Marx Communications, B2B Public Relations
 

Blog

7 WAYS A STARTUP CAN SCORE WITH ANY MEDIA OPPORTUNITY

August 6, 2013 by Wendy Marx

This post originally appeared in a slightly different version on
Fast-Company-logo
Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 2.24.28 PM

A recent article in the New York Times reminds us that we are living in a culture of coaching. There are coaches to clean out your closet, build your personal brand, firm your abs, get your child that dream internship…anything you could ever imagine.

Yet, when it comes to doing interviews, many people tend to feel they can wing it without the benefit of of a mentor or coach. Because it approximates the format of a conversation, it’s easy to view a media interview as a simple conversation. Don’t.

A journalist will have a particular objective in interviewing you, and it is most likely not what you had in mind. The journalist or blogger has a story to write. You, on the other hand, are there to promote yourself, your company or your brand. I don’t care how good a speaker you are or how knowledgeable you are about your business, you have to your best foot forward. Subtle business promotion is a learned skill that takes practice to make perfect. In our experience, people often talk too long in interviews. Being succinct, as any writer knows, is also a learned skill.

How do you ensure that your startup company’s messages don’t get lost during an interview? How can you avoid being railroaded or blindsided?

Here are 7 tips on how a startup — or any B2B company for that matter — can turn a media interview into a true opportunity for you:

1. Ask for information ahead of time. Many reporters, particularly those working for trade publications, will provide them in advance if you ask. If you can’t get the questions, do clarify the focus and purpose. Don’t go into an interview uninformed.

2. Determine what your core message is. What do you want to get across in the interview? How do you want to portray your company? You want to address both questions in an interview. Carve out some time in the beginning of an interview to explain your company’s vision. You can also add key points to any answer by doing what’s known as “bridging.” That’s an industry term referring to seamlessly transitioning to your key message with “bridging words.”
Here are a couple of examples of bridging: “And what’s key here,” “Let me put this in perspective,” “What this all means is,” “Before we continue, let me underscore.”

3. Come prepared with a sound bite or two. Do you think the phrases that draw the most applause in a presidential debate are off the cuff? The better they are, the more likely they have been carefully prepared and rehearsed to perfection. So too in an interview. Work on a catchphrase that makes what you have to say more memorable.

4. Prepare backwards. What headline would you like the article to say? That can help you martial your points and organize your thoughts around a compelling, relevant message.

5. Practice, then practice some more. Do several mock interviews before the real one so you can demonstrate firm control of your subject matter and sound at ease, not rehearsed. Ironically, once you feel confident you can make the material your own and come across as polished and informed, not rehearsed.

6. Don’t be afraid to to not know the answerYou don’t have to know everything and you certainly don’t want to give false information. It is always better to be safe and say “I’m not sure, let me check and get back to you,” rather than sorry.

7. Avoid using “no comment”. It may look cool on TV but all a phrase like that does is send a signal to a media person that you might have something to hide. This is an example of why you need to be prepared for a media opportunity. If you had done your prep work, you would have an answer in your pocket for any sensitive questions they throw your way.

In our experience, you can never be prepared enough. That’s why we’re running a special Media Training Workshop. For details and to register, go to PRos media training.

Filed Under: b2b content marketing, B2B PR, B2B Public Relations, Startups | 4 Comments

How PR Can Help B2B Start Ups

May 22, 2013 by Wendy Marx

butterfly.WendyMarx5.15.13
This post originally appeared in a slightly different version on Fast-Company-logo

PR Done Right Makes a Difference, From the Start

Recently, I attended NY Tech Day where 400 hungry startups sought to garner some love, along with media and VC attention, at their respective booths.

The zealous self-promotion raises an interesting issue: How do you make your business stand out in a sea of entrepreneurial energy? How do you get people to care about your company?

Consider these facts:

- A survey of CEOs found startup companies that engage in PR are 30 percent more successful in securing early funding than those that don’t.

- Well-known VC firms are diving into the publicity game, with firms like Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz, and Sequoia hiring in-house PR talent.

One simple reason startups and their financial backers are entering the PR arena? Publicity done right works. Over the years, my B2B PR firm has launched many startups. We’ve found PR can truly make the difference in attracting new customers, increasing revenues–and catching the ultimate brass ring–funding.

