbye chit-chat on staged panels. B2b audiences want original thinking, inspiration, evidence-based observations, guidance and actions. Don’t get involved unless you can add value.

Thinking ahead to life after Covid, businesses have an opportunity to re-energise what they say to the world.

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