What is B2B PR? What to expect from a B2B PR Agency
Here are the most asked questions about B2B PR, what it is, B2B PR services, B2B vs B2C PR right down to the nitty gritty of how PR even adds value. You need to know this to be sure your PR agency is doing a good job (crucial info right?) and to keep building your company’s presence.
Table of Contents
- What is B2B Public Relations (PR)?
- What is the difference between B2B and B2C PR?
- How is PR different from advertising?
- What can B2B PR agencies do for you?
- What are the benefits of outsourcing your PR?
- What should you expect from your B2B PR agency on a month by month basis?
- B2B PR Campaign Examples
- How can you tell if your PR partnership is on a road of continuous improvement or on a path of terminal decline?
- Unhappy with your PR team? Here’s what you need to know.
What is B2B Public Relations (PR)?
B2B PR is a specialism within the PR space focusing on businesses that sell their products and services to other organisations, not the general public.
PR for any company is the proactive management of your reputation and communication process, to boost positive perceptions of your brand and trust among customers and prospects.
In short, you want people to think and speak positively about your business. Today, familiarity is not enough to sell – PR keeps your brand top-of-mind.
How can you do this right? Specialised B2B PR teams are made up of experts in the industry, with decades of experience making companies that sell to other businesses known, liked, and trusted.
PR delivers brands with independent validation; you cannot put a value on third party endorsement in terms of credibility.
Need more information on this topic? Skip to the end of this page for extra PR definitions.
B2B PR vs B2C PR
Business-to-business (B2B) public relations is very different to Business-to-consumer (B2C) public relations. A B2B target audience is much smaller, often niche, and uses completely different methods of communication compared to larger-scale B2C audiences.
PR is crucial for B2B companies. It can be relatively easy for B2C brands to generate buzz with user-generated content, plus their social media posts have more potential to go viral, due to a larger audience, but B2B brands speak to a smaller audience, and so they need to tailor their content more closely. PR is the way to generate the same buzz, amongst the right people.
Professionals in B2B PR work alongside B2B marketers to manage brand reputations, and make their organisations visible, valued and understood within the unique spaces that their prospect companies spend time. If you want to learn more, we’re written in-depth about the difference, B2B PR vs B2C PR.
EC-PR specialises in technology B2B PR and corporate communications. This is founded on deep market knowledge of technology sectors including: cybersecurity, fintech, defence, science, energy, maritime, and transport.
How is PR different from advertising?
The key difference between PR and advertising, whether B2B PR or B2C PR, is that advertising space is paid for while editorial space is not. While you pay for a B2B PR firm’s time, this is not a guarantee that coverage will appear – it is down to the editor to decide whether your brand’s submissions add value to their media channel, be it a magazine, TV programme, podcast, or a guest blog.
On the flip side, readers will appreciate the greater value of editorial content, because it has been vetted by a professional journalist, rather than a paid-for advertisement.
You can read about this in more detail in 7 ways PR differs from advertising.
Does your company even need PR?
Perhaps not. Your reputation exists but it’s up to you whether you choose to nurture it or not.
Your reputation is the sum of everything you say and everything you do, added to everything that is said or written about you – by anyone. So, if you hire a B2B PR firm to manage your company’s reputation, you’re more likely to build lasting relationships with your internal and external stakeholders.
For us, a company’s reputation is worth the investment, and should not only be nurtured but raised to lead the pack. Here’s a quick-look business case for B2B PR.
What can B2B PR agencies do for you?
You can continue to manage PR in-house, but the most successful brands are outsourcing PR to specialist agencies.
B2B PR agencies already have a media network built to garner interest in your brand. We already know how to use storytelling to wow readers with thought leadership.
Reputation management will be done through B2B PR tactics and targeted initiatives that influence your audience on the merit of your brand. This is PR. This is what a PR company can do for you.
The PR trade body, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations can provide you with further insight.
What can B2B PR achieve for your brand?
Top B2B PR tactics will work on three objectives that contribute to your authority in the industry and drive commercial interest:
- Visibility – a strong content and editorial plan will ensure that your brand is visible in the right media and can be easily found with high digital currency.
- Value – by serving the most compelling messaging to the appropriate audiences, your B2B PR will build familiarity of your brand and trust amongst your target audience.
- Understanding– B2B PR will present your brand message in a relevant and compelling way to stimulate demand.
What are the benefits of outsourcing your PR?
If you have an in-house team that needs support or you want to equip your growth team with an outsourced PR partner, there are several benefits to doing so.
No recruitment fees – the PR team is already in place
Speed to excellence – no interviewing or learning the ropes
Value for money – – access senior PR professionals that you couldn’t afford to employ
24/7 availability – no holiday down time
Perspective – PR firms can provide impartial, objective advice
Writing expertise – bolstered by implementation and delivery skills
Media network – access an established, powerful network of press contacts
Sold on the idea of shifting your PR out-of-house? Make sure you cover these questions that every marketing manager should ask before hiring a PR agency.
What should you expect from your B2B PR agency?
B2B PR tactics and how to measure success
At EC-PR, we manage clear timelines with clients, and update them transparently if we expect any detours or delays, to put a plan in place that gets everyone back on track.
Read on to discover a month-by-month plan of what to expect from your B2B PR firm.
Knowing what to expect is desirable for all business departments. It helps you plan budgets, time allocations, and additional resources that might be needed ahead of time. You should never be chasing after your PR agency or reacting in a way that feels sporadic.
If you do not see the following in your first month working with a new B2B PR company, it’s time for an intervention:
- Clear strategy: you’ll be shown structured methodology, how time and money will be used, and predicted commercial outcomes.
