Tag Archives: B2B

Why Earned Media sucks (#5 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

This company opened its doors three years ago inspired by two decades of B2B ‘Earned Media’ experience. The goal was to build the best boutique media relations firm Europe has ever seen. Things changed fast. As intended, we built a team of PR and Social ninjas who ‘earn’ indecent amounts of exposure for our clients in national and business media, vertical press and the technology blogosphere.

But what we do now is very different from Old Skool PR. Earned Media sucks because it can suck you dry of content and fresh approaches. The reason? Consider these five radical changes to the media landscape –

1. Freelance blogger/analysts now vastly outnumber in-house journalists and work differently.
2. The editorial ‘action’ moved online and mobile – with radical consequences for content.
3. ‘Stories with legs’ have a shelf life of minutes, not days or weeks.
4. Done right. Social Media is finally proving as effective for B2B brands as B2C.
5. Publishers prefer to curate, rather than create, content – it saves cost

Another print title ends up as fish and chip wrapping

Newsweek’s last issue

On both sides of the flack/hack divide, these changes to Earned Media, what purists still call PR, have proven hard. Pleasingly, this meant Positive Marketing has flourished, growing six-fold as we did what all start-ups do – adapt. Our lesson learnt ? If you can learn fast, evolve and execute it is possible to create great advantage from the market forces bearing down on Earned Media (N.B. the opposite also applies).

1. Smaller editorial teams mean more curational opportunities for original content.
2. Stealth editorial outsourcing via ‘contributed articles’ makes editorial skills more valuable.
3. Brands can win or lose in the course of a Twitterstorm requiring social teams who are ‘on it’.
4. Despite the rise of gadget tech, B2B stories are more relevant in economic downturns.
5. Apple/FaceBook/Google link baiting is an editorial ‘fact of life,’ PR leveraging this is crucial.

On this last point means we regularly have to persuade cynical European media of the merit of a story without major brand as linkbait. This requires more planning than ever plus the sort of tenacity which generalist in-house teams may, understandably, not naturally possess – theirs is a wide scope of skills, but not necessarily those needed to succeed in today’s new world of Earned Media.
Speaking from experience, most in-house teams, are more natural content curators and storytellers than frontline ‘story sellers’ and may not have the stomach to hear a time-pressed journalist ‘call their baby ugly’ (rejecting their new product launch). In-house teams are also handicapped because they have only one flavour of story to sell (theirs), whereas agency teams sell many and frequently switch between clients in a single email or, increasingly rare, phone pitch.

All this makes content consultants, who can create great pitches and can convert these to great stories more valuable both to clients and writers, who still have to ‘feed the beast’ which devours online content, despite their much-reduced staffing rates.

Earned Media has changed irrevocably, so how do B2B brands make the most of it? Firstly, editorial coverage is still powerful, especially in reaching non Digital Native senior decision makers, who are partly for historical reasons, or, just because of time pressure, less likely to devote time to surfing blogs. For instance, The FT’s pink paper still rightly holds a jealously-guarded place in the heart of CEOs.

Second, as news reporting becomes commoditised and democratised, exactly the opposite is happening to news analysis, which is becoming a rarer, more valuable commodity, increasingly protected behind paywalls. Once a news story breaks, whether read first in a magazine or newspaper, on a tablet, PC or phone, readers immediately seek strong, trustworthy editorial opinions. This makes news analysis stories which make it through editorial scrutiny more valuable than ever as part of a brand’s customer perception. It is this ‘second bounce’ which is the entrance point for many B2B brands stories – especially when they missed out initially on editorial stories driven by link baiting.

The point of Earned Media is that it is earned. The harder earned, often the more valuable. This is why, while we do less media pitching these days, it is valued more highly than ever by clients who realise the newfound scarcity of quality B2B media outlets, drives value for their brands. If they needed any proof, they need look no further than the publishers, who while struggling to justify print advertising rate cards, are only too happy to capitalise on the demand for internet usage with higher-than-ever website reproduction fees once the story is online.

Earned media ain’t dead it just grew up a lot and now gets on better with its neighbours. What was once B2B PR, and unthinkingly labelled ‘free advertising’ by some, is now more complex. As publishing economics blur the lines between owned, earned and curated brand communications, it remains a tough, but worthwhile benchmark of a brand’s credibility. Customers know editorial endorsement matters, even though they will no longer pay directly to receive that editorial.

At Positive Marketing the game is on to achieve the optimal blend of Earned, Curated and ‘Paid For’ media and we think we play it more enthusiastically than anyone else. This post is one of a series of five exploring the myths surrounding today’s B2B marketing buzzwords and is designed to stimulate debate, reconsideration and in some cases mild nausea. Please do add your comments below. Sign up to the blog as a subscriber and we will let you know how to turn these five disparate marketing tactics into campaigns which work in today’s market.

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Why Thought Leadership sucks (#3 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

In the dull minds of tickbox marketing people (who will not be reading this blog) the advantage of Thought Leadership is the same as the advantage of Media Relations – ‘free advertising’. What could be more simple? You sit your product marketing team, Chief Marketing Officer or, super worst case, your leadership team in a room, tell them to come up with some smack and sizzle, then add their favoured stimulants; caffeine, bourbon and if necessary (and where legal) marijauana and wait….

Wrong. For at least three reasons

  1. Thought Leadership is never the democratically elected decision of a committee
  2. It’s YOUR job. Thought Leadership pretty much IS Marketing – love it, sell it hard or no one will buy it .
  3. As Picasso almost said “Good marketing folks borrow, great ones steal”  (you’re welcome, now read on…)

So, is it time to give up on Thought Leadership in B2B? Nah. course not. The key is to make sure it’s Thought LEADERSHIP, as opposed to a thought.

