As we market our way through the twenty-first century, digital marketing accounts for a growing portion of the B2B marketing and advertising budget, and rightfully so.
The question is, among all these changes, what is the role for traditional B2B PR and trade press relations?
The move to digital came slower to B2B than to consumer marketing. Not too long ago, many companies blocked employee access to social media sites, regarding their workforce’s glimpses at Facebook or Twitter a waste of productive time. However five trends enabled digital to enlarge its presence in the B2B marketing mix.
- The growth in popularity of mobile devices, which enabled their users to peek at social media throughout the workday.
- The entry of gen X and the millennial cohort, for whom social media was part of their lifestyle, into the professional and managerial workforce. If this is the way this group absorbs information, why not exploit it?
- Recognition that social media and blogs could enable marketers to make a connection with their market and build relationships.
- Evolving positive regard for social media. Mass-market social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter are being used to make contact with the B2B market, and LinkedIn has become a serious business tool for building relationships and identifying prospects.
- The possibility offered by SEO and web site analytic tools that finally allow marketers to get a better handle on what works, which with traditional marcom wasn’t always the care. Remember John Wannamaker’s classic complaint: “Half my advertising is wasted, I just don't know which half?”
With this rapidly adapted technology, the walls holding back the adoption of B2B digital came tumbling down. A recent study from Outsell on B2B advertising found that advertising spending will grow 5% overall in 2016. On the other hand, digital advertising in numerous categories will grow 25%. This translates into digital accounting for more than half—$83 billion—of the total $161.4 to be spent this year.
Sure, the new technologies driving marketing are cool, but they also bring many strengths when it comes to reaching out to the market. Digital gives marketing professionals greater control over messaging, greater agility, a much higher level of metrics to track performance, and the ability to build relationships with prospects in advance of the sales call.
So as digital grows robustly, does this mean traditional trade press PR is dead?
First, let’s define what we are talking about. B2B PR comprises the press releases and thought-leader articles generated by companies in the B2B sphere, which the trade press uses for the content that goes out to their readership.
The “industrial” publications that deal with the manufacturing and processing sectors tend to accept company-submitted articles. Publications catering to the tech markets are mostly staff written, though editors interview subject matter experts from industry manufacturers and service providers.
Even through the number of trade print publications is shrinking, your prospects still prefer the experience of holding a paper magazine in their hands. ABM conducted a survey that found 96% of media users still read trade magazines, with 45% reporting that they read a print magazine at least weekly.
Here is the key from the study. Of the respondents, 74% said they go back and forth between traditional print and digital media.
When we speak of the marketing mix, trade press PR is very much part of it. Here's how print supports the digital side of the budget.
Building Your SEO Score
Recently Washington Post Chief Editor Marty Baron (you might recall him from the movie Spotlight) talked about how traditional newsrooms resisted the coming changes brought on by the deluge of digital, but the smart operations found ways to adapt and embrace the changes.
So it has been with trade press publishers. Just about all the major (surviving) trade press publications are on-line. Many of the magazines have gone beyond what they offer on a periodic basis in print and have expanded the impact of their digital platform by offering timely industry news and web exclusives.
For many publications, on-line monthly visits are at least half of print circulation and growing, with readership comprising both print subscribers and those who find their way to the page. Along with reaching a wider audience, these web appearances will enhance your SEO scores, especially if you make the effort to work keywords into your content.
Building Your Reputation
There is a big difference between your company name appearing in an ad and being the by-line in an article. Readers know that the ad is paid for, while an editorial implies that the editor regards this article as useful information. The beauty of being in the trade press is that even up-and-coming companies with something important to talk about can get exposure.
Moreover, the investment in trade press editorial is modest. From my experience, the company’s investment in placing an article and developing the content for comparable space in a trade magazine is one-fifth of the cost of a paid ad. This enables you to achieve what is really effective in any communications—frequency.
A stronger reputation will consequently reflect on all of your other marketing activities, including digital.
Building an Audience for Your Blog
Having one or more company blogs is a great way to build a high level of regard for your company and a connection with customers and prospects, but your audience will build slowly. Though some companies have seen their blogs go viral, in reality most of these efforts reach scores or hundreds of people.
Compare that to trade magazines, which can get your name and expertise out to thousands. In addition, your editorial can drive traffic to your website, potentially creating a mass of prospects who will find out more of what you have to say on your blog.
Building a Highly Regarded Inventory of Content
In the process of curating B2B content, especially if you are using a content automation program, trade press editorial fits neatly. When thinking about posting on your blog or on LinkedIn, consider breaking down the trade press articles longer than two pages into serialized posts.
What’s more, the link for an article can enable you to fire off a number of Facebook posts and tweets. Starting from the opposite end, working up blog topics can inspire a larger format article. Either way, the cycle of articles and postings can build prospect relationships and a powerful level of top-of-the-mind awareness.
Building a Better Website
Whenever an article from your company appears on-line, the first place it should go is on your company web page. Companies I know have appeared in the trade press, and it puzzles me to know that those article are absent from their web pages. These companies are missing out from the collateral benefit of kicking up their SEO scores, and not taking advantage of the positive effect being in the trade press can have on their market reputation.
Building a Basis for Video
Putting your expertise in motion is an excellent way to enhance the effect of your information. When you think of producing an article for trade press publication, get visual and determine whether the content could also work as a video. Many trade press publications welcome collateral material along with a submitted article, and video is an excellent way to expand your message. It also provides stand-alone content for your digital program.
Far from being on the way out, B2B trade press PR will be viable into the future, even as older professional workers head off into retirement so they can spend more time with their grandchildren – on social media. For marketing departments that want to maximize their digital programs, print and on-line publications offer many opportunities to pull prospects into the social media loop and beef up your SEO scores. Because the allure of digital marketing is leading some to abandon traditional PR despite its effectiveness in building a company’s reputation, the opportunity for others to take advantage of traditional PR is even bigger.