Make your 2018 PR program your best yet
B2B marketers everywhere are developing 2018 marketing and PR plans. Clients are asking us to evaluate what worked and didn’t this year, to scan the competitive landscape to capitalize on weaknesses and to help them prepare to leverage their companies’ most anticipated events in 2018.
The adage we’re infusing into our planning consult is: nothing changes, if nothing changes. A rinse and repeat PR program won’t produce different results.
So, how do you make your 2018 PR program your best yet? If you want a program that will increase prospect engagement with your brand, drive and enhance brand loyalty, and influence buyer behavior… there’s only one question your PR plan needs to answer:
What insights or resources do your prospects need most?
Answering this question is critical to PR success because we live in the era of relevant, contextual marketing. Your PR plan must demonstrate customer relevance, or it’s dead in the water. Gone are the PR programs built around issuing dozens of press releases, and placing stories about how great your company is. Customers don’t care. It’s essential that you promote your offering in the context of what’s in it for your prospects and customers.
Back to the question: What insights or resources do your prospects need most? It’s a loaded question, not easily answered. First, you have to know who your prospect is. Specifically, who the decision-maker is. If you don’t know or don’t have a focused, well-defined prospect persona, your planning efforts should start there. A surprising number of B2B companies don’t know who their prospect is, specifically, or the prospect list hasn’t been prioritized. Spray and pray mass marketing or program messaging that tries to be all things to all people is a waste of your money. The biggest hurdle most B2B marketers have in successfully reaching buyers is focusing marketing efforts on the prospects with greatest opportunity for growth and tailoring the marketing and PR message to meet their needs.
Once you have a well-defined persona, it’s time to truly embrace the outside-in approach to your marketing and PR program. You have to know what makes prospects tick and what keeps them up at night. What’s the number one thing their organization relies upon them to deliver? The only person who can effectively answer that question is the prospect herself. Talk to her, ask and listen. Schedule 1:1 phone interviews with 10 to 12 customers and prospects. Ask a range of questions about the challenges she faces, the solutions she’s considered and how she measures the success of the solutions she’s deployed. A common mistake B2B marketers make is not investing in the time to get to know their customers and target audience. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, hire outside support. Trust me when I say, it’ll be one of the most valuable marketing investments you make. And, it will yield value outside of marketing.
The next step is to build your PR program around meeting the customer need. Sounds obvious, but many brands are missing the mark. Key elements of your plan must include:
- A narrative and message hierarchy that talks about your offering in the context of the customer need.
- A thought leadership platform based upon pillar content assets (educational courses, white papers, case studies, how-to videos, etc.) that make the customer’s job easier. You must create assets they will want to get their hands on.
- A thought leadership calendar that identifies dates to publish your pillar content based on key milestones in your year (such as major industry conferences, the key selling cycle or a major product launch for your organization). The calendar should also plot derivative content assets (bylined articles, blog posts, infographics, etc.) that support the pillar asset and allow you to promote it throughout the year.
You might be saying to yourself, this sounds an awful lot like a content strategy and plan. You’re right. I’ll go back to what I said earlier: We live in the era of relevant, contextual marketing. Your PR plan must demonstrate customer relevance and integrate with all aspects of your content strategy, or it’s dead in the water.
You can spend all of your PR budget promoting all of the wonderful things your company is doing. But the content that will resonate best with B2B buyers is insight that helps solve their problems and makes their jobs easier.
Now’s the time to set the proper foundation that allows PR to increase prospect engagement with your brand, drive and enhance brand loyalty, and influence buyer behavior.
For tips on making the business case for VOC as part of your PR strategy in 2018, read my recent blog post.
Follow Inprela on LinkedIn for insights on the top B2B marketing trends we’re following for 2018.