Nothing irritates public relations professionals more than PR being referred to as “free advertising.” It is not advertising, nor is it free. More accurate is referring to PR as “earned coverage” and – listen up – this distinction is what makes PR so crucial to any B2B company looking to establish, cement, or maintain credibility in its industry.
So how does PR create credibility? Let’s start with what exactly PR is.
PR uses influencers, whether a media outlet, journalist, analyst or investor, to communicate with your target audience and, well, influence them. Typically a business has very little control over those intermediaries, which is why PR professionals are given the difficult tasks of:
- identifying the most appropriate influencers to target;
- identifying what would be of interest to them specifically;
- crafting the perfect message that will resonate with them; and
- communicating in a way that is not only effective but truthful, coverage-worthy and not annoying.
The result? Media coverage that comes from a credible source, with a loyal and trusting following, that will apply the clout of the source to your company or product.
Why is it so important for today’s forward-thinking B2B companies?
It begins with the total oversaturation of virtually every market – including B2B products and services. How does your company stand apart from its competitors? Anyone can place an ad or exhibit at The Biggest and Best Tradeshow Ever (not a real show, by the way; at least I don’t think…), but influencers have their own reputations on the line, so if you actually earn editorial coverage for your product or service – well, this is something money can’t buy.
Think of it this way: Company A and Company B are direct competitors. They offer the same service, at a similar price point. To Ms. Savvy Buyer, there is really no discernible difference. Then let’s say, Ms. Savvy Buyer is flipping through Forbes and sees an advertisement for Company A – a service her company needs! Obviously the advertisement positions Company A as the best, most amazing provider of this service. It should. Company A paid a lot for that ad – and ads today, remain a very effective marketing tactic.
But then Ms. Savvy Buyer turns the page and sees an article written by Mr. Recognized Journalist about Company B’s service offering. The article articulates Company B’s messaging, includes quotes from its leadership team, and positive insights from Mr. Recognized Journalist.
Which company would you be more inclined to buy from? I’d go with B. Editorial coverage equals interest and positive interest equals (a level of) endorsement. Moreover, when an endorsement comes from a respected person and/or publication, it holds more clout than even the best advertisement.
Of course, these are two best-case scenarios – a great ad versus a great editorial article, but this example encapsulates the value that a great PR program can provide. It is a time-consuming and labor-intensive effort. It means opportunistically thinking and evaluating what is news-worthy. But if your PR program can do this effectively, it will also drive interest, recognition, and ultimately, leads.
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