Don’t for a second, however, think PR for newcomers is a slam dunk. No one cares about the latest whiz-bang product or service released by an unknown company unless it does something amazing. And most new products or services won’t knock your socks off. This is where public relations shines. A good PR person can properly position your product or service–or yourself–so people care. Great PR–and yes, there is such a thing–transforms a product or service into something meaningful.

Consider the term “Certified Pre-Owned Car.” I’m old enough to remember when the term didn’t exist. You simply bought a used car. It didn’t give you a lot of bragging rights. The geniuses who created the terminology “Certified Pre-Owned Car” turned the negative connotation into a positive. Suddenly, a used car had to meet certain standards and criteria. Better yet, it often came with a warranty. Of course, all those goodies were folded into a car’s price. But at least you received something solid for your money. You didn’t worry that the car was a clunker, and you could take pride in your “like new” car.

Let’s look at another example–this from a startup called lettrs (a client of my agency, incidentally). The company recently launched an iPhone app it positions as a “post office in your hand” that lets you write and send digital and postal letters directly from your phone, turning the iPhone into a mobile writing desk. The positioning and analogy turned what could have been just another app into something immediately understandable and compelling. Most of the press coverage highlighted the digital-post office positioning, as this Mashable piece illustrates.

So before you start hawking your new venture, develop your messaging and positioning. This will help you stand out and help make your product memorable and engaging. After all, you can be just another has-been company, or you can Think Different.

 

Filed Under: b2b marketing, B2B PR, B2B Public Relations, Blog, Startups | 1 Comment

Surprising B2B PR Survey Results + Infographic

April 12, 2013 by Wendy Marx

survey-checklist

The results are in for our survey of B2B PR practices. The key takeaway: Social media is taking a big bite out of traditional PR methods.

The informal survey, which was conducted online in March 2013, showed that social media is far and away the favored news distribution tactic with the press release lagging far behind.

  • 94% of those surveyed said they use social media to promote announcements vs. 71% who report using press releases.  Seventy five percent said they post a release on a company website while 68% send a release directly to reporters.
  • 45% said they would use social media if they could use just one promotional vehicle vs. 24% who said they would issue a press release.
  • 49 % report using an online distribution service  like PR Web, while 40% report using  one of the traditional services like PR Newswire, Business Wire or Marketwire
  • 45% said LinkedIn was the most helpful social media tactic; 35% favored Twitter, 13% Facebook and 2% Google+.

While the respondents are not necessarily representative of the PR practice universe, they are typical of a rising generation of social media-savvy PR practitioners and open a door into the future direction of B2B public relations: It is more and more becoming a socially-driven world. This can have large implications for B2B company PR practices. Going direct to customers and prospects via social media can be one of the most effective ways to get the word out.  The survey also has potential implications for traditional PR distribution services with lower cost distribution services overtaking the traditional channels.

However, don’t assume you should completely abandon established PR practices.  What the survey reinforces is that news announcements can be amplified through multiple free channels including social media, free PR distribution sites, company websites and reaching out directly to reporters. It also suggests that the days of simply sending a press release over a wire service are over. In our experience, a traditional wire service such as PR Newswire, Business Wire or Marketwire, can amplify a message particularly if you are a publicly traded company and need to get in front of analysts and investors. The online distribution service PR Web provides its own version of this via its financial service package. However, if you are not a publicly-traded company you may do just fine using free press release distribution services along with social media, your website and your own media outreach. We urge you to test it yourself.

What have you found to be most effective in terms of promoting your company? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. But first, check out our infographic with the survey results!

Click HERE to make larger

My Infographic_79

2013 B2B PR Practices Survey – An infographic by the team at MarxCommunications

 

Filed Under: B2B Public Relations, Blog | Leave a Comment

The Key to B2B PR Success: Just Ask!

February 12, 2013 by Wendy Marx

 

You can never tell when you might learn something new.

Dining recently at Mt. Snow, Vermont’s summit lodge after a fun morning of skiing, I was given a lesson in persuasion from an audacious 8-year-old named Sara. I overheard Sara and her older sister Lisa devising a way to convince their ski instructor to let them go on their favorite ski trail. Her idea was simple yet brilliant: Eagerly ask the instructor if he would take them. Guess what? It worked. After approaching the instructor, he went back and asked who’d like to try their trail of choice. Can you guess who screamed the loudest that she did? Sara confidently looked at her sister and said, “I told you. All you have to do is ask.”

