Revenue Outcomes

Can you operate in a place where you don’t have a corporate reputation but still sell products? Absolutely. We see companies like that selling products on Amazon all the time. They’re usually the cheapest and accompanied by less-than-credible reviews. Companies like this might sell luxury fakes at the farmer’s market. If you look at these companies, you will find dubious backgrounds or thin reputations. And yet, many of those companies are not trying to change that. This article is not for those companies. This article is for ambitious brands who want to be the premier brand in their category. If you are an ambitious company – how important is company reputation? Investors care about a corporate reputation. They care a lot – and investors dig deeper and look for signals of success when there is economic uncertainty or capital is constrained. So what do investors look for when they consider a company’s reputation?

 

What Are The Benefits of a Positive Corporate Reputation

 

Brand Loyalty

My Dad worked for IBM for many years – and during that time, there was a saying, “No one ever got fired for hiring IBM.” IBM really set the standard for B2B Tech PR. That is a reputation goal. Having that kind of brand trust is invaluable. According to investors, brand loyalty is the number one benefit of a positive reputation.
Consumers see product or service reviews as the #1 type of content most effectively enhancing a company’s corporate reputation. Consumers know there’s no way to run from a bad product, and they also know that people love to crow about a good product – it makes people feel “in the know.” And customers eat up content that confirms their ideas about a particular product and brand, so there is good reason for media outlets and journalists to create this type of content.

Another reason customers love to see your product in the news is that it reconfirms their choices. It appeals to their ego and triggers their confirmation bias. This is especially when the person or brand confirming their choice is one they admire or respect. This is why influencer relations and media relations are two of the most powerful arsenals in your reputation management toolbox.

Investors also noted that a positive corporate reputation positively impacts crisis management as well. Brand trust is also a powerful tool during a crisis. When you have a PR crisis, the loyalty of your customers and their trust in your response will ultimately decide its impact. If customers aren’t buying it, that’s an indication of trust, and it means you’ll have to earn back their loyalty. Securing and maintaining trust is increasingly difficult in our media-savvy and highly volatile world. And it’s true – it is far easier to lose trust than to gain it. But that’s the reason why reputation management and PR are so important to growing companies. What type of content do you believe is most effective in enhancing a company’s corporate reputation?USC Annenberg Global Communication Report

Employee Moral and Retention.

Coming in at #3 was employee morale and retention. Top tier employees want to feel good about where they work, and they don’t want their own personal reputations sullied by bad actors. Great media coverage, from CEO thought leadership to statements about important issues, sends signals to employees that their employers are engaged with the world around them.

It’s not just that  – positive media coverage also excites ambitious employees for another reason: they think they may have a chance to improve their reputations through media opportunities. That could be anything from appearing in a brand video to being interviewed about a new product.

The more employees feel proud of where they work, the more likely they are to be committed to the company and its mission.

USC Annenberg Global Communications Report 2023 - What type of content do you believe is most effective in enhancing your current company’s corporate reputation for employees?
USC Annenberg Global Communication Report

Product Sales

Why would investors consider product sales last? Because sales are something that can be changed reasonably easily with the right investment. Employee morale and stock performance are harder to change; those two are not nimble. Plus, a good corporate reputation might not have a direct line to the purchasing cycle, but trusted companies do better in sales, can charge more, and have longer lifespans than untrusted companies and brands. So if your goal is increased revenue, trust needs to be one of your most critical strategies.

 

Purpose Driven and ESG – Where Do We Stand Today?

During the pandemic, there were some fascinating corporate shifts in purpose, value-driven messaging and sustainability, and it lead to all-time highs of customer trust in companies. People were looking to companies for the moral guidance that was missing from established sources, the CDC, the FDA. Everyone seemed to be ham-fisted, and the only ones communicating clearly were companies. Besides the fact that this underscores the importance of solid communication, it was also a new era in purpose-driven PR. But today, we’re seeing a bit of public backlash and businesses are wondering whether they should continue to social impact, ESG, and purpose driven initiatives.

Well, it turns out,  everyone from investors to customers are watching companies and want to support companies with a good compass. In the same report – customers and investors downgraded the idea that companies need to take a stand on important social issues. What this tells us, is people want companies to walk-the-walk and do it without crowing about it all the time – but they DO want to find it and it will impact their buying process, especially when there is a competitor.

USC Annenberg Global Communications Report 2023 - Purpose Driven and ESG in the eyes of consumers and investors.

Reputation building is THE most important outcome for PR, because with a positive reputation, all things are possible. The doors of opportunity open faster, and stay open longer. Contact us today for a reputation assessment that provides you with insights that give you the competitive edge you need to reimagine the future of your company.

I have a friend who once described PR as the “dark arts,” and while I completely disagree with that assessment, what he was getting at is he really didn’t understand how PR works. Reputable PR firms are the opposite of “dark arts”; they’re very transparent. There are some tools of the trade that PR agencies keep close to themselves, but really, there isn’t anything magical about HOW PR works; it’s just a specific combination of relationships, hard work, strategy, and culture. And that specific combination takes a long time to acquire, requiring commitment to the craft. But why PR is expensive isn’t because of human hours worked. Ultimately, there is a price to the human capital, but that’s not really why PR is expensive.

So, Why Is PR Expensive?

PR is expensive because the outcomes are so important and relevant. PR’s lasting value is in improving a brand’s reputation like no other marketing lever can. For companies wanting to be acquired or IPO, your PR investment ROI could be hundreds of millions of dollars.  PR outcomes range from high valuations at IPO or during capital raises to making advertising more efficient and reducing time to sale for both B2B and B2C customers. In short, it’s not unusual for PR outcomes to be more than 10X the investment. To 10X investment, the most impactful PR aligns with trust and loyalty, which requires consistency.

For many ambitious companies, the long-term benefits of PR are sometimes forgotten, and yet that can be considerable. Due in part to high marketing budgets during the pandemic, brand valuations increased dramatically in 2023 – from 6.3% growth to 9.7% growth.

Your reputation is your most valuable asset.

Why is PR so expensive research

Data from USC Anneberg Communications Report 2023

What is a Good PR Budget?

When considering your PR agency budget, your budget should match your goals. If you’re trying to grow your business, your overall marketing budget and PR should increase.

As of the fall of 2023, according to The CMO Survey, the average marketing budget was 10.6% of budget and 9.2% of revenues. For companies with $10-$25 million in revenue, the average spend was 15.5% of revenues. So, if you’re looking to be above average, your overall marketing budget should be higher than that. For companies under $10 million in revenue, the number was 19% of revenue. And consumer packaged goods reported spending 25% of their budget on marketing and PR.

If you’re an ambitious brand or fast-growing company, your budget could be 25% of revenue – is that aggressive? Yes. It is. Again, that’s a budget to grow considerably. A good rule of thumb for your budget might break down like this: 20% content, 20% advertising, 20% PR, 20% SEO, 20% activations.

While your distribution might vary depending on your goals – for example, if you’re raising money or looking for a M/A event, you might skip advertising all altogether and move that to PR and content. Alternatively, if you’re a consumer brand,  you might increase the content and advertising portions and focus your PR budget on certain campaigns. Emerging industries may need larger PR budgets because they need to create public and investor trust.

Based on the rates of PR agencies your budget may be higher or lower based on the experience level of your agency team. Naturally, less seasoned agency teams will be less expensive. But it’s probably more important for you to budget based on your goals.

If you’re ambitious or seeking investment or pre-IPO, your marketing budget should match those very important objectives and allocate 12%-17% of revenues or target valuations to marketing, with a third of that, at least, going to PR. Depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C company.

How Does PR Make a Company More Competitive?

68% of CMOs reported expecting more intense customer rivalry in the coming year. In B2B segments, that number increased to 73%, with 61% expecting more innovation. By themselves, even new products don’t excite people without a story. If your company is new, you need to define a compelling story, and you need to tell it over and over. Whether you’re a tech company, or a consumer product company, PR is a key part of how people discover new products.

According to Nielson, global CMOs said brand recall was the #1 most important goal in media. Advertising is ubiquitous, and advertising is an important part of any marketing budget. After a while, ads blend in a social feed or even on TV. But if your product or CEO is in a magazine, people remember that. They might not even remember WHAT was said, they’ll remember that they saw it there. Brand recall is critical to the sales funnel. If people can’t remember your company, how will they purchase from it?

PR’s lasting impact is its value, including the fact that earned media lives forever. Less than 1% of companies ever get PR for their company, so by being in that top 1%, you’ve already differentiated yourself. Can you start a company without PR? Absolutely. Can your company thrive without PR? No. There are no household names without PR at the table, period. There are no industry leaders without PR.

What’s happening in PR that you need to know about today? PR is a dynamic and powerful tool that can be leveraged for almost any audience, whether they be buyers, investors, or consumers; every one of them is influenced by the media. It’s important to know PR trends’ emerging techniques and tactics, but it’s also important to know whether those trends apply to you. Our clients are ambitious, incredibly so. Businesses that are in hyper-growth are often growing so fast they can’t hire fast enough, and that may be a reason why they’re hiring an agency. So, while understanding trends is important, it’s more important to understand where and how PR trends apply to them.

