Public Relations Tips

Bob Geller from Fusion PR shares his thoughts on public relations.

I’m Bob Geller. I’m President of Fusion PR. We’re a PR and digital communications firm, focusing on the technology sector. Primarily B2B customers and a broad range of technology areas, from finance, fin tech, ad tech, general enterprise, cyber security, block chain crypto currencies, many other types of technology, telecommunication and wireless. And, we primarily focus on the startup companies that are looking to get out there, establish themselves, launch and grow.

PR spans many different channels these days. Think of all the ways we communicate. Think of how communications has changed. So we have several aspects. One is paid media, and you would think paid might be the province more of advertising, but in publications these days, increasingly we’re using pay channels, meaning, if you pay to have an article run, you may have advertising, that can be considered to be PR. Earn media is getting back to the mainstay of PR: media relations, getting coverage in the media. And then there’s own media, which is your own channels: your blog, your website. And shared media is what some would probably consider mostly social media: Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Those are are few of the examples of channels involved in PR these days.

We pride ourselves in the fact that we’re an agency comprised of geeks that can actually communicate, which may seem to be pretty typical, but it’s not. You know, if you’re in communications and focusing on highly-technology sectors, sadly, many agencies don’t have that technology expertise. I’m a former engineer. The agency is built up of subject matter experts from different areas, as well as tech marketing folks. We pride ourselves in being able to walk the walk, talk the talk. I’d say, I mean that’s probably the chief differentiator. But, it’s also important these days to be very creative, proactive, and innovative in communications, because as you might imagine, it’s a very noisy world these days, it’s hard to get attention.

You know, everyone is looking for that growth hack, that trick, the viral success. Unfortunately it’s not so easy to plan those and order them up to make them happy, especially in the B2B arena. So, we find that, I mean it’s great if you can have those things, you can have that viral success, whether it’s a press release or some kind of video, find that amazing growth hack that kind of jump starts your success. More often than not though, it’s a long campaign of being consistent, of using high-quality content, media outreach, combined with knowing where your customers are, and as I mentioned earlier, that’s changing these days, where they find information. And then, developing content, whether it’s news, whether it’s case studies, whether it’s articles, that appeal to the needs of your customers.

That’s a great question, and it’s not always easy to know. I mean there’s no substitute for direct contact with customers, primary information, whether it comes from the sales force or your experience in the field yourself. So it’s kinda getting in the minds of the customer, and trying to understand where their field is at today and where they’re going, what needs drive their buying cycle. What problems come up in implementations. And then, for example on a blog, one of the most popular types of posts is a blog that addresses their pain points of customers, pain points, in an educational way, not in a hard-selling way. And that encourages inbound to your website, and hopefully your registration, and hopefully a customer. The customer’s in the driver’s seat these days. They have so many choices when you think about it. They can change the channel. They can go to a different website. They’re reading an article, they’re distracted by their phone. So you’re not competing just with your competitor’s news. You’re competing with baby pictures on Facebook. You’re competing with the latest interruption. And you have to really be good and have content that really hits home.

There’s a couple I have in mind. One, is for a company that’s a predictive analytics for insurance. Insurance is a field that typically has been a lagger in technology. We helped this company do a good job, as far as establishing themselves as thought leaders and innovators in that space, through primarily byline content. So there’s a small number of publications in that sector, and we knew who they were, we made sure that the content was written to high standards, got placed consistently, and that combined with other tacks over time I think helped the company grow to the point where they were acquired by the giant in their space.

Generally these days, just the hard sell, either something that’s very brand-focused, it’s not necessarily connected with the needs of the customer. It’s much easier to find examples of things that don’t work. We’ve all seen a content that is really uninteresting or looks spammy, click bait, for sure in the tech sector and B2B tech. Being more about features, bits, bites, beads, and feeds, rather than benefits, they’re telling stories that can connect with customers.

