B2B PR in the Age of Digital Transformation: Adapting to a Changing Landscape
Last update: 23 August 2023 at 10:41 am
Even though every B2B company has its own target market, brand identity, services and products, they all have one common goal – they wish to be considered the thought leader in their chosen market space. And to gain such exposure, most brands resort to B2B PR – Public Relations practices.
B2B PR – What is it?
Public Relations is a strategic marketing practice that focuses on shaping and maintaining the image of a brand, organization or an individual in the public’s eyes.
A B2B PR aims at building a good reputation for a brand and retaining a healthy relationship with business partners and the public. A well-planned PR strategy can help with a positive brand image, making it seem honest, successful and relevant.
Discover the most relevant agencies for your project based on your own specific requirements.Find an agency!
However, blindly pitching reporters hoping they will garner relevant news attention isn’t enough, especially in today’s digitally-inclined marketplace. Traditional PR has lost its demand significantly in recent years. Hence, brands have started combining digital and traditional B2B Public Relations (PR) in the hopes of influencing the market and developing an active voice before their peers.
If you are wondering how to effectively use PR in this age of digital transformation, then you have come to the right place. In this blog post, we will explore best practices and even go through a few case studies to determine the impact of those best practices.
The impact of digital transformation on B2B PR
Strong messaging and quality writing – these were the two drivers behind effective PR ten, twenty and even thirty years ago. And luckily, they remain the main drivers in the digital age, too. However, digital transformation has made a huge impact on other aspects of B2B PR, such as –
In the last couple of years, there has been a huge change in how PR professionals and marketers communicate with the target audience.
The biggest change in B2B PR brands is adopting a storytelling approach to create engagement and inspire the target audience to take relevant action. This ultimately positions the services or product as a solution to the audience’s problem.
The B2C industry has been using storytelling techniques for years now. But for a B2B company, this is something new.
2- Increased channels
Yet another significant change in the B2B PR is the balance of power. Even though media is still influential, it no longer has control over everything. Hence, a huge majority of B2B brands have embraced both paid media tactics and media channels within their strategy, creating a platform to convey their messages effectively.
But regardless, earned media relations are still valuable because there is no other replacement for third-party endorsement of your products and services or your brand as a whole. However, this has resulted in the power shifting to the consumers, given their choices are now increased.
3- Social media
Since their inception, almost a decade ago, social media channels have changed the face of PR for good.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., are providing companies with platforms to directly engage with their customers while establishing credibility and building awareness.
Social media eventually offers a medium for brands to get the audience talking and encourages them to share posts, thereby boosting WOW marketing.
The newly introduced tool for hyper-targeting only makes social media a reliable platform for your B2B PR needs.
The lines between PR and advertising, SEO, digital marketing and so on are increasingly blurring.
With increased integration between online and offline marketing tactics, marketers are now able to deliver consistent messaging across various mediums. This means PR will no longer require working in isolation. While retaining their core skills, PR professionals should ensure to adapt to these changes.
The biggest change in the B2B PR is that PR now has become a real-time thing.
Even though social media has played a key role in transforming the way PR is viewed in the industry, the internet has transformed the art of PR for good.
B2B PR pros are required to respond in a heartbeat as soon as news breaks. New cycles are no longer gauged in days but hours and even minutes.
6- Space Vs attention
Over a decade ago, PR professionals and marketers were fighting over advertising, space, column inches, etc. But today, PR professionals and marketers are fighting for attention.
With the introduction of digital channels and the overload of information, the customer’s attention span has shrunk significantly.
Marketers and PR professionals have a matter of seconds before they can capture the audience’s attention and engage them.
Adapting to the changing landscape: The best practices for B2B PR
1- Agility and flexibility
Back in the day, planning and managing B2B PR was all about sending press releases on a certain day, releasing the product on the said date and following up with the journalists at particular intervals.
Now, in the year 2023, this planning and managing process isn’t feasible or desirable, for that matter.
