Content-led or contact-led PR? Why content rules in B2B media relationships

Traditional bricks and mortar PR agencies just don’t get it.

Their traditional line of ‘we know the journalist’ was falling down pre-COVID and has almost certainly jumped off a cliff post-COVID. These PR agencies lead with their ‘contacts’ first – promising access to publications X, Y and Z through their network of regional offices and tight relationships with certain media outlets. The results? They pitch a specific topic to their ‘contact’, their clients will pay for the privilege of this ‘media engagement’ – all before the drafting of a contributed article or feature has even begun! This contact-led approach to pitching then sees the same limited set of publications brought up on a regular basis when an agency reports back on ‘PR progress’.

Let your content do the talking
When you let your content do the talking you open up a whole new avenue for media coverage, putting your subject matter experts and company developments in as many targeted publications as possible, without breaking the bank.

This particularly applies to journalists working at B2B publications – they can very rarely be bought by ad dollars or sold on lengthy calls about your latest press release. They have tight deadlines to meet and complex topics to research – and that’s before they get to their next topic for the other three trade publications they write for!

Here’s why.

Full-time newsroom-based journalists are steadily on the decline. The Pew Research Center found that newsroom employment in the US dropped by 23% from 2008-2019, a total of 27,000 jobs removed in traditional newspaper outlets. On the other side of the coin, the stats show that since 2008, the number of digital-native newsroom employees has more than doubled (117%), from 7,400 workers to about 16,100 in 2019.

Oxford University research on the state of journalism in the UK explains that “The proportion of journalists working in newspapers has fallen sharply. The authors estimate that there are now 30,000 journalists working wholly or partly online.”

Publishing strategies have altered
The shift to online platforms has led to a thirst for immediate content, monthly/bi-monthly trade magazines no longer have the luxury of working on an issue every 30-60 days. Most of the trade and technology press have an online platform which requires daily content to keep UVPM figures high and ad revenue rolling in.

Add to this the fact that journalists working in the digital age often write for multiple publications – be that national, monthly, trade or technology press – and they will most likely file 10+ pieces of content every week.

Journalists relationships have changed – no such thing as a free lunch
But even this isn’t enough, B2B trade and technology publications in particular cannot keep up with a knowledge-hungry audience through skeleton editorial staff and freelance support alone. They need content, and they need it fast.

This is why when it comes to fostering ‘relationships’ with journalists from a PR perspective, one thing is for certain – the days of lunches and ‘special connections’ with individual journalists are long gone. They simply don’t have the time to exchange pleasantries with PR people and in-house marketers.

When looking to stand out from the crowd in B2C or even in some of the multi-national B2B technology outlets, there are certain ‘old school’ tactics which can be used to keep journalists on side. B2C companies can woo journalists with free products and lavish event launches, and some B2B organizations adopt the ‘pay-to-play’ route to place advertorial and paid media in target outlets.

Industry knowledge is hard to come by – journalists and thought leaders included
Building authentic industry leadership requires a whole different approach. Targeting B2B publications in tight-knit industries in specific geographies means catching the attention of a single figure number of journalists. How many authorities are there in Agritech in South America, for example? How many publications globally specialize in aircraft Maintenance Repair and Overhaul? We’re talking about a finite number of true experts in niche fields, but often publications with multi-national exposure and extremely targeted readers.

The team of Pitch&Place specialists at IBA have developed a truly content-based approach to establish our varied roster of clients as thought leaders in a multitude of industries – from fintech to pharma, education to insurance and many more in-between. Yes we keep our own database of 120,000 global publications and 800,000 named journalists, but we carefully analyze each target journalist’s subject matter, editorial calendars and past output before drafting timely and relevant content which ties our client’s theme with a key industry topic.

All content is delivered from our Global Outreach Hub in the UK and paid for per deliverable and repurposed for placement multiple times – no timesheets, no wasted expenditure and no excuses.

The proof is in the placements
We’ve just produced a half year report for our enterprise software client’s aerospace and defense-focused global campaign. We’ve achieved coverage in over 50 A&D publications, from North America, Europe, MEA and the Asia-Pacific. All content is pre-planned and drafted before being pitched proactively to target media outlets to drive quality, not just quantity. Nearly half of this coverage comprises bylined thought leadership from industry experts, another quarter from journalist-written features.

By rethinking your approach to pitching PR content, B2B organizations can become a help, rather than a hindrance to hard-pressed trade and technology journalists.

Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.

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