- Proactive engagement: your relationship with your B2B PR agency will be successful if you flex together and respond promptly to opportunities.
- Engaging ideation: your chosen agency should have a proven approach for generating strategically-aligned ideas for articles, campaigns and thought leadership.
- Impeccable writing and communication skills: B2B PR requires both to manage perceptions of your brand long-term.
- Inquisitive attitude: commit to mutual respect and enthusiasm for the people and tasks involved for the best PR outcomes.
By the second month of working together, B2B PR firms should have integrated detailed plans of the following tactics into your strategy and successfully getting your brand published.
Tactics that B2B PR companies use to manage brands’ reputations include:
You will notice the value of your PR relationship improve exponentially, every month. Assuming there has been no need for crisis communications or internal mishaps, you can evaluate the impact of B2B PR tactics in the third month, and propose pivots together, if necessary.
Working with your chosen B2B PR firm is a sign of trust in your own decision and will improve outcomes for both parties. To that end, evaluate each of these areas for improvement potential, as a team
- Process: your PR agency should be regularly reporting on their achievements against the agreed PR objectives.
- Goals: expect to be meeting or exceeding objectives set and gathering learnings to improve ongoing B2B PR activity.
- Ideation: B2B PR firms are habitually developing new ideas to improve your brand awareness and trust in your company.
- Starstruck: you should be seeing outstanding pieces of coverage in pinnacle target publications at regular intervals.
- Consistency: sheer quantity of coverage is not a success indicator, but rather impactful and consistent press coverage.
- Thought leadership: quality coverage means authored articles in leading press outlets that are relevant to your B2B.
- Expert engagement: the best B2B PR agencies share their wisdom and experience with you and engage with yours too.
- Media network: all the above hinges on a strong PR network and in-depth knowledge of how the media works in your sector.
B2B PR Campaign Examples
B2B PR Campaigns will vary from sector to sector and business to business. The most creative and effective PR Campaigns will often stretch into other areas of B2B Marketing, such as sales messaging, social media activity and website SEO. We talk about the power of Integrated Marketing & PR here.
Here are some types of B2B PR campaigns that have produced outstanding results. The success of any campaign depends upon the client’s particular business goals and PR success measures should be defined at the beginning of any campaign.
B2B PR is our top expertise at EC-PR. We believe the work you do is changing the world, and we want to make sure the world hears about it.
6 B2B PR Campaign Examples
How can you tell if your PR partnership is on a road of continuous improvement or on a path of terminal decline?
We asked our Managing Director, Lorraine Emmett, to answer this question.
“Firstly, keep an eye on the deliverables you have agreed with your PR company. Then watch how your PR agency handles shortfalls.”
The monthly deliverables above will help with Lorraine’s first point, and while we don’t wish any negative press on anyone, crisis management should be done with grace. The same should be true of criticism of the B2B PR firm’s strategy: they should receive it courteously, and work with you to build a plan you’re happy with.
“Press coverage issues can be resolved with an engaged and well-led team, however indicators of a relationship in decline will revolve around passion and professionalism: they don’t appear to love you anymore and their behaviour shows it.”
Lorraine gave the below as signs of terminal decline in a B2B PR agency relationship:
- Reporting becomes haphazard and inconsistent.
- Ideas are uninspired and uninspiring.
- Communication is infrequent and rarely proactive.
Did you tick any of the above? You can still revive struggling PR relationships.
“We always maintain that a failing PR partnership is most often down to over-promising in the first place,” explains Lorraine.
Unhappy with your PR team? Here’s what you need to know.
Before you broach the subject of disappointment, it’s important to ask whether you have set metrics or a Service Level Agreement (SLA) of what should be delivered and when.
If you haven’t agreed what to expect at the start of any PR partnership, then the immediate step is to put some KPIs in place. Have a look at our article “How much does PR cost?” for an example of how we contract target variable deliverables (TVDs), as a means of measuring successful activity.
With a clear set of deliverables defined, it will be easier to see if your PR agency is falling short, either in outputs, e.g. articles placed or press interviews delivered, or in creative ideas to produce the outputs.
Remember though, with a few exceptions, PR is a growth marketing and demand generation tool. It is not a short-term strategy. A decent PR agency will give you realistic timelines in which to see the fruits of your PR activity.
Still unhappy? Well then, it’s time to check whether you are free to exit your current partnership and then use our Selector Guide with the 13 questions we recommend asking to help find your perfect PR agency.
Appendix: What other definitions of PR are there?
PR or Public Relations means different things to different people. You might find it interesting to consider these definitions of PR, from respected organisations and institutions:
1. PRCA – The PRCA is the world’s largest PR professional body:
“Public Relations, or ‘PR’, is all about the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image. The way an organisation is represented in the media has a huge impact on how people perceive it. PR professionals try to influence the media to represent their organisation positively and communicate key messages.”
2. BBC – The British public service broadcaster:
“Public Relations (PR) is a promotional technique used to gain media coverage. It is free and is generated through:
● news-worthy stories”
3. Hubspot – the inbound marketing platform:
“Public Relations professionals help a business or individual cultivate a positive reputation with the public through various unpaid or earned communications, including traditional media, social media and in-person engagements. They also help clients defend their reputation during a crisis that threatens their credibility.”
4. Wikipedia – the online encyclopaedia:
“Public relations (PR) is the practice of deliberately managing the release and spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a non-profit organization) and the public.”
5. CIPR – the Chartered Institute of Public Relations:
“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
B2B PR is our top expertise at EC-PR. We believe the work you do is changing the world, and we want to make sure the world hears about it.