Brands now need to get agile and flexible, update strategies, stay ready to change dates and respond swiftly to the news cycle as required.
In a practical sense, you will require maintaining a strategic B2B PR approach and not a strictly PR campaign-based approach. You may require creating several windows of pitching time instead of sticking to a certain schedule.
By staying flexible, you make your brand capable of responding to opportunities in real-time as they arise.
2- Use social media to share coverage
It is time to start using social media tools available in the market to create a noticeable change in public perception of your brand and obtain more brand awareness among the target audiences.
For instance, B2B decision makers go through LinkedIn daily in search of content that is capable of impacting the way their business can be done. This practice can also be used for researching potential suppliers. A recent study has also stated that LinkedIn drives up to 80% of B2B leads. Twitter results in 17%, and Facebook drives around 7%.
So, start optimizing these promising channels by –
- Creating a complete and up-to-date profile
- Linking your brand with niche-biased B2B journalists
- Post useful and informative content
- Become a part of relevant groups
Try repurposing everything, including features, conference appearances, interviews etc., to solidify your brand messaging and put them in front of huge audiences.
3- Integrate SEO in B2B PR strategies
Did you know that sites that appear on the first page of search engines like Google get 91% of all the organic search traffic? Also, search engines drive almost 51% of site traffic.
Next time you create PRs, blog posts and articles, don’t forget to include relevant keywords in them.
4- Precise messaging
Being precise with your messaging is key to highlighting the most attractive service or product benefit, thereby differentiating it from others in the target market.
To do so, start by determining your buyer’s persona and the particular challenges faced by them. This will help you create content and PR campaigns that have maximum impact.
Ensure that your key messages are crisp and capable of adequately differentiating your brand.
Consider digging deeper to determine tone, image, words, etc., that best reverberates with what your brand is and connects it to things that result in the most share of voice. The end result of this will be a brand story that people love to share and will help you gain more opportunities.
5- Competitive landscape analysis
Now is the time to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors as well as the greater market landscape.
Start by evaluating their target audience, media and campaigns to get a better grasp of what you should be doing for your B2B PR campaign. Is the competitor partaking in certain conversations? What media type do they prefer the most?
In most situations, you can use their data and success to reverse engineer your benefit.
6- Convert data into capital
While a steady and strong flow of newsworthy announcements is important, you must focus on creating your own news to consistently encourage media coverage.
An effective way of doing this is by using your data and studies. Stats and data collected from reliable sources can add credibility to news stories and media relations and pitches.
If you consider working with a B2B PR expert, they go further by conducting and creating original research reports or leveraging internal sources, which helps in generating leads, media coverage and impactful B2B PR strategies.
7- Track results
When you measure things, you are in a better position to manage them.
Hence, it is crucial to measure qualitatively and quantitively to identify what is working and where you can focus more to get the most bang for your investment.
Keep in mind various metrics equate to various goals. So, avoid getting caught with metrics that aren’t beneficial to your brand.
Consider working with a B2B PR firm to maximize your ROI.
Tracking results is key to obtaining a detailed picture of what your target audience might want and what they might do without. There are plenty of impactful tools in the market, such as Cision and Meltware, that can come in handy in determining the audience demographics, reach and other factors for your PR efforts.
Track the results regularly. This can be weekly, monthly, bi-yearly or yearly, whatever works better for your firm. And ensure that you factor the data obtained into every new strategy and PR campaign you wish to launch.
8- Visualize your goals
If your goal is to make your message shareable, consider creating visuals like videos and infographics. This is because visuals have more power, especially in B2B campaigns and can convey even complex information with ease, making it easy to digest and engage with.
You can use infographics to present statistics and data in a visually appealing yet clear manner. Besides, infographics can be shared on social media sites, too, thereby increasing your campaign’s reach.
Using videos, you can create a more personal touch and showcase your company’s services and products powerfully. Videos are great for demonstrating product features and even sharing customer testimonials.
