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The final B2B frontier: PR and marketing integration
15 July 2020 15:45pm
While most customer-facing functions have made strides in joining up plans and teams with the marketing department, how PR forms part of the picture is often less clear. However, just as COVID is driving digital transformation and other business process changes, in some B2B firms it’s also accelerating an alignment between PR and marketing.
The need to generate compelling, authentic content, quickly, is breaking down silos and leading to collateral being repurposed and insight being shared between teams. Pooling ideas and resources leads to a more single-minded message, greater efficiency and budget savings.
As a B2B marketer, if you’re not already actively joining up plans with your PR team, here are four areas I’d suggest you consider.
1. Set sync meetings with your PR and Comms team
The simple act of aligning your plans can uncover shared goals and content. As well as presenting your marketing plan, questions to ask at the meeting include:
- What topics are the media most interested in currently?
Storytelling and timeliness of message are becoming increasingly important in demand generation and ABM. A sense of the media’s focus can provide good insight into what themes will make interesting reading in direct customer and prospect content
- Do we have a corporate spokesperson matrix?
Thought leadership is still a huge focus in PR; and increasingly in demand generation, where prospects want to speak with peers who can provide fresh insight. Sometimes, finding these client experts can be the challenge. Most PR teams will already have a good view on ‘experts’ in the business who are used as media spokespeople
- Are there any research plans underway?
Often used in PR and awareness campaigns, research can also play an important role in demand generation and sales enablement. If plans are aligned early enough, there may also be an opportunity to influence some of the research with questions that relate specifically to your marketing objectives or themes
2. Use earned media coverage as a simple and effective direct campaign piece
If your PR team secures a great piece of editorial content, sending copies of the publication to prospects or customers with a handwritten letter can be a cost-effective form of direct mail. Similarly, in the current environment, a personal email linking out to a digital version of the article can do the same job. Appearing in earned media will cement your own credibility and a personal note accompanying an interesting read is often appreciated by the recipient. I’ve seen it generate much higher than average response rates.
3. Real-time communication isn’t just a PR tool
Tracking for news stories in order to offer relevant comment is a well-tested PR tool. Monitoring for news stories affecting customers in your ABM programme, or issues of interest to a broader market, is a great way of showing relevance and provides a reason to act now. A recent example I saw work well was in the financial services sector. We used the media traction around a particularly hot topic to start timely conversations about how a client’s proposition could address the impact the issue was having on businesses.
4. Use real audience insights from your sales team to create meaningful, issues-led content
Capturing trends from sales conversations is a great way to keep on top of what’s really interesting your audience. Demand generation teams and inside sales representatives spend their days having conversations with customers and prospects. Trends and topics they pick up on can be fed into messaging for broader marketing and PR campaigning.
Working with a client that provides tax technology, our demand generation team found that utility companies, particularly water companies, were struggling to manage their VAT reporting due to the complexities of multiple different systems. That insight was used to inform a water-industry-specific guide to managing tax complexity, which was successfully pitched to a trade magazine. When the full-page article ran, we ordered re-prints and shared the guide with other water companies in the prospect base as a demand generation asset.
These four areas are just the tip of the iceberg: once you start collaborating regularly, there will be many more ways that B2B marketing and PR teams can support each other. I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions.
Anna Hutton, Director, PR & Communications at The Marketing Practice