I don’t know the exact number, but out of all the money spent in content marketing, out of all the contents produced, most of it goes completely ignored. So, you know, that shows what a challenge it is, and what you need to do to be in that segment that doesn’t get ignored. Visual content certainly helps, whether it’s images, whether it’s videos. There’s evergreen content, which stays relevant and you can reuse it. In the kind of text-based content, trends change. Maybe three or four or five years ago, the click bitty stuff did work. Now, I think we’re finding that authoritative long form content, so called cornerstone content, which may take longer, you can’t crank it out at the same pace, but that provides much better results, combined with short, incisive articles that do it at home.

Be relevant, be interesting, consistency and quality. Try to plan for that wild success. Whether it’s a viral hit or some kind of growth hack. But, in general, it’s a long game building brand, and so you just need to have a campaign of regularly producing the content, whether it’s news, whether it’s case studies, articles, that hit the right channels where your customers are. And that help you achieve your goals over time.

A lot of startups are very engineering or tech-driven, and might not understand marketing so well. They might not understand the power of brand. But think about it. I mean most people buy, they want to do business with brands they respect, they know. They don’t focus in content that’s not interesting. So it’s a combination of these things, and by focusing on long game, I don’t mean there can’t be short-term wins. Certainly, if there’s a big press release, we’re gonna go out there and pitch the hell out of it, and try to get major league coverage, which hopefully will make them smile, and it may, you know, hopefully a sales pipeline, but in general, it takes a while. Think about it. News today is quickly forgotten. There’s so much noise and competing news in the market, that you need to be out there all the time, whether it’s with news or with other types of proactive tactics that get your company in the news and mentioned, and that your customers can see.

There’s a big debate of whether PR’s the right tool to drive sales. No question, especially when you expand the definition of PR into content marketing, which in turn of course can mean inbound marketing that it can be used to drive sales, absolutely.

So we had a client, in fact we still have them today, that focuses on a solution in the enterprise software space, specifically SAP, but they work with other enterprise tech platforms as well. Rather than features and benefits, we used a variety of content: news of course, press releases, articles, blog posts. And we made sure these got populated throughout the channels read by the SAP ecosystem, whether it’s customers, implemented SAP, or the SAP global team themselves. It’s proved to be extremely effective. Over several years working with them, sales have doubled year-over-year. People get very tired of chest beating, and I should add that these guys, I mean they probably would have loved to get the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Having said that, I don’t know if that quite would have moved the needle, as much as media that was actually easier to get, yet was more relevant to their customers.

We do a lot of work in cyber security, as you might imagine it’s a pretty hot field these days. You know, we’re surrounded by threats, whether it’s from hackers or from state-sponsored cyber criminals. Every day in the news it seems like there’s the next hack. So, it’s maybe opportunistic. There are ways to get attention for your clients, but at the same time it’s very competitive. There’s a lot of cyber security startups out there and a lot of cyber security tech companies. One thing we’ve done is something called news jacking, where you scour the headlines, and then if something is breaking news, you try to insert your client into the story, by working with them to quickly develop some kind of statement, perspective on that hack. And in most cases after the first round of stories, it’s gonna be additional stories and reporting, so we get our clients mentioned as experts.

Well, there’s a really good book that came out a couple years ago I think it was it’s called Play Bigger, written by the journalist, Kevin Maney. He’s a pretty famous journalist, and co-authored by principals of consulting group of the same name, Play Bigger. And it’s about identifying a category, and doing what they call category engineering to make sure that your company’s front and center, and kind of owns that category. So, in B2Bs, think of the big names that jumped out. Salesforce is one of course. WeWork. GitHub, you were talking about code that’s stored in the Cloud. Slack, as a communications tool. These are companies that were able to kind of put themselves at the head of the pack by kind of owning category. So called category kings, own 74% of the markets they compete in. So, we try to apply these lessons to our clients as well.

Fusion PR

Kosta BoardStudios.com

Founder of Board Studios Inc, an animation production agency that helps B2B companies simplify and communicate more effectively. Specializing in B2B makes a big difference because we know what information your clients need, what works and what doesn’t. B2B communications can be very different than B2C, so if you get your video explainer from a B2C agency you may not get the results you deserve.

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