Are you launching a B2B SaaS startup? Developing an effective public relations strategy might not be at the forefront of your mind. It may not even be on your radar at all. But it's something you need to start thinking about.
You likely already know the challenges a company of your type has ahead—wooing clients and investors, marketing your software, and differentiating yourself from the competition are all things on your to-do list. But to achieve any of this, you need to build your brand's reputation in the eyes of potential clients. And that's why a PR strategy is essential.
In this article, we'll define PR's pivotal role in a B2B SaaS marketing strategy and how to plan, develop, execute and measure a PR campaign.
Public relations is the management of relationships and perceptions between brands, the media, and consumers. Traditionally, PR revolved around pitching to media outlets, but today it includes online strategies such as SEO, influencer marketing, online review management, and content marketing.
Idea Grove's CEO, Scott Baradell, defines PR as "the art of securing trust at scale"—with that trust being secured through evidence points called trust signals. Done well, PR can be the central driver of a B2B SaaS business's marketing strategy.
Any B2B SaaS startup faces a unique set of challenges concerning PR. First off, as a startup, your immediate focus is on building rather than maintaining a reputation, likely with limited funds, contacts, and existing customers to vouch for your product.
And whereas a more established SaaS brand may focus on utilizing PR to retain or obtain subscriptions, your brand may need to focus more on presenting your overall long-term vision for the first time.
SaaS is no longer a specialist niche market. As a result, the services you offer won't grab the attention of journalists and prospective customers if you don't make a bit of noise about them first.
PR makes that happen by making your newest products and business activities into industry news. This can be achieved not only through traditional media outreach but through Digital PR—creating online content that earns shares and links long after your initial PR outreach.
Getting your brand's name out there is a good start, but building credibility in the eyes of potential end users is often the true end goal of any PR campaign. This can be achieved by utilizing third-party validation to create the perception of expertise.
Getting your brand mentioned in high-end media outlets is important in this regard, but establishing credibility through influencers and customer testimonials is also important. Third-party validation also relates to how users interact with and perceive your brand online. And as a result, getting your digital assets to appear in SERPs, earning links from online publications, and becoming the subject of real-time conversations on social media all play a part in building your credibility.
One of the main challenges many B2B SaaS Startups face is complex sale cycles, which are only complicated further if your end users are prominent companies. Thankfully, the assets created through PR campaigns to build online credibility can also be leveraged by marketing and sales teams to woo prospective clients and investors and build long-term relationships that are essential to SaaS-based businesses.
Here are some examples of the benefits PR assets can have on sales:
As is the case when developing any good plan, a good PR strategy begins with clear goals and brand vision in mind. Of course, increased sales might be the ultimate result you're seeking, but as a startup, your immediate plans will likely relate more to attracting investors and establishing your brand.
Before you can get to work establishing your startup's brand, you need to have a clear idea of what exactly your brand represents and what it's bringing to the table. Specifically, your brand strategy needs to identify what differentiates your startup from already-established companies and how you will relay this through your communications with the media and end users.
A clear idea of your target audience is also essential. Hopefully, you already have a good idea of who your end user is. But your focus here will be more on the outlets your end user interacts with—the publications they read, the podcasts they listen to, and the websites they frequent or work with.
Consider what aspects of your brand and service might appeal to and catch the eye of such outlets and the journalists and other media pros that work for them. Then, with this information in tow, you can build a list of potential contacts and begin developing content to pitch to target outlets.
If you have the resources, a tech PR firm or practitioner can help you establish these aspects of your business and more. But it is possible to begin the process alone if you're confident in doing so.
B2B SaaS PR typically starts with building assets that tell newsworthy and valuable stories, and then pitching them to journalists, influencers and other sources of online influence.
Making your brand and services look good will likely be top of mind for you. But it's also essential to put yourself in your audience's shoes and consider what they will get from the information or assets you provide. This might be thought leadership, practical advice, intriguing insights, or interesting stats. Whatever it is, it needs to have a point, and a value, that extends beyond your business.
As a B2B SaaS startup, the chances are that you're probably sitting on a lot of insightful data, namely the stats and market research gathered while you were developing your software or from your current user statistics. And that data may well be invaluable to journalists and other sources of influence.
Even more valuable is data that tells an intriguing story. As a result, it pays to consider the key takeaways of any stats, metrics, or other information you have gathered. Do they, for instance, provide any unique insights on your target audience or predict market trends? Once you've identified that, successfully pitching to and/or building relationships with your brand's continuum of influence will become much easier.
In the past, PR centered largely around getting your brand's name in print or TV. But while there's still value in targeting such publications and television, most modern PR strategies should target less traditional media outlets as well. This is especially useful to startups, who may not yet have the leverage to target traditional Tier 1 media. What's more, in the case of B2B SaaS startups, niche sources of influence can have a much bigger impact on customer acquisition as well.
Reaching out to influencers and smaller blogs, appearing on podcasts, and interacting on social media are all strategies you can utilize to build your brand's credibility in the online world and beyond. And by taking a multi-faceted approach to your PR and network-building, your reputation will grow in a compounding manner. Which, in turn, should eventually catch the eyes of more established media as well.
In the context of PR, newsjacking is the art of connecting your businesses' press releases and services to newsworthy items to leverage current events to build brand and product awareness. This highly effective marketing method can earn you press mentions and bring attention to your business.
Viral moments and newsworthy items pass quickly through today's 24-hour information cycle. And that means a successful newsjacking strategy relies on a speedy response. One great example of newsjacking in the world of SaaS tech is how Microsoft employed their Team's Together Mode during the COVID-19 pandemic when sporting fans could not attend events due to restrictions.
By partnering with the NBA, Microsoft was able to provide a temporary alternative to live game crowds using their software. Moreover, doing so provided them with an opportunity to showcase their product in a manner that benefited the sporting community.
There is undeniably an intangible aspect of PR, and measuring the value of getting your brand's name in a respected publication, for example, can be difficult. Nonetheless, identifying and measuring what success looks like for your business is key to assessing any current PR campaign's success and planning future campaigns.
Changes in the number of backlinks to your website or other digital assets, increases in sales or investor interest, notable brand mentions, rising branded search traffic, and better rankings on SERPs are all examples of how you might measure the success of your PR campaign. Online tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Cision, Muck Rack, and Ahrefs can all prove helpful in this regard.
Building credibility as a B2B SaaS startup presents unique challenges, and it's easy to make marketing mistakes if you're not careful. That's why developing a PR strategy, either yourself or with the help of a PR firm, isn't something you should put off for too long. But now that you have a decent idea of what PR entails, there's no reason you cannot begin implementing PR tactics to significant effect sooner rather than later.