As marketers and communicators, our goal is to reach the most important people to our companies and clients. Sometimes, that’s the media side, reaching influential journalists and publishers. Other times, that’s the company side, reaching executives and decision-makers. Marketers in particular face perpetual challenges attracting the attention of senior decision-makers at organizations.
At the recent HIMSS BrandHIT marketing conference, a panel of executives from the C-Suite were asked what marketing methods were most effective at reaching them. Amidst a number of snarky responses and withering scorn directed at marketers who try gimmicks like shady email marketing (such as fake replies to emails), the executives all responded with three channels that work for reaching them:
Thought leadership, search, and word of mouth.
When asked why, the executives all responded similarly: they’re busy. They have limited time in the day, and anything that wastes their time immediately negates consideration, much less a sale. When they want information to solve a particular problem, they’ll search for it via colleagues, online search, or reputable sources.
If we face challenges reaching decision-makers, especially more senior ones, we need to focus our efforts on these three channels.
Public Relations Channels to the C-Suite
Consider the significant impact that public relations has on all three channels.
Public relations programs are built around thought leadership, on positioning brands as leaders in their industry. When executives have a few moments of downtime, where do they go? What do they do, what media do they read? Something as simple as literature in an airline seat pocket or news in a favorite news reading app may be more effective at reaching an executive than endless cold-calling.
This is also where coverage in trade publications may be more impactful than business press (generic publications like the Wall Street Journal or New York Times); if an executive faces a particular problem, they’re more likely to be thinking of possible solutions in a trade publication than in general business press.
Public relations programs support organic search engine marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) by creating media which link to a brand’s website and boost it authority with search engines. The more press a brand gets, the greater number of links it’s likely to earn to its website. The more links a website earns, the more trusted it is by both search engines and searchers alike – especially in topically relevant areas.
Public relations excels at generating word-of-mouth, at encouraging people to talk about a brand and its stories. A brand must have news and stories worth talking about, or a point of view worth discussing; however, assuming these things are true, public relations excels at distributing these stories to people likely to influence our target executives.
For example, suppose we want to reach retail executives. A public relations program that incorporates public speaking opportunities will help us reach executives and decision-makers when they’re in a mindset to learn about how to solve key retail industry problems by obtaining speaking slots at retail industry conferences. Using SEO tools to identify what people search for the most, we tailor our speaking opportunities to meet conference attendees’ needs and build word-of-mouth as top-notch industry experts.
Turn to PR When Direct Marketing Fails
The higher up the executive hierarchy we need to reach in order to attract the attention of decision-makers, the more we need public relations.
When direct marketing, cold-calling, nurture marketing, and other outreach programs fail, turn to public relations to reach the most valuable audiences and persuade them to consider you.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology