We help clients to develop and execute their public relations to support their business-to-business marketing and sales.
Our consulting is focused on the development of original and unique high-quality content and messaging for both digital and non-digital media, program development (digital and non-digital, print, web, video) and program execution - either as an outsourced resource or in conjunction with other resources. We typically do not get involved in the administration or tactical execution of public relations programs since most clients already have those resources in place. It is the need for new messaging and content that we primarily help clients to address.
We specialize in helping clients who provide services or products that are marketed in a business-to-business fashion, and are often complex or sold in highly competitive markets.
Our specialization is in extracting public relations strategies and messaging from the sales environment. It has been our experience that all competitive messaging issues converge in the sales environment, and by looking carefully there - the best messaging can be found. We utilize our Sales AutopsySM diagnostic methodology to identify those issues and their uniqueness for each client.
Public Relations is becoming a blend of conventional media and social media - dependent on the characteristics of the market
The emphasis in articles or commentaries about public relations (not surprisingly, most written by the media) tend to over-emphasize either the role of social media, or conversely the conventional print and broadcast media.
Legacy public relations advisors and publicists often self-identify by the use of cliches about having a large Rolodex of media contacts, or "contacts" at high-visibility publications. In a similar fashion, Web 3.0 practitioners claim relationships with many bloggers. The field of "journalism" has been evolvinng dramatically (it has been estimated that 30,000 journalists left the profession in 2008 alone) and contact information is commonly available to anyone through published media directories and software, but the emphasis on contacts alone reflects pre-web thinking - that somehow relationships alone are more important to the success of a public relations program than the messaging, strategy and plan.
'Social media' is often cited for its influence, but most of it is pop culture or consumer marketing (the life of a Tweet is about an hour). Examples of direct influence on b-to-b sales derived from social media are hard to come by. Consumer products firms and issue advocates have utilized social media in clever ways, but there is little to suggest that social media drives business to b-to-b marketers. Trendy, perhaps, but so far not a tool for hard revenue.
It used to be that many issues that appear in the social media would often appear only after they get traction in the conventional media. This situation appears to have reversed (social media serving as a source for the conventional media.) The most important thing to remember is to identify the channels where your customers get their messaging - and be sure to have a presence there.
A caveat here - the issue of "fake news" is ever-present in the media. Social media is especially prone to corruption due to deadlines and a low level of fact-checking. To get an idea of how easy it is - read Ryan Holiday's book Trust Me - I'm Lying - Confessions of a Media Manipulator. As an experiement - Holiday got himself cited as an "expert" in a number of areas by publications such as the New York Times simply by creating false profiles on social media "expert" sites that cater to the media and promptly responding to reporters who never checked his credentials. He also discusses how to generate a false controversy - which companies periodically find themsleves battling (remember the syringes in Pepsi cans incident?)
As an aside - the difference between a public relations program and a publicity program is primarily the ability to conduct and utilize market research (market analytics, sales diagnostics, etc.) - a public relations program should be based on current, real-time information on your customers, sales prospects and your markets - to identify the "publics", the messaging, the media, etc. Conversely, a publicity campaign is a shotgun approach - attempting to reach far and wide with little or no discrimination in message, media or audiences. The easiest way to determine if you are dealing with a public relations professional or simply a publicist (the two are very different) is to determine their research capabilities and how much they use research to develop a public relations program. Many businesses think they are getting public relations, but what they are really getting is simply publicity. The sales and marketing messaging value of publicity is much less than that of public relations, both in the short term and the long term.
Another way to look at it is that publicity is akin to selling movie tickets (maximum hype during a theatrical run) and public relations is helping your markets understand what you offer to solve their business problem (pain), who it would be of value to, and why you are distinct. True public relations is a long-term orientation, not a one-shot effort. A well-devloped message can have "legs" for far longer than you might imagine.
Public relations has to look at the total communication process between a company and its publics - which in most cases, means current or future customers and business partners or associates.
One of the first elements of a b-to-b public relations program is to determine how your customers get their information - that's why research is so important. These information channels can be the conventional media, but often a much large number of prospects are using web-based media, such as Google or other search engines which will deliver your prospects (publics) directly to your web site, or to locations that should be on your media list.
Our Objective - to Help You Understand the Role of Public Relations in
Helping You Get to Your Business Goals
You're probably interested in public relations as a marketing tool, and
would like to know what public relations can do for you and your business.
Our goal here is to help you understand what business-to-business public
relations is all about, and how it can be a powerful tool in your sales and
What Is Public Relations?
