Tag Archives: Social Media

Trying not to suck at Marketing

Having previously teased with the reasons why Marketing can suck and before we embark on the five part response, here are five ways we are trying hard not to suck.

1. Freshen your look
Not externally visible yet, but working with the extraordinary talent at Stone Creative to revamp our document suite and brand. Clients judge marketing teams internal and external on how they present themselves – it helps them gauge how you represent them.

2. Get offsite
Taking the team away from the work environment, despite hilariously cruel parodies  is almost ever a poor investment. We use High Road House just down the road from our Glamoursmith bat cave which we share with Celebrity Juice. This time our external perspective will be provided by analytics guru Andrew Smith.

3.Re-ping the ‘ones who got away’
Those customers who said ‘thanks, but the time is not right’. We have waited for years (the record is eight) for clients we liked and thought we could work well with, to give us a green light. As Churchill, himself an overlooked leader, who only achieved greatness late in life and in death,  said ‘Keep on, keepin’ on’ (the actual quote is a little more, er, British)

4. Question your processes
Boring you say? Crucial is what we learnt. Our new bag of tricks for 2013 including working with clients on Google Analytics to learn which of our tactics works best for them and a move to a suite of sweet new Gmail-friendly apps like Smartsheet.

5. Keep thinking bigger
It is a depressing fact that while the European market continues to wallow in self-pity. Elsewhere, there are plenty of bright spots, for those who look. Silicon Valley continues to boom which is why we visit regularly (January’s roadtrip will now be followed up by a June tour). In addition, our current client roster includes companies HQ’ed in Finland, Romania and Israel. Pleasingly, we are chosen to lead Thought Leadership globally for many clients. We, like our clients, dream big.

The results? New business this year is tracking nicely. New clients from the emerging tech sector in Eastern Europe, inroads to London’s world-class insurance technology market as well as the world’s largest IT security firm.

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.

Build momentum not a database

Many years ago, a naive young PR exec winced as a prospect, on the point of signing a contract with his tech agency, announced her reason for doing so. “You guys have all the media contacts”. This was insulting to those tender ears because there was so much more to building a powerful brand presence than a Rolodex. Surely there was a media strategy, compelling messages, attractive press events and much, much more. Once these were in place, writers would come.

As the years went by and the PR Exec’s role morphed into that of New Business, he changed his opinion – but not for good reasons. Selling the ‘magic sauce’ of the agency was much easier if clients believed your contacts were better than others. Clients would pay special attention to the journalists who a PR team ‘knew’. The press audit – in reality a call to selected journalists, most of who had freelanced for the agency – became the crucial proof point. Attracting clients based on ‘contacts’ really was as riggable as an F1 race. I should know – I was head of new business at that agency.

Today, contacts are easily obtained online and for free. From Jigsaw if you are a sales person, from Linkedin if you are a professional networker and of course in your ‘private’ life from Facebook. There are a half dozen competing databases of media and bloggers making life a little easier for professionals and allowing semi-pros to dabble (and sometimes achieving the exact opposite to the positive exposure they had hoped for).

But contacts are not what B2B brand building is about, they are only part of the puzzle. What are required are relationships. Relationships are not transactional, they are not entries in a database, and they are not even introductions from a mutual friend in a social media context. They are based on momentum.

At enlightened, post Social Media consultancies, like Positive Marketing we never sell on contacts – even though you could phone hundreds of journalists to ask about our work. What we have is the ability to help your brand connect with and establish relationships with buyers and their influencers. In a world where much of the buying decision is made online, this requires that your outreach strategy has internet-speed momentum – clear and growing reasons to stay connected. We like to think that while each brand story is different (by definition), the core success strategies are similar. So, it seems, that green-skinned young PR executive was not so very wrong to state that contacts are not enough.

We are also unafraid to share some of this new ‘secret sauce’ with prospects because we really believe it is about execution. Feel free to reach out and we will explain how our outreach differs.

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.