B2B Public Relations Best Practices to Drive Success

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Your B2B Public Relations strategy needs to be more than getting a press mention or thought leadership piece published.

As Amy Rosenberg from Veracity describes it, “PR is everything.”

We spoke recently with Veracity’s Amy and Mike Rosenberg for the Rethink Marketing podcast, where we talked about the best practices for your B2B public relations.

Every business has its own ecosystem of influencers. The list includes your customers and prospective customers, naturally, but also it includes your employees, vendors and partners, competitors, and all those people that may influence any of the above.

In our conversation, we cover what PR means in today’s world, why PR is good for your SEO, tactics to get more PR coverage, what is an editorial calendar and more.

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This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.

NATHAN ISAACS: Welcome to the Rethink Marketing podcast. I’m here today with Amy and Mike Rosenberg, founders of Veracity, a PR and digital marketing agency. Amy and Mike, can you introduce yourselves and tell me a little bit about who you are and what Veracity is all about? I guess we can start with Amy.

AMY ROSENBERG: I’m Amy Rosenberg. Thanks for having me here today. Veracity is all about getting our clients coverage, whether that’s in the news, or through social media, or various email marketing campaigns. And I’ll let Mike explain the rest.

MIKE ROSENBERG: Well to introduce us, we are in essence the PR and digital elements of Veracity. Background-wise, Amy is the PR side and I’m more of the digital side.

What Does PR mean in today’s marketing world?

Nathan: We’re here today to discuss how companies can build their brands with PR. And I guess in today’s world, 2018, what does that mean? What does PR mean today? Because back when I was a reporter 10 plus years ago, it meant something totally different. It meant sending a press release. Amy, maybe you can take a stab at that?

Amy: PR is just a way to reach your publics. And there are various publics you might have. And it’s not always the end consumer or your customer that is your main public. A lot of times, especially in referral-based businesses, we need to influence our employees or our partners who are out on the street talking about us, to then influence our end user. So,   in a roundabout way, PR is everything. Not just press coverage.

How does PR help your SEO?

Nathan: And PR also has some SEO benefits, too. Mike, can you talk about that?

Mike: Absolutely. PR has always been about everything. And then I think what Amy was saying, then at some point it   turned into press and only working with press. Well, there’s some benefits in working with press. And as you mentioned, SEO is one of those benefits. Oftentimes some of the best links, which is important for SEO obviously, is a nice link from an authoritative press site. So, there’s that piece, one way to reach your public is through the media, through the press, in traditional press relations.

What do companies need for PR?

Nathan: To that end, when we’re talking about the many audiences you’re having a relationship with, and you’re trying to build up your technical side of your website, and just your awareness in general, I guess in some way every company has some sort of need to execute a PR strategy, whether it’s just them showing up at the local chamber of commerce for a meet and greet.

But Amy, can you talk about what do companies need? Does everybody need a PR firm? Or who is right for PR?

Amy: Well, everyone’s right for PR. Not necessarily a firm. We can talk about that. You don’t always need to have a PR firm. It just depends on what your goals are. But everybody can do some form of PR. So, it depends on what your audience is. If you want to reach local decision makers, showing up at the chamber of commerce is a great idea. But what PR does is it takes it one step further. So beyond just showing up, what else can you do to leverage that time that you’re already spending there. And that would be taking a picture of it. And this sounds very digital marketing and social media as well, but on a social media level, doing some social around it. That’s   the basic social level.

But from a PR level, maybe there’s a topic that is being discussed at the chamber meeting and you have an opinion about it. Or maybe you would be inspired to write an article about the topic and then submit that to the press. And so, you get a little bit of mention of your company and your name on the byline of the article, but the article is timely because it just happened, meaning it was just discussed at the chamber meeting. And then it’s on a topic that ideally people care about because they were talking about it at the chamber meeting.

And then once that article is placed on let’s say in a local magazine, then that’s where the SEO elements come in that Mike can talk about regarding press links, or   like a really great way to get organic SEO,   like true real organic SEO.

Mike: And one of the things that I hear a lot when people are questioning, do we need to do PR or whether it’s a firm or not, that general topical PR. Well they say we’re a referral-based business. Well, we are definitely a referral-based business. Many are. And one of the things I tend to point out it, most people know more than one company or person who does a particular thing. And the way that PR helps that is it keeps you top of mind, so that when you see that email to a group of friends, or that notice on LinkedIn that says, hey, I’m looking for a bookkeeper or an accounting firm recommendation.

If you were then recently in front of them, whether it was through the media, or through social media, or at that event that Amy was talking about, then you’re top of mind and they’ll recommend you as opposed to one of the other ones. They just don’t really remember. So, staying top of mind to get that referral and word of mouth I think is crucial.

What are some tactics to get more PR coverage?

Nathan: Telling the story from the brand’s perspective. So that applies to all businesses. And we   talked about this a little bit ago, but is it just a press release? What are some of the tactics for getting more coverage out there, whether it’s from the media or something else?