The definition of public relations in many ways depends on the forum where you use it, and what you want to accomplish.
We define public relations in a business-to-business context as creating
your vision for your current audiences and third parties (those you currently
deal with and those you might deal with in the future.) There are many names for this - but it all is messaging. Your objective is to insure that your audience understands your competitive distinction, and that they understand and accept your business mission. The media (print and electronic)
has traditionally played a big role as an information conduit to these groups, but this has become unbundled in the Internet age. There are also many 'unstructured' ways to reach your markets. There are several articles in our section titled Published Articles and Commentaries which address this.
Two important audiences that are often overlooked in the public relations effort are your employees (current and future) and current customers.
There is a critical understanding necessary for the successful use of public relations in marketing and sales - public relations is selling (if only the vision), and your public relations advisor should have the demonstrated capability to sell your vision.
Caveat: Entertainment often dominates the communications effort due to the huge amount of entertainment on the Internet, and short audience attention spans. BtoB marketers have to be careful that the entertainment factor doesn't corrupt the messaging to the extent that the audience is entertained - but completely forgets (or never understood) your messaging. It happens more than you would suspect.
How can Public Relations Support my Sales and Marketing?
In a word - information. The front end of the buying cycle is often the
collection of information. The more information you keep out in the dynamic
marketplace, the more prospects you will reach. Some are targeted (e.g.,
press releases and media coverage that addressed current issues, direct mail,
telemarketing, etc.) but many long-lead sales can be reached by your cumulative
efforts - such as well thought out, archived wireservice releases and your
web site. This is the difference between hunting' and farming',
in sales parlance. Your public relations program should be split between
the two, and a well-planned program will contain the additional value of
looking at the future value of your current public relations effort.
How Can I Tell That I Might Benefit from Public Relations?
It really depends on your sales and marketing model. If you need to expand
the reach of your sales and marketing, and get your the message of your
competitive distinction out to a wider audience, on a 7x24 basis - you're
probably ready for a public relations program.
One caveat - public relations helps you to set the stage for your sales
activities, but is not a substitute for selling, sales skills or sales
activities. It is a mis-expectation to believe that your public relations
effort will do your selling for you. You will still have to do a lot of the heavy lifting of sales, even
with a superb public relations program in place. But your public relations
program will help you leverage your sales skills and resources, by taking
on a lot of the work of establishing your identity and competitive distinction
in the marketplace. These are the first two phases of the sales cycle, and
the ones that absorb most of your resources.
Our programs have generated national and international results for our clients,
and our trademark is a more customized, creative and higher-quality marketing
effort which sales prospects both recognize and respond to. Here are
some representative examples:
International; Brand Building; Product Introduction; Awards
Developed and executed an international and domestic public relations program
that served to help build the client's brand in Europe, then leveraged that
identity and introduced it into the United States. European program was very
successful - they routinely outsell their largest (200x) competitor. Client
estimates 85% attainment of marketing goals in 24 month period since program
began. Additional editorial exposure gained in Latin America and Japanese
markets. Supported client introduction of several new product lines. Created
successful "Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative " award entry, also successful
Massachusetts Export Award entry - deemed "outstanding" by the judges. Client
uses awards and editorial exposure to enhance their credibility in negotiations
with major distributors, such as the successful negotiations with a Hong
Kong-based $300 million Asian distributor.
Internet; Product Introduction; Awards
A client wanted to introduce an Internet-based GIS (mapping) product. With
no betas and no marketing literature to build on, our consultancy created
a combination document in a newsletter format with conceptual value-added
descriptions (that we had developed) of the potential technology applications.
The newsletter went through two press runs for the Boston Internet show and
resulted in features in USA Today and Software Magazine. We
also gained their CD-ROM product a "five disk" review and MVP runner-up status
Complex Technology; Editorial Features
Developed user profiles for a client with a complex RPC middleware product.
One profile detailed their product's contribution to a $350 million system
integrator's creation of a sophisticated,three-tier client/sever architecture,
using best-of-breed products. Our profile and editorial placement efforts
resulted in Windows NT magazine assigning a writer to prepare
a feature article, with significant focus on our client.
OEM Deals; Editorial Features
A client received their second-largest (six figure) OEM deal of the year
solely on the basis of our editorial placement in the Emerging Business Section
of the Boston Globe, which was one of many national and international
media placements obtained for that client.
If you would like to discuss how our public relations services may help your b-to-b marketing and sales - call or email our principal, Jeffrey Geibel, APR at the contact information listed below.