Developing and implementing public relations programs for organizations in the B2B tech space is a unique challenge, whether it’s in the HR, finance, retail, cybersecurity, enterprise storage or marketing/ad tech industry. This is especially true when first starting out. Whether you’re beginning your PR career altogether or simply making the transition from a more consumer-facing discipline, B2B tech is a completely new beast filled with industries you probably know nothing about, confusing lingo that sounds like a foreign language and industry experts competing for share of voice while all saying the exact same thing.
Sounds easy enough, right? To hit the ground running, here are some key best practices to keep in mind while first breaking into B2B tech PR.
Do your research, and never stop reading
This is by far the most important thing you can do as a B2B PR pro. Odds are, you’re not going to have formal education or years of experience getting to know the ins and outs of a new client’s industry, but you’ll still need to know your stuff while chatting with a reporter on the phone or meeting with an internal executive to determine the most newsworthy topics he or she can provide insights on.
Get to know your client’s product inside and out. Start on the company website and read through the profiles of the various solutions. What makes them unique, and what do they offer that no one else does? Don’t take their word for it – go beyond the website and take a look at the competitors (odds are, they probably say some similar things), read old articles detailing these products and dive into reports from analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester to see how the experts stack your client up against the rest of the field.
Then, take it a step further and really become a student of the client’s industry. Put in the time to regularly read the key vertical outlets, watch webinars, dive into industry whitepapers (and once you read it, do some digging to see if it had been covered in the news) and pick the brains of folks at your agency that have similar experience. You’ll immediately start noticing fresh topics that are popping up, issues that have already been beaten to death and companies that are constantly being talked about. This kind of homework will allow you to become an invaluable client resource – providing the ammunition for stellar counsel while laying the groundwork for breakthrough ideas.
Create your own personal glossary
Throughout this research you’re going to start noticing a ton of industry jargon, complex technical terms and weird looking acronyms. I’d recommend keeping track of every term you aren’t familiar with, looking into the definitions and creating an always growing informal dictionary that can be shared with the entire account team.
Get to know the target buyer – the audience you’re really trying to reach
When developing pitch storylines and campaign ideas, your first instinct may be to go with a theme that the mainstream consumer can relate to because that’s the easiest way to get noticed by the big-time media outlets. This is a big mistake in the world of B2B tech. Your client sells a product to other businesses, and their goal is to reach their target buyers within these organizations – not the average American – through PR. At the end of the day, your efforts will be rendered meaningless unless you’re able to speak to the CIO, CMO, HR director or other professional that’s responsible for buying your client’s solution. Take a look at the panels at major industry conferences and events to see what’s top of mind for the audience, and always stay on top of industry blogs and trade outlets dedicated to their profession. Basically, know what keeps your client’s core buyer up at night, and then creatively exploit that through a killer PR campaign.
Remember that Twitter is your friend, and keep a really close eye on breaking news
The industries that make up B2B technology are rapidly evolving, and the same goes for the reporters and influencers that drive the conversations. I’d suggest creating a Twitter list for each industry you’re now working in, and include all relevant reporters, analysts, thought leaders, prominent industry executives and news outlets. This is a really helpful way to stay on top of media contacts that switch jobs, interesting conversations that haven’t been heavily covered yet and major breaking news that your client will want to comment on.
There’s plenty more to discuss, but laying the groundwork with these best practices will allow any B2B PR pro to become a media relations star and a trusted, valued resource to clients.
A version of this post originally published 4/26/2016, updated 1/9/19.