The world of B2B technology is exploding but, as with nearly every space with the capacity for both growth and profitability, there is plenty of competition. More and more, companies are turning to marketing to help them cut through the noise. In a recent report conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the USC Center for Public Relations, 75 percent of respondents said they planned to increase overall spending on PR over the next five years.
As we mentioned in part one of our series on mastering media relations in a B2B technology world, success can often be difficult to predict and measure. However, as companies invest more heavily in PR, the pressure to provide tangible results will likely increase.
At Idea Grove, PR is at the center of our integrated marketing strategies for clients. We believe in always having an active media pitch, meaning we are constantly canvassing the media conversation around our clients’ industries, looking for ways to position them within the larger zeitgeist. However, when it comes time to launch a new product or announce an important customer or partner win, we use a playbook approach for clients. In these cases, many different internal stakeholders at our client companies have expectations about coverage and are invested in the results. A shrug and claim that you can’t make promises about media coverage simply won’t cut it. Also, at Idea Grove we too have skin in the game. We want to shoot for the moon with our clients when we have the good fortune to work with a tier 1 announcement. To help get everyone aligned with what success should look like when we make these announcements, we prepare a media playbook.
Idea Grove’s media playbook provides transparency and predictability into which media will cover the announcement, and how they will cover it, based on in depth research and analysis. We use the following steps to predict and maximize coverage for high-priority announcements:
Rank the Caliber of the Announcement
This is the crucial first step for focusing campaigns on the right audience in order to anticipate results. Are you working with a groundbreaking product release, substantial funding announcement or partnership with a Fortune 500 company? Business reporters may be interested in that. Conversely, if your news doesn’t speak to a business or financial audience—say, you’re announcing a few updates to an existing product—just the vertical and/or IT trade websites and publications.
Conduct In-depth Research
Once the audience is assessed, we create a custom media list based on the publications, journalists and influencers that are the best fit for this particular announcement. In addition to core trades, determine whether the pitch would appeal to a technology, IT, financial or business audience, and consider any other beats or vertical publications that might make sense. For instance, if an IT security provider is sponsoring a benefit for veterans, the media list may include a few philanthropy writers or broadcast newsrooms, as long as the outlets are relevant. Don’t forget to investigate any new reporters who may be covering your space or competitors. Look beyond what is available in the typical media PR and social software databases. Do tailored research, using Twitter and LinkedIn profiles and relevant groups for tips. Use your own relationships with journalists to soft peddle ideas and garner early feedback to drive the creation of the playbook.
Determine Media Requirements or Dependencies
Once you have your media list, the next step is to document each reporter’s requirements, and marry that with which set of criteria you are able to fulfill. This analysis should go well beyond capturing standard preferences and specific areas of interest. It should be based on real-time data, including an analysis of each reporter’s recent coverage. It’s worth noting which press need to break a story on day one of the news cycle, and which may necessitate an exclusive or pre-briefing. If you’re launching a new product, those with technical acumen will require specifications about the product, high resolution images, and may wish to have a demonstration.
Each publication has requirements as well. For instance, major daily newspapers and business outlets require a financial angle, and often have a threshold for annual revenue that is a gating factor to securing an interview, let alone a story. Also, you may discover that many of your target publications don’t actually cover product announcement news. If that’s the case, look at what angles they might cover. Perhaps you could offer an interview with an executive to talk about industry trends and challenges instead.
In B2B tech, it is mandatory to have third parties as part of the pitch process. Make sure you have a customer, partner and analyst lined up in time for the pre-briefs, not just the paper news release.
Revisit Your Strategy
Based on your research, you may need to make adjustments to your strategy and timeline. If you don’t have a customer reference locked down yet, or if key reporters require a product demonstration or pre-briefing, you may need more time to coordinate before sending out your press release. Another common issue is moving an announcement to align with an industry event or conference, particularly if relevant press plan to attend or cover it.
This is also a good time to assess different opportunities for visibility. Many trade and vertical publications accept bylined articles, which allows you to provide thought leadership content about why your company’s vision is significant to the industry.
Once you lay the groundwork for your announcement, you can more confidently predict the likelihood of media coverage. At Idea Grove, we capture the most pertinent media information—key reporters, what they cover, the appropriate pitch angle and any mandatory dependencies like customer or executive interviews—in our media playbook and share it with our client contacts to make sure we are on the same page about strategy, resource requirements and expectations.
In our playbook, we predict the likelihood of coverage, as well as provide predictability about what type of coverage we think will appear. For example, if not all the criteria are met for a new mainstream business tech reporter, but some are met, we might predict that the journalist will take an initial executive interview, but postpone coverage until more of the dependencies are met at a later date. This is still a win for our clients, as they can start to make introductions, give their company or product pitch, and see first hand what will be required the next time they go in front of this same audience. They can also start to imagine what the final article about their company might look like, and what role they can play in shaping positive company media coverage.
This approach to predicting media relations results can require more time and effort, but the reward is far greater when you use this more strategic, research-based approach to eliminate much of the guess work. In part one of this blog series, we addressed the merits of a long-term media relations strategy and how to scale up media coverage from trades to mainstream business press. Coupled with the media playbook approach, customized for each announcement, PR professionals greatly improve their likelihood of success and the ability to prove ROI.