The last five to ten years in B2B marketing have been all about content. Back in 2011 Google declared publishing content is good for search rankings and boom, B2B brands exploded with an overwhelming amount of blog posts, white papers, videos, webinars, etc. But few brands have risen to the top with relevant content their audience cares about and even fewer brands serve it to the right audiences at the right time. If content isn’t valuable, doesn’t offer clear audience benefits or isn’t validated through a trusted source, prospects won’t waste their time. Selling only works when people are ready to buy. You must offer educational content that supports anonymous-visitor-to-known-lead conversion before someone is ready to buy.
PR, rooted in a journalistic-style of writing, goes beyond selling to offer a strong point of view, thought leadership and valuable content. This non-commercial style of storytelling is the only way to cut through the noise. But for far too long, PR has been kept in the earned media silo. Don’t get me wrong, the third-party validation that comes from earned media brings authority in a way no other marketing channel does, but that same content needs to be leveraged through paid and owned channels to multiply its value. The PR lens also needs to be applied to owned and paid media content to enhance its newsworthiness, relevancy and persuasiveness.
The integration of earned, owned and paid media sounds simple enough and perhaps seems like a tired concept, but doing it effectively is not without its challenges. In order to do so, you have to understand the factors that have long kept PR in its silo. In this 3-part blog series, we’ll cover 7 limitations B2B marketers face in deriving real business value from PR, the current realities and ideal state we strive to get our clients to.
1. Earned and paid media use very different content and messaging.
Paid media is inherently commercial. Company advertisements and other paid promotions are designed to sell product. Earned media is the opposite. Journalists’ roles are to tell independent, unbiased stories to educate their audiences. So, PR activities are typically excused from adhering to the strict brand standards that all other marketing activities must follow and often the brand is lost.
The key to effective integration of earned, owned and paid media is to stop looking at them as opposites and find ways to pull third-party endorsed content into paid media and non-commercial brand messaging into earned media placements.
2. The view of PR is limited to awareness-building (top-of-funnel activities).
We’ve found that each marketer’s biases and experience contribute to their perception of PR and what its role should be. It’s common for B2B brands to limit PR’s role to generating awareness of product and company developments, and miss out on opportunities to engage prospects with thought leadership content or high-value, educational content focused on topics an organization or individual knows a lot about, deeper in the sales funnel. Yet, research shows thought leadership not only raises awareness, but aids in the vetting process and influences buyers.
The ideal state is to use journalistic-style content written from a customer-centric point of view, addressing pain points and offering solutions that help customers do their jobs better throughout the funnel, not simply at the top in awareness building and earned media. Content that takes a point of view on industry trends and provides unbiased insights builds credibility with prospects and strengthens your relationship with existing customers.
Commitment to thought leadership content and PR throughout the buyer’s journey starts at the top. Everyone throughout the organization needs to understand how customers perceive the brand so that they hear the same messages at every touch point.
Stay tuned for our next blog post covering 3 more limitations. In the meantime, download “The B2B marketer’s guide to driving more business impact” to maximize your PR strategy.