Both videos and infographics are excellent sources to generate social media coverage and boost website and social media engagement. You can also integrate them with press releases or other communications to make the messaging compelling, thereby increasing its chances of shareability.
9- Create a press kit
You can further streamline your PR campaigns by developing press kits that feature key information about your brand, including key messaging, the brand’s background details, and visual assets like logos and photos.
Keep in mind the press kit will be used by the journalists to understand your brand in-depth. Hence, include details you feel are crucial for your business-to-business brand image, are believable and might assist in conveying your story accurately in front of them.
Case studies: Examples of successful B2B PR campaigns in the age of digital transformation
Now that you have gotten familiar with the basics of B2B PR and learned a few tips on how to adapt to changing landscape, you must be ready to get started, right? But before you proceed, here are details of a few creative B2B PR campaigns to get inspired –
1- Drift’s human-focused marketing/PR strategy
The saturated tech sector makes it highly challenging for brands to stand out.
Until 2013, there were 100 marketing technology companies globally, but the industry exploded exponentially, with over 7000 martech companies in 2019. And by 2020, there 8000 of them.
To differentiate the company in the best way possible from the rest of the industry, Drift founder David Cancel decided to humanize his brand. In this highly technical space, Drift started to centre its marketing and PR messaging more on the people they were catering to instead of focusing on the tech they were offering.
In the business-to-business industry, the lack of human elements is the biggest drawback. But by introducing the same through PR and marketing, Drift ended up creating a huge brand trust and affinity.
In short, showcasing the human side of your brand is key to assisting the customers in relating and connecting with it better.
2- The quantum computing video by IBM
Yet another classic example of a successful B2B PR campaign is the Quantum Computing video by IBM.
In the year 2018, IBM collaborated with Wired Magazine to generate an informative yet fun video that also featured one of IBM’s scientists, Dr Talia Gershon, teaching about quantum computing.
Dr Gershon used her excellent knowledge of the subject matter to explain the different stages of difficulty – as a child, as a teenager, as an undergraduate student, followed by graduate and a professional.
From the day it was released, the video was considered a hit. In fact, the video ended up racking views in millions. This PR tactic proved to be a success not just in terms of brand exposure but also in terms of strong thought leadership.
3- The Global Impact campaign by Deloitte
For decades now, B2B brands have stayed away from taking value-focused or bold stances. They still don’t consider it a normal approach yet.
The conventional wisdom resulted in B2B buyers caring more about products or services and their practical value and not the brand’s social value. But there is no profit in alienating the customers, especially tech-savvy customers of 2023.
Now, it is clear that even B2B customers care more about supporting the brand and sharing its values. Keeping this in mind, Deloitte chose to shed light on the positive impacts it has been making on its clients and the world as a whole through a well-crafted video. This video gives a peak into the company’s recently launched Global Impact Report.
4- Construction Product Leaders’ Summit by NBS
NBS, a leading information provider in the construction industry, worked with an agency to host the Construction Product Leaders’ Summit event. This event focused on bringing industry experts together to attend a talk series followed by networking opportunities.
This event emphasized how the new safety regulations for buildings can reshape the entire industry.
The result of this event was the huge coverage generated by 132 media outlets. Also, there were 37 million online audiences. What we love about this event was that it allowed key decision-makers in the industry to scheme for the future.
This event allowed NBS to showcase its industry-leading expertise and even offer a platform to publicise the source. A brand like NBS takes the front seat in changing the industry for good.
Of course, PR was a hit back in the day. But just because digital transformation has taken over doesn’t mean you should let go of traditional PR. It is time to make changes in B2B PR and marketing and adapt your strategy according to the evolving trends.
Start by creating a strong digital marketing presence, engage with your target audience through social media, use analytics and data to determine your PR campaigns’ effectiveness and don’t forget to maintain adaptability, flexibility and agility in your B2B PR campaign. All these will only help you position your brand ahead of the competitors and be prepared to retaliate against the changing circumstances.
So, what are you waiting for? Breathe life into your brand with the ideas and strategies listed above!