 

Content Platforms

Expect lots of new content launches attempting to fill the vacuum left by media layoffs and newsroom cuts; there are already many new and different ways to use content today. There are native and sponsored content options in some extremely prestigious outlets, and Substack has taken on a new life. Influencers are using the platform with affiliate links and journalists are using it to source ideas, data, and contacts, and companies are using it to reach the early adopter crowd. Is Substack the new Medium? Possibly. Medium, while not the darling it was a decade ago, still (as of this writing) has a place in the content ecosystem, especially for Silicon Valley – the Substack reader is a little harder to nail down right now and swings dramatically depending on the author.

Stay open to new ideas and places, but think through the ROI of investing in a content strategy on a new outlet too early. There are reasons to be an early adopter and disadvantages as well; be conscious of the pros/cons and include mitigations in your plan for the cons.

Data-Driven PR

This is one PR trend you can’t ignore. Newsrooms at even the largest titles are dangerously understaffed due to massive media layoffs. Setting aside the existential nature of this fact, this presents an opportunity for prepared, well-informed companies to support journalists with information and data the journalist might not have access to or hasn’t been approved to purchase from an expensive research firm. This is especially critical if you’re advocating for a point of view, an idea, or a trend. Data creates validity and context to your claims. It’s simply not enough to make a statement and assume people will believe you. Your press releases, media pitches, and social media need relevant data to back up your claims; anything without third-party validation is just an ephemeral idea.

Spend time considering what data you need to support your claims and ideas, and then put that data into an easy-to-understand context. And find conflicting data or other data to support yours so you can open the door to a deeper conversation about why the data matches or doesn’t. Data points don’t have to be statistics; they can be before/after photos or videos and be reviews and case studies. Think about all the ways your ideal buyer would like to see data articulated.

But press releases aren’t the only place where data is essential. Your PR strategy needs to be data-informed, too. You’re already behind if you’re not using all the technological tools at your disposal, including AI, for key messaging and media opportunities. Revaluate the data every six months to ensure your strategy keeps pace with the data and shifts as needed.

A data-driven approach has other advantages as well:

  1. Competitive Intelligence: Data-driven PR extends beyond internal metrics. It includes monitoring competitors, industry trends, and market sentiment. This competitive intelligence enables us to position our clients strategically, capitalize on market gaps, and stay ahead of evolving industry landscapes.
  2. Budget Optimization: PR budgets are valuable resources, and data helps us allocate them efficiently. We can optimize budget allocation for maximum impact by identifying high-performing channels and tactics. This ensures that every dollar spent contributes to overall campaign success.

Brand Authenticity

This isn’t as much a PR trend as it is an expectation. What do you stand for? What do you stand behind? What are you willing to stake your reputation on? Today’s media is suspicious of big claims. From sustainability to authority, if you’re staking your ground on a big claim, it’s best to ensure your business practices can defend these claims. It’s increasingly OK to say “we’re trying,” that’s the point of many annual ESG reports – to document the process. Audacious claims take time, and the world will give you space to accomplish those huge goals if you are simply transparent about the process.

This PR trend, to some degree, replaces “purpose-driven PR” as a trend. Why? Because it’s still expected that businesses will be good actors, but simply being a purpose-driven company isn’t enough anymore. Companies are expected to have built-in from the inside out and to implement this purpose beyond the PR advantages.

Your press releases and website are key areas where you need to create trust most because they are the two most prominent ways people new to your brand will find you. Every item that comes up in the first five results during a brand search is critical to your reputation; it should feel consistent and reinforce your brand authenticity.

Employee moral benefits from brand authenticity as well. Your corporate communications should reinforce your brand authenticity as well. 2023 was the year of “return to work demands from CEOs.” Businesses have lots of reasons to demand employees return to the office, and employees have lots of reasons to hate it. This automatically makes this communication divisive. While there were hundreds of thousands of “return to office” initiatives, only a visible few made news. Why? They typically made news because the tone was antithetical to the brand or there was a threat attached to the change in policy.

If your brand is divisive and threatening and the culture is anti-employee, then this is on brand, and you may proceed accordingly. If that’s NOT your brand, then communications like this need to be handled consistent with your company’s values, authentically.  It’s not that a company can’t change policies – they do it all the time, but when those policies don’t match the brand promise, internally or externally, expect backlash.

