There has often been conflict between the C-suite, marketing departments and PR agencies when it comes to B2B PR campaign focus and planning. The board and C-level executives are looking at big picture features in national and international titles for brand building, while sales and marketing departments, especially those responsible for particular geographies or regions, want to ensure content gets in front of relevant prospects to maximize sales opportunities and build the pipeline.

So, the debate boils down to: do you target millions of views and eyeballs in the Main Stream Media (MSM) Financial Times, CNBC etc.? Or are you better served placing copy in an industry publication with thousands or even hundreds of eyeballs from execs who make purchasing decisions on your product/solution.

The most successful campaigns should ensure a balance of the two. But it is important to remember that coverage in the MSM costs bigger bucks than industry and technology publications – and the balance of where the budget goes is where the conflict lies.

PR and content marketing priorities explained

The reasons for using PR content and outreach to underpin a successful sales and marketing strategy are multi-faceted. In fact, latest research from the Content Marketing Institute on B2B insights for 2022 shows the most successful B2B organizations use content marketing in their communications strategy aim to build brand awareness (88%), credibility/trust (88%), and audience education (80%).

Unsurprisingly, there were also more sales-driven priorities among the top 10 reasons for using content marketing – with lead generation (72%) and generating sales and revenue (57%) ranking highly.

But in the experience of IBA, the best and most comprehensive campaigns would take into account both brand building and pipeline growth. Here’s how.

Brand building – vanity or strategy?

There are many reasons why B2B technology organizations would want to build brands on a national or international scale. These could range from positioning themselves alongside large technology competitors, to encourage brand recognition to aid recruitment (especially in the current talent climate), or to attract interest in a potential merger, acquisition or investment.

But if you’re not an SE-listed company or a household name it can be difficult to generate traction the MSN on-demand. This is where organizations need to think about how close their products and solutions are to high-level consumer or societal issues. For example, does your organization supporting any well-known brands to delivery benefits to everyday consumers? Do you have an announcement likely to impact the stock market in anyway? Is there a potential feel-good CSR initiative that might attract interest from regional or national journalists? But beware “ambulance chasing”, attaching your organization to a negative running stories, national titles rarely run positive news on negative topics. Also beware of MSM publications that have no business readers just high UVPMs such as tabloids.

The result of one national placement can be powerful from a quantity perspective, hundreds of thousands or millions of potential readers will be exposed to that particular issue or web page. However, remember the MSN moves quickly, so within a few days your mention may be buried in an old issue or in the archive of a fast-moving website.

The value of targeting a small pool of potential buyers with big results

Once your priorities are sorted, and budgets allocated, it’s time to look at supporting the lead generation and pipeline growth – regionally or for a specific industry.

Here PR activity is targeted at publications read by industry decision makers, that means quality of quantity in terms of potential eyeballs – a smaller readership but with a much more targeted audience. Here it’s possible to link PR activity more directly to lead generation and sales.

Take this IBA example for a client operating in the food & beverage market, particularly dealing with sugar processing – it doesn’t come much more niche that that! The IBA campaign approached both horizontal and vertical-specific media targets. The organization’s subject matter expert featured in articles in both the Financial Times (millions of daily readers) and an industry publication in the UK, Sugar Beet Weekly (hundreds of daily readers). Shortly after, the organization closed a huge deal from a new customer – and the source of the interest? You’ve guessed it, Sugar Beet all the way!

Striking a balance

It’s clear that B2B organizations are looking at how PR and content marketing techniques can boost both their brand awareness and generate sales. There’s no one-size-fits all approach, priorities will always differ depending who you speak to in an organization. But a multi-faceted campaign that balances both consumer-facing topics with core business messaging can keep all stakeholders happy and generate powerful media traction – and support your sales and marketing lead gen priorities.

Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.

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