The art of the ask is a topic on which folks have written countless books and “how to” articles. One of those basic truths, it easily gets lost or confused in our tendency (as adults) to overthink. Even PR professionals, the supposed “communication experts”, can easily get things mixed up and actually forget “the ask.”

PR, no matter the type, has many facets because it caters to multiple masters. The client is obviously the top dog, the last person a PR pro has to please. With that being said, you’re not a “Yes man,” doing whatever the client wants, but you offer discerning advice. Just like any professional consultant, you suggest the right tactics to meet a client’s goals.

Don’t think of that as a given. When making recommendations, you have to ask for your client’s agreement. If you don’t, there’s no give-and-take dynamic. And in doing so, you need to employ tact by understanding your client’s style and the best way to make the ask. Do you try to have it come out as client’s idea? Should you do it aggressively or in a more casual manner? It all depends on the personality of your client. Ultimately though, part of your success depends on how well you master the ask.

Where PR gets sticky is when you have a bunch of other folks to ask–including reporters, event coordinators, journalists, employees, associations and probably others as well. You want all of them to be on your side so together you can achieve the client’s goals. In this instance you should also be aware of the style and wants/needs of those you work with.

Last but not least, remember to ask for what you need to run your PR campaign. It could make the difference between a shining success or dismal failure.

Have you asked for something to make your campaign more effective? Please share your story!

 

Filed Under: B2B PR, B2B Public Relations | Leave a Comment

3 Crucial Steps For Content Marketing Success

December 6, 2012 by Wendy Marx

Everyone in marketing tries to do it. What most folks don’t realize, is that very few do it well.

What are we referring to? Content marketing, of course. Otherwise known as branded content, brand journalism, or business story-telling, among other monikers.

It’s apparent a phrase is popular when it spawns its own lexicon. Or when mega brands like Coca-Cola embrace it. The soft drink empire recently revamped its website in homage to content marketing.

You can tell “content marketing” has entered the list of marketing terms when you find any number of conferences devoted to the topic. Take the example of the all-day content-marketing event given by the Content Marketing Institute in cooperation with Target Marketing and Publishing Executive. The event, titled Content Marketing World NYC, brought in a plethora of content marketers (and those seeking to become content marketers). It was also chaired by two content marketing industry elites: Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose. The two co-authored one of the foremost books on the topic, along with other accomplishments.

You may be wondering to yourself, “OK, so what’s so great about content marketing?”

Advertising, it seems, has lost much of its effectiveness. We live in a world where the average person is bombarded by some 3,000 brand impressions a day. According to research firm Altimeter Group, advertising needs to function together with other media, including company–created content and user-generated content. Content marketing in its most fundamental definition, is content a brand owns or publishes without any media buys, according to Altimeter.

That of course is the baseline. In order to be truly effective, content marketing, as Pulizzi and Rose stressed at the Content Marketing World event, must tell a story that allows people to engage with a brand. Moreover, it can’t be a one-time wonder but should be a long-term commitment, or as Rose phrased it, “Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.”

In fact, a marathon is the perfect analogy. Besides being a time-consuming process,  it also requires some heavy lifting. It’s no surprise that a survey by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs discovered that only roughly a third of over 1,400 B2B marketers surveyed said they believed their content marketing campaigns effective.

Here are 3 key elements from Robert Rose to increase the effectiveness of your content marketing:

 

  • Tell a story. A story is a natural way to grab people’s attention. It draws you in and captures your emotions as well as your mind. What’s more interesting – a list of facts or a story that weaves the same elements into an engaging narrative?
  • Implement a strategy. Like any effective program, content marketing must be supported by a solid strategy. A company should understand its audience, business needs and what will appeal to its various market segments. According to Rose, the reason why most content marketing doesn’t succeed is that many companies dive right in without a strategy. Once you have a strategy in place you need a replicable process to produce your content.
  • Use channels to tell your story. No longer can you tell your story exclusively on your website. As Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang observe in the Altimeter report on The Converged Media Imperative: “Brands are challenged to intercept this elusive customer and cut through the media clutter, regardless of whatever channel or medium consumers are engaged with.”