Picasso Photo

Here are five indications you may be on the right lines

  1. It is going to p*** someone off.
  2. You had help. Seriously. Why not risk a little outside counsel as a catalyst?
  3. There are provable short-term consequences to disregarding this Point of View.
  4. It creates a new category or points to a new issue.
  5. Someone wants to rip it off as soon as you express it (see above).

If you find this sort of debate stimulating, you might want to know this is one of five such ‘Why XXX sucks’ posts in a series which Positive Marketing has created to stir the pot and show why integrating PR, Social and Thought Leadership is the best. A little leadership can go a long way.

(PART 3 of 3) Reclaim and Recast content to forge Social Media PR success

In the first part of this blog series, contending that Content is central to online B2B PR for the Social Web, we looked at how decimation of traditional journalism, the rise of free press wires and plateau of SEO all conspired to make B2B PR redundant in the downturn.

In the second post, we looked at why rather than weakening the case for professional media consultants, the need for smart content was making traditional PR skills more important than ever.

So here are five real-life examples of how to use those content-creation and re-assembly skills For The Win in B2B Social Web marketing.

  1. The Case Study reinvented – Case Studies, as we all know, can take an age, some requiring ten or more sequential ‘waterfall’sign-offs. But moving pictures tell a thousand pixels and better yet, once it is ‘in the can’ it cannot be ‘wordsmithed’ by third part corporate PRs. Once embedded onto Web-sites and into slide decks this is some of the best testimony a B2B PR team can bring.
  2. Linkbaiting – Blogs (like this one), White Papers and Webinars should be prose written by pros. But with the speed of media today, no one can wait months for this content or pay tens of thousands of dollars. Who knows best about deadlines? Yep, the PR team.
  3. Slidesharing – Presentations (like our 5 minute pitch) are one of the reasons that customers show up at real-life events and online Webinars but these are also great assets for online PR, especially when combined with Social Media Releases (see 5 below)
  4. Real Time Brand Monitoring – Competitive intelligence and Lead Prospecting has never been easier thanks to tools like Tweetdeck. Some enlightened B2B companies, have even appointed dedicated Social Media Directors, for those with more modest means, there are always enlightened PR agenciesJ
  5. The Press Release reinvented Social Media releases, which can look more like database entries than narratives, have been slow to catch on in Europe. Perceived as useful for pumping Google rankings, B2B PRs who can use this new format will likely prosper.

With all this change come Social Media opportunities for what was once called B2B PR to grow as a discipline. As the legendary UK-based founder of Mega VCs, Apax Partners, Ronald Cohen, asserts in his flawed, but noteworthy book, any adversity can become strength, if you use it to learn and move on stronger. The current downturn in B2B PR is an opportunity for strategic realignment and we should take back our position at the heart of strategic marketing.

Agree or disagree violently? If you want to make a comment, feel free to do so or ReTweet if useful. For a quick and free chat about your B2B awareness strategy email directly to pmaher@positivemarketing.org.

B2B PR – commodity, or gold dust? PART TWO

In Part One, we looked at B2B PR’s identity crisis caused by the rise of Social Media, free press release distribution and corporate short-termism due to the recession. In fact all is not as bad as it seems, PR is reinventing itself as the creator of online brand discussions and the guardian of content-creation, moving away from commoditised roles such as unquestioning information distribution (a role which even the world’s largest music and print moguls are discovering how to monetise).

If content creation and stewardship are the services required, then Social Media is B2B PR’s best friend. Here are Five reasons Content is more valuable than ever today;

  1. Sales Teams need stories
    Selling on features was always tough. Features without clear benefits are irrelevant in this market. Benefits need narratives. Who cares if your car has traction control – until it saves your family’s life in a blizzard, then, all your friends want it.
  2. Customers need proof points
    Budgets these days do not allow customers to ‘take a punt’ on technology working. Real examples of the success of others, not BS, is what counts. Almost all of Positive Marketing’s new business is won via referrals. Writing up success, is seldom straightforward, as any PR professional knows, often this requires negotiation between two sets of communications professionals. Once approved properly though, this content is tailor-made for Social Media.
  3. Content requires writing
    Writing is, or used to be, a core skill of PR professionals (despite the dyslexic juniors we have all witnessed hiding in large agencies). Online writing requires even more precision and brevity. Once it may have been acceptable for amateurs to ‘knock up’ content for brochures. Online, comparison to the competition is a click away. This requires professional writing.
  4. Even Microblogs need feeding
    Some believe Facebook updates and Tweets are the new newsletters. This is just not true; it is difficult to see how 140 Characters (minus a shortened URL) replaces in-depth explanations of customer proof points, product descriptions or targeted offers. ‘Feeding the best’ of today’s Real Time brand monitoring presents a challenge tailor-made for switched-on PRs.
  5. You pay for it any way
    Search Engine Optimization may attract eyeballs, but what happens when the attached brains land on your page? Satisfying them requires persuasive, compelling content. A Home Run for PR. Why not try reducing your SEO costs by 25% and invest that budget in a great writer? Your SEO will benefit from more sticky content and customers will be more engaged with your brand for longer.

In the concluding blog of ‘Commodity or Gold Dust?’ we will look at how to exploit the new gold rush for content with examples of creative content which work today. If these Five Reasons resonate, positively OR negatively with you, please feel free to leave a comment. If you want to learn more about how Positive Marketing is helping more and more B2B marketing teams to deploy effective Content, email our Chief Goldminer at pmaher@positivemarketing.org.