Amy: Well, it’s never just the press release. So, press releases can serve two purposes. One, you can start writing a press release just to organize your thoughts. That’s it. Because you think you have a great story, but you don’t realize you might be missing some pieces. That’s the first way to use it. The final way to use it is just a follow up piece with the press. Because they will ask for something in writing. So, you need to send a pitch or a press release. The best stories I’ve ever placed is through pitches or phone calls. But a phone call, yes, you do need to do the phone call, but it doesn’t count because you need to always follow up in writing because people are very busy. They’ll always ask for it in writing. And you need to just be prepared to send something in writing.

If you do that ahead of time, it will organize your thoughts, it’ll probably get your pitch to be at a better place. And then when we use press releases, that’s just really – honestly that’s for   like mundane news, which is fine. We all need mundane news. It might not get you a feature. But it’s for like: releasing this new product, a new hire, new project that we’re building. And, basically, there’s an outline that you follow. And it will remind you to quote your CEO, and quote an interested party who’s giving you a validation who’s like not with your organization. And that’s another way to get a third-party recommendation. And then ideally the press would print all of it. I mean that’s the goal for them to print all of it. And they do. You’d be surprised. The B2B trade press, I’ll just say, we   have a knack for them printing the whole thing.

Nathan: Verbatim press releases, so they’re …

Amy: You have to be careful. Make sure you use spellcheck.

Nathan: Well, I think too, we’re getting to the point if you think about the media itself, there are fewer resources within a newspaper or B2B industry publication or whatever it might be, where before they might have had five reporters, now they only have one reporter, and they’re trying to do all the same and also maintain a social media presence. So, yeah, you probably get your press release printed or published verbatim.

Mike: I also think that in a past iteration of public relations and media, a press release was much likely more to be taken and then turned into a story. And now I think a lot of our job oftentimes is providing even more of the story, and taking it a little bit further oftentimes, and providing – getting a little bit further down the story than here’s this press release, you take it, reporter, journalist, and turn it into a story.

Nathan: Right. In my days as a reporter, it was with the form you mentioned. Maybe I might write a story about it. Most of the time I just tossed it in the recycling bin. I’m like, ‘Oh geez, another press release.’

Mike: Via fax.

What is an Editorial Calendar in the PR world?

Nathan: Yeah, via fax. I’m dating myself there, I guess. Well Amy, you talked about something a minute ago about pitches. And I think that there’s some sort of tie with pitches and editorial calendars. What is an editorial calendar? And   get into some ideas about that.

Amy: The editorial calendar is   like the old school content calendar. You always hear about content calendars. That’s   like, what are you going to blog about, what are you socialing about. Magazines did this years ago. And they called it the editorial calendar. We call it ed cals for short. And that’s basically a map of everything they’re going to cover for the entire year. It’s   amazing for PR people because it’s like the secret door, like the back door into getting into the press because you know what they’re going to be interested in. And you want to do research and decide who you would like to be in, like what outlets. And then you find the editorial calendars. They’re mainly through the advertising department, which is just to trick you. They use them for selling ads, but you have to go through the ad rep sometimes if you can’t find them. They can be hidden within the media kit.

Then you find them, then you need to get organized. You look and you see what topics could we comment on. And there’s two ways that you can pitch ed cals. You can pitch just to serve as a quote. And it’s a really easy pitch. And the most important part of the pitch is the subject line. And you want to say, you want to mention the name of the article, and when it is going to be running, in the subject line, so that the press knows that they shouldn’t delete your email, because you are actually writing about something they need to know about. And a lot of times it can just remind them to work on the article.

If you’re really on top of it, like you’re hitting them right when they should be thinking about the article, it’s like you know how our emails turn into our to-do lists sometimes. You send it to the editor. They send it to the person in charge. You just say we can be a source for this, and maybe do one or two sentences on a client, and maybe what they would say.

And then the other one is to pitch an article to be written. This works well for digital publications or websites, where I know that you’re going to be talking about manufacturing software in April. So why don’t we write an article for you about how to manage employees as you bring on a new manufacturing software. And you’d be surprised how often that works. And then you get a link to your client’s website, which is great. Anything that runs, you can use as a sales piece, whether it’s a follow-up tool or a way of an introduction.

Mike: I think that adds into the when you started about who your target audience is. Oftentimes you’re going after that customer or that client. But then other times a lot of this, it’s also internal. You have sales material for your sales people to use when they’re reaching out directly. And people like to see the companies they work for.

Amy: In press.

Mike: In press. Getting an article in the magazine or on the website that their company has provided and that their company is quoted in.