 

What are you doing to accelerate your Content Marketing? I look forward to hearing from you.

Filed Under: b2b content marketing, b2b marketing, B2B PR, B2B Public Relations, Blog, content marketing, Insights | Leave a Comment

5 Ways to Create a Successful, Integrated B2B Marketing Campaign

November 20, 2012 by Wendy Marx

How can you convert a humble, sales-focused company into a B2B marketing dynamo?

Take for example Lincoln Financial Group, a historically, sales-based organization, which made a complete, 180-degree turn over the last year. The financial services, insurance, and annuities business – over a century old – stormed out with an innovative marketing campaign that transformed it into a major media and marketing player. Among other accolades, the corporation was recently named Communicator of the Year by the Business Marketing Association of New York.

Credit Jamie DePeau, the company’s CMO, who joined the team around a year ago from TIAA-CREF. She clearly brought a strategic marketing focus with her. Although Lincoln had already begun heading in a new direction before DePeau grabbed the reigns, DePeau introduced the integrated marketing mindset to PR, advertising, and social media.

Earlier, Lincoln Financial had done research indicating that the more control people have over certain aspects of their lives, including their finances, the better they feel about their life’s direction.

Lincoln Financial, in cooperation with its agency, gyro, used findings from that research to develop a “Chief Life Officer” campaign. It aimed to empower consumers by appealing to their optimism and ability to take charge of their lives. In past times, Lincoln, which offers its products through intermediaries like employers, advisers, and agents, had targeted the middlemen instead of the end user: the consumer.

“On launch day, our new campaign promoted everyone to CEO of his or her own life. A position we refer to as the “Chief Life Officer,” said DePeau. “It recognizes the fact that our lives are in many ways like a business. We’re in charge of making major decisions, managing our finances and keeping morale positive. The primary message is that you’re the boss of your life, and Lincoln Financial is here to help you take charge.”

After the launch, DePeau initiated additional research. To Lincoln Financial’s surprise, consumers, especially women, were more optimistic about their ability to influence their future than Lincoln had expected. In fact, the MOOD of America Survey showed that about 75% of women said they were optimistic about the future compared to 66% of men.

Based upon these findings, Lincoln Financial created an integrated campaign of PR, advertising, social media, as well as educational content, all geared towards Lincoln Financial and women.

“We tend to believe that because we’re speaking to the business or consumer community, our advertising doesn’t have to be emotionally driven,” said DePeau. “You must incorporate the emotional component, plus help educate the consumer, instead of merely talking to them.

“While others in the category tended to use fear in their advertising, we believed the time was right to try a different, more optimistic approach.”

Integrating public relations, social media, and advertising, the campaign featured a video of women of all ages showing how they take charge of their lives. It also provided educational content to help women do just that. The PR was driven from the research results. The Chief Life Officer ads carried on the “take charge, optimistic theme,” which was restated through social media.

And how has the integrated campaign turned out?

After having been released for four months, brand awareness is up, according to DePeau, and among the consumers aware of the campaign, all key attributes that influence consideration and purchase behavior have increased by double digits.

5 tips from Jamie DePeau on creating a successful integrated marketing campaign:

1. Research-centric approach: “The entire time we researched our target audience and watched our competitors to make sure we completely understood American’s attitudes after 2008 and expectations for their financial services partner, plus how to significantlydifferentiate a financial services brand from it’s competition.”

2. Emotion first: Appeal to people’s emotions as well as logic. Finance is an extremely emotional and personal issue. “We weren’t afraid to initially approach it with emotion and then provide tools and education after the emotional appeal.”

3. Integrated campaign: PR and internal brand communications are just as crucial as advertising.

4. Media partnerships: Initiated focused, vertically cohesive media partnerships that lengthened reach while experimenting with new media channels.

5. Inside out: “Internal branding started first and our November 2010 launch was focused on employees. We wanted to get employees across the country engaging with the new campaign and turning into brand ambassadors for Lincoln.”

 

PS - Do you want to grow your marketing database? I’ve recently partnered with lead generation expert Jeff Ogden to offer an exciting new program to help you do this. Check out this brief video below to learn more.

Filed Under: b2b marketing, B2B PR, B2B Public Relations, Blog | Leave a Comment