Marx Communications, B2B Public Relations

Changes in the B2B PR Landscape and How to Adapt

The balance of power in B2B PR has changed. The media, though still influential, no longer controls everything. Since the B2B public relations field is constantly changing and adapting, we will be posting on B2B PR best practices and the transforming face of the industry.

The initial post on this topic is an interview with Brian Kardon, CMO of Lattice Engines. Kardon joined this company in June following an extremely successful 4-year stint at Eloqua. During this time, he was instrumental in helping grow the company from $20 million to $70 million in annual revenue. Before working at Eloqua, Brian was the Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Forrester Research. He performed the same, phenomenal feat there: he helped to more than triple their revenue in 5 years.

WENDY MARX: What’s your primary goal in regards to public relations?
BRIAN KARDON: Each market contains a unique ecosystem of influencers. The PR programs I’ve managed sort the influencers into separate tiers. We design a communication program for each tier that is specific to that group–-frequency of communication, method (face-to-face, email, video conference, etc.), and messages. Contrary to popular belief, all influencers are not made equal. Therefore, one must treat them differently. The elite tier might receive a monthly call from the CEO or myself, along with regular, face-to-face meeting. The next tier might get quarterly, videochat briefings and a monthly email.

It’s absolutely crucial to continue engaging with influencers, whether you need help at the moment or not. I’ve watched a multitude of PR pros pitch ideas to folks who they hadn’t “warmed up” for a period of time beforehand.

In the past, influencers were a quite concentrated group. Nowadays, just about anyone can become an influencer. All they need is a well-read industry blog, newsletter, conference, or consultancy. In the tech field, the utter dominance of Forrester, IDC, and Gartner has been worn down by new powerhouses like Altimeter and Constellation.

Do you view B2B public relations as a lead generation tool?
I never use PR to generate leads, at least not intentionally. I utilize public relations to grow awareness, alter perceptions, and build the top of the funnel. I come from an extremely metrics-driven background–at Forrester, Eloqua, and now Lattice Engines. We measure PR in numerous of ways, but rarely from a lead generation perspective.

Can you mention a few methods you use for PR measurement?
Are there any ways we DON’T measure PR? I review web traffic, amount of inbound links, ratio of new to repeat visitors, branded searches, followers, fans, tweets, retweets, comments on posts, likes… and more. In my experience, the most important aspect is being consistent with what you measure. Using identical metrics over an extended period of time in a consistent way, you gain insight into patterns and trends that indicate what works and what doesn’t.

You should be using measurement to learn, not to point fingers. I’ve honestly learned more from mistakes than from success. The entire PR team must embrace the idea of continuous learning.

In addition, it’s vital to return to overall PR goals. This will vary with each company and campaign. Sometimes the goal might be to raise awareness, other times it could be changing perceptions in a certain way. It’s important to be able to link measurements to the goal at hand.

In your mind, what is the largest change and opportunity today in B2B public relations?
It’s tough to think of another profession that has changed this much in the last decade! A brand is what Google says it is. Press releases are fashioned for organic search purposes. PR is a real-time business. Newsjacking is commonly used as a method of boosting attention. News cycles are often measured in minutes and hours — not days. There’s a completely new technology-based backbone to PR–to communicate, monitor, measure and find opportunities. Posts in blogs effectively function as “link bait” for those linked to the posts. B2B PR pros must all be “in the know” and technically astute in order to survive.

Many of these changes have positive implications. There has never been a better opportunity to interact with influencers than now. You don’t have to get someone to a meeting or on the phone to engage. A tweet, leaving a comment on a blog, a DM, posting or sharing photos and videos are now all ways to start conversations. It’s definitely a two-way street. The most successful folks in PR know how to assist the media and influencers in making a connection or composing a story. They give key, timely info to the proper person in order to build lasting, long-term relationships.

How do you combine your PR efforts with marketing and/or social media?
Collaboration amongst the entire marketing team is crucial to success.
I advise against viewing the agency as a vendor. Instead, they are very much a team member and should be treated as such.

Campaigns need to be spread throughout as many channels as possible. A bright idea can be successful via social, email and live channels. Also, don’t forget about that infographic, video and interview. Connect with influencers using exclusives in ways that personalize the campaign for their specific audience. Tear down the walls separating the compartments of your marketing organization.

What have you learned at Eloqua that you can apply to Lattice Engines?
I learned several truly important lessons:

  • Our agencies were partners at Eloqua. Especially Jess3 (data visualization) and Shift (PR). They helped us conceptualize ideas and construct the marketing framework for them. You have to coax the best work out of your partners. Encourage them. Try something new. Take some chances. Back up your agencies even when complications arise. Really get to know them as people.
  • Go out of your way for your influencers. Make sure you give them credit. Compliment them. Never make negative comments about your company or products. Always be honest and willing to assist.
  • You should have a steller team that can work in real-time and eat digital media for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s not easy to find such a team. Once you have one, do whatever you can to help them grow and learn.
  • Always be open to trying something new. The field is constantly shifting — you don’t want to miss out on any new opportunities. Were you an early adopter of Pinterest? Are you utilizing social sign-on for registration? Is your LinkedIn and Facebook presence optimized?

Can you give an example of effectively feeding an influencer?
There is no better way to develop a relationship than to actually work with an influencer. At Eloqua, our VP of Content Marketing, Joe Chernov, found 20 key influencers for our Social Media ProBook. We asked each for contributions. In return, we gave each contributor his/her own personalized avatar illustration that the contributor could use as a profile picture. This was an amazing, collaborative learning experience, plus it was tons of fun. The contributors not only gave us some exciting content, but also were quite generous by tweeting and blogging about the project. This coverage was worth almost as much as the content they contributed!

This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on

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