If you’ve worked with or for a PR agency, chances are you understand the difference between consumer PR and B2B PR. If you haven’t had an opportunity to work on both sides, however, there’s a good chance you may consider “the other” and think “just what are they doing over there?” If this is your situation…that’s OK! The point of this blog is to give you a high-level insider’s view.
As someone who has worked with both consumer, consumer technology and B2B companies, I can hopefully provide some useful insight – with one key caveat: I switched over to the B2B side 2.5 years ago, and haven’t looked back. Therefore, my take on consumer PR is colored by past experiences and recent conversations with my very talented SHIFT consumer colleagues.
Understanding Your Client’s Audience
In many cases, B2B clients are looking to reach IT decision-makers or the C-suite. Generally, consumer clients are looking to reach consumers. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty huge audience. After all, consumers consist of all sorts of demographics, from all walks of life. Their wants, needs, interests and desires vary greatly.
This isn’t to say B2B audiences can’t and don’t vary. Overall, though, determining the target audience is a bit more clear-cut. If your client sells a network security product, then naturally your client will want to see (in part) is coverage in publications network security experts and buyers read and rely on.
If your client is a consumer-facing going-out app, things get a bit trickier. You’ll need to understand the brand’s user base (the ever-so-desirable, yet finicky millennials? People under the age of 50 who live in major metropolitan areas? Your mom?), then use that understanding to inform your strategy.
The World of Media, the World of Influencers
While basic client goals may overlap for both consumer PR and B2B PR (how many clients wouldn’t love a USA Today hit or CBS Morning News segment?) the nature of desired coverage can range substantially. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t use the words “inform your media strategy” in the paragraph above. When it comes to consumer PR, outreach strategies have evolved far past pitching just traditional media to encompass blogs, influencers, heavily engaging influencers over social media and paid placements. Ultimately, outreach strategy depends on the audience. If it’s a big, widespread, demographically diverse audience, then there’s a very good chance the big picture outreach strategy is equally diverse.
This isn’t to say B2B clients don’t work with influencers. In some cases – particularly leading up to a big event or tradeshow – influencer outreach is useful. Most serious B2B companies also have a social media presence, and engage in activities like giveaways. But, most B2B companies aren’t looking for their PR teams to stop pitching eWeek, Network World, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal anytime soon.
Tactics for Reaching B2B and Consumer Audiences
As I noted in a previous blog post, PR is no longer about being a distributor. It’s about being a connector for your client. To be an effective connector, you need to build relationships with reporters and influencers. You want them to trust you, and ultimately, you want them to (literally in some cases, metaphorically in others) buy what you’re selling.
On the B2B side, there are several important ways to do this. They include, but are not limited to, reading a lot of business, trade, and vertical publications relevant to your client (Bloomberg Businessweek, SC Magazine and The Economist, anyone?). Staying on top of major business, economic and geopolitical trends. Understanding, at a high-level, your client’s mission, value proposition and competitive differentiators. Offering valuable executive perspective through rapid response. Demonstrating to reporters that you understand why your client may or may not fit into their coverage area. Leveraging unique data points to set your client apart from competitors. Giving media access to executives, customers and generally being as transparent as you can without scaring your client.
Regarding consumer PR, some of the same applies. All PR professionals, across the board, should understand a client’s mission, value proposition and competitive differentiators. Consumer PR professionals also need to read and stay on top of news. But what they’re reading, and paying attention to, is a bit different (People, Family Circle, and Parenting, anyone?) Components like geopolitical trends, unique data points and rapid response are also generally not as important (with some exceptions – sometimes, consumer technology clients can benefit from rapid response. If you’re Samsung and receive word that Apple has seriously screwed up in some way, it might be time to consider news hijacking). Instead, PR professionals need to consider what might get a consumer-focused reporter, blogger or influencer excited and enthused – and by extension, the consumers reading and digesting their content. Is it a trip to Hawaii? Is it a mailer that includes wholesome, all natural goodies for the family?
It’s not an easy feat. But it’s done all the time, and in SHIFT’s case, done well.
Have something to say? Please let me know in the comments!
Senior Account Manager