Amy: Yeah, you’d be surprised how many firms hire us for employee morale. Because recruiting’s a big deal, especially in the tech industry where talent is hard to find. And they want to get on all those lists, like the awards for best places to work. We help them manage that. And then we help them avoid list/survey fatigue because you can overwhelm your employees. And then if they do get on the list, then we help them maximize it through just making sure that they are quoted in the article that Inc. runs about the top workplaces, or using it as a way to provide social content for them.

Mike: The nice thing about ed cals, too, is often they’re an annual deal. Every year, their construction issue is once a year, and you can plan out knowing it comes out in June or whenever. And the next June it’s probably going to also come out. So, if you can contribute then or maybe you missed that one, you can do the next one, and you can look into the future.

Amy: I advise people to use ed cals as the beginning of their entire marketing timeline. Because if you are a consumer product, you start to see patterns of what people care about and when. Let’s say, OK, Memorial Day is coming up in May. Okay, so now we know that these five travel publications are going to be writing on Memorial Day on road trips. Then we think they must’ve done their research and they must know that the consumers care about this. Then we can create our own marketing content around that as well, as pitching to be included in those magazines.

Nathan: That’s a very good point. Shifting your marketing campaigns around that sort of tent pole event. Some people have the Superbowl, you have the construction issue of the business journal.

Amy:  Yeah. And then what we do is ideally in a perfect world you can reuse your pitch for social media content, too. So, everything can be used together.

Using Influencers to Build Your Brand

Nathan: That’s a great idea. We’ve been talking a lot about the press and the media, but there are also influencers out there in the world that you want to try and get a hold of. They have a million followers or whatever it might be. How do you know which ones – who you should be paying attention to, and how do you sort of filter all that out?

Amy: We just do a lot of research. And it’s just about paying attention to who’s saying what in the marketplace. Following the key people on Twitter, but also using Google News, and putting up Google alerts around a certain topic, and then see who is being quoted on it. And then we would treat that influencer as press, as well. Even if they aren’t press, we treat them as press. And sometimes they’re more important than press. In a way, I like to say PR, working with PR is the most powerful PR. Like if I’m befriending an influencer who has a lot of press friends, or another PR person who has press friends, then I’m completely amplifying our PR. It’s like tenfold the amount that you can get.

Just reaching out to them and informing them about whatever product or service you’d like them to know about, so that they then mention you whenever they’re doing their own content or if they’re being interviewed somewhere else.

Nathan: Mike, do you have any thoughts on that?

Mike: I would echo what Amy said. And the other piece of it, too, is we talked about how links from media provide SEO fodder; the same thing is true for nonmedia influencers. They’re going to provide that search and social influence that’s going to help in the other marketing activities you’re doing and making sure you’re paying attention to that and you’re proactive about that.

Building relationships with Media and Influencers

Nathan: How do you build those relationships, whether with the media or these influencers? How does that happen?

Amy: Well, it’s just how you would build a relationship with anybody you work with. So how you would connect with a partner, or a colleague, or a customer. It’s the same thing with press. And as you start working with the press, you just start to build the relationship. You do have to start somewhere, right? So, you do some research on where and what publications and websites would you like to be seen. And then following that publication, and see who is interesting to you, and what are they writing about, and what do you have to say about it. Because you might have a positive comment, not negative, but if you disagree it might be interesting to respectfully talk to them about how you disagree with what they wrote about.

But any time you can comment on their work or give them information that might not help you inherently, that will ingratiate them to you. And then when you are sending them a pitch, your pitch isn’t necessarily cold. But that does sound like a lot of work. So honestly, as long as you’re sending good pitches, that you know is something that they want to write about, like relating to their editorial calendars, they’re going to notice you and it will work. I mean then your relationship will be formed, especially if they start to work with you on your pitch.

Preparing for your PR Interview

Nathan: How should a business prepare for when they get that interview request from a news agency or industry thought leader?

Mike: Well, I think the first thing I would say is say yes. One of the things that we sometimes get from clients is, ‘Oh, I don’t know if we want to do this.’ Usually, the question is if it’s maybe a lower-level outlet. We had a client who got requested to go on a podcast that didn’t really have very many listeners and that sort of thing. Just use it as practice. It’s not going to hurt anything. We know you’re going to say the right things. We know we’re going to put you in a great light. So, say yes.

And then prepare. Understand who’s interviewing you: what do they write about, what’s   their angle? You also want to be prepared with afterward; the supplemental marketing material that you want to have, images, maybe some B-roll video. Certainly, let them know what links you want included in your bio and those sort of things.

Nathan: Excellent. I really appreciate our time today, and I think we can go on and on about this topic, and maybe we’ll come back in a future episode and talk more about PR tips. In the meantime, how can someone learn more about you guys and Veracity?

Mike: They could go to our website which is veracityagency.com. We do a podcast, as well, called PR Talk, where Amy interviews media personalities, journalists. And it’s really of benefit for people who are in PR or wanting to learn about PR.

Nathan: All right, guys. I appreciate your time today. Thank you very much.

Amy: Thank you.

Mike: Thanks.