How a scaled B2B marketing and PR approach can help demonstrate leadership during global disruption
We’re all in this together and like you, the IBA team has fully migrated to remote working, with daily collaborative calls to ensure uninterrupted client services for content creation, Pitch&Place activities and social media support. But now we all have to take the next step – to look beyond ‘business as usual’ to ensure business continuity through uncertain times.
Targeted PR and marketing are even more necessary to ensure our businesses do not neglect their brand positioning and messaging. It is in times like these that businesses must be brave with their PR and marketing operations to maintain a brand’s stature and positioning. Shutting up shop and bringing all external communications and activities to an abrupt halt does not signal confidence – it indicates that a business is effectively grinding to a halt, with limited product innovation, forward planning and sales momentum.
Don’t fall off the radar
In the B2B space, where long buying cycles eventually lead to multi-million-pound sales, it is essential to inspire confidence that your business operations are safe, operational and accessible and that you maintain full ability to help clients navigate their own challenges.
Media-facing activities such as thought leadership, steady streams of helpful and interesting blogs and a consistent social media presence will help demonstrate your business continuity. Engaging top-tier trade media with this content also communicates that your business is alive and kicking at a critical time when competitors may be finding their feet but failing to establish their media presence.
“We hear your pain” – do your solutions have a role to play?
If internal content creation and asset libraries are stagnating, look to identify emerging topics and how existing content can be repurposed to fulfil this role – for example, pull out stories relating to supply chain, AI, robotics or home working – with a few pertinent edits, the new market situation may suddenly give these stories a new lease of life. But above all think about the problems that users are meeting in coping with current difficulties and how your product can be helpful to overcome them – if not immediately, then in the future. B2B is a long game and now is the time they are receptive to your message.
Think out of the box
Over the past few weeks we’ve seen stories of individuals and businesses stepping up to tackle challenges in the healthcare sector, such as collaborative efforts to 3D print life-saving medical components, to the manufacturers switching their production lines to ventilators.
Beyond these direct supporting efforts, now is the time to explore how your solutions offer genuine solutions to issues posed by the current disruptions. Don’t just think video conferencing solutions and collaboration tools – can emerging technologies such as automation and AI be deployed to fill capability gaps from closed services and self-isolating workers? Can solutions be verticalized to assist with shortfalls elsewhere? The virus is touching every aspect of business, services and support – it is no longer restricted to just healthcare.
Because it is so topical, you will have a captive audience
Once you’ve identified the part your business has played, you need to shout about it. Solutions that offer the potential to address critical issues in society and enterprise will remain in the company hopper if they don’t make the news – and as we say at IBA, news is only news once it appears in print. External communication is a necessity.
Many of the journalists IBA engages with on a daily basis already work remotely – the days of large, regional ‘brick and mortar’ editorial offices are long gone – and the measures put in place to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic have simply expanded this.
Mutual benefits: business needs the media, the media needs you
After a flurry of COVID-19-themed ‘newsjacking’, in which vendors supplying everything from renewable energy to water coolers have attempted to frame their services in the context of the virus, we are now seeing editors return to their usual publication schedules and feature topics. At the same time, restricted from conducting face-to-face interviews and attending events, journalists are crying out for content and insights to keep them informed and fill column inches.
The effects of completely downing tools in marketing departments are noticeable. Leads go cold, feature opportunities tail off and requests for comment dry up – meaning a business previously seen as a ‘go to’ source for insights, case studies and industry comments rapidly fades into the competition behind them.
A pared down approach to PR and marketing – in which your external agency takes on the workload to maintain a reduced level of activity across the board within strict budget limits – offers an excellent alternative to radio silence.
For example, here’s what we are doing at IBA. We’re happy for others to follow.
Keeping up communication – the ‘skeleton service’
IBA International was established in 1966 and has built up wealth of internal expertise to navigate challenges such as COVID-19 that present issues at a global level.
The IBA team operates what we call a ‘skeleton service’ to help hard-pressed marketeers maintain momentum with coverage and positive brand messaging, in a period of resource and time constraints when most businesses are focused solely on shifting to remote operations.
This service allows us to deploy the full weight of our resources to ensure clients are not left without an external presence. IBA maintains a continuous presence on social media, assists with digital alternatives to cancelled or postponed events, and ensures media engagement and coverage does not falter.
Any business seen taking confident and sensible strides forward in a time of stagnation will be seen as a frontrunner and bellwether for the industry as a whole – and this is exactly the type of brand perception we look to maintain. IBA has already successfully rolled out skeleton campaigns for several clients this month.
The coronavirus crisis requires new thinking from marketing professionals: here at IBA we’re advocating a new strategy to signal business continuity and momentum.
It’s business as usual Jim, but not as we know it!
Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.
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