Laser Focus vs. Bucket Outreach

Today’s PR firms have access to thousands and thousands of journalists at their fingertips. We all pretty much have the same access – it’s not whether you know the journalist; it’s WHAT you send them that differentiates the pitch and determines its success. Not that they were ever appreciated, but gone are the days where you could blanket the press with a pitch and expect any premium outcomes. That’s why we advise our clients to look at press releases differently than in the past.

Today’s media relations experts know that every single outreach is a reflection on themselves, their agency, and the brand, and they take the time to treat journalists like humans rather than a transaction. Does media coverage get broken down into stats like reach, views, and authority? Yes. But the “relations” part of media is what makes it happen. A journalist never looked kindly upon a brand (or agency) that spammed them with irrelevant updates. Never has it been more off-trend to send mass emails to journalists. If your PR firm does this, they’re damaging your reputation along with theirs. But it’s not just the negative consequences of an impersonal pitch; the advantages of a personalized one are really valuable.

  1. Stand out from the crowd: A personalized pitch stands out amidst the sea of generic emails. It shows effort, thoughtfulness, and a genuine desire to collaborate. This distinctiveness increases the likelihood of the pitch being noticed and considered for coverage.
  2. Respect is always good PR. Journalists have tight schedules and limited time for sifting through pitches. A personalized pitch respects their time by presenting information concisely and directly relevant to their needs. This efficiency is appreciated and increases the chances of your pitch being read and acted upon.
  3. Human Connection: In the world of media, establishing a human connection is paramount. Personalized pitches enable a genuine connection between the pitch sender and the journalist. It transforms a pitch from a mere business transaction to a conversation between individuals, fostering trust and engagement.
  4. Relevance and Customization: Personalized pitches allow for tailoring content to align with the journalist’s interests, beat, and previous work. This customization ensures that the pitch is not only relevant to the journalist but also demonstrates a clear understanding of their preferences and areas of expertise.

AI is a Fairweather Friend

Unpopular PR trend opinion. Guess what? ChatGPT and any generative AI are excellent tools for many things; your brand content and press releases are not among them. Sure, you can use ChatGPT to give you ideas, but anything that ChatGPT gives you has already been written because ChatGPT is just a giant internet scraper. So if you’re looking to differentiate, create a memorable connection or a news-breaking idea – use ChatGPT as an idea starter, not a complete solution. While we’re at it – remember that not all information on ChatGPT is accurate anymore, and it doesn’t do a good job of contextualizing the source or timing of information. So ChatGPT for content is a valuable tool, but you must understand its limitations.

AI is a fairweather friend not only for content but also for research. Unless you’re paying handsomely for AI research, it’s probably outdated and possibly inaccurate. Free AI simply isn’t good enough yet to be used in business planning or PR research.

  1. Lack of Human Touch: PR is inherently about relationships, and a crucial element of successful relationship-building is the human touch. AI, by its nature, lacks the emotional intelligence and nuanced understanding that human interactions require. The personal connection, empathy, and intuition essential in PR can’t be replicated by algorithms.
  2. Understanding Complex Narratives: PR often involves conveying complex narratives, brand stories, and nuanced messages. AI may struggle to fully comprehend the intricacies of these narratives and might simplify or misinterpret key elements. Executive-level PR professionals can navigate the subtleties and adapt messaging to resonate effectively with diverse audiences.
  3. Adaptability to Dynamic Situations: PR is dynamic, and strategies often need to be adapted on the fly based on real-time events and changing circumstances.  PR professionals excel in their ability to think on their feet, pivot strategies swiftly, and make decisions considering the broader context—an agility AI currently lacks.
  4. Creativity and Innovation: Crafting compelling stories and innovative campaigns requires a level of creativity that AI hasn’t fully mastered. The ability to think outside the box, generate fresh ideas, and adapt creative strategies to suit specific clients or situations is a uniquely human strength.
  5. Ethical Considerations: PR involves ethical decision-making, and judgment calls that go beyond data analysis. PR professionals are equipped to navigate ethical challenges, make value-based decisions, and uphold the integrity-and authenticity- of their clients. AI lacks the ethical compass that humans possess.
  6. Unpredictable Stakeholder Interactions: Stakeholder interactions in PR are highly unpredictable and can vary widely. Human PR professionals excel in building relationships with diverse stakeholders, adapting communication styles to different personalities, and navigating the complexities of human interactions, which can’t be replaced by AI.
  7. Contextual Understanding: AI may struggle with understanding the contextual nuances that are crucial in PR. Humans excel in interpreting cultural, social, and industry-specific contexts, tailoring communication accordingly. This contextual understanding is vital for effective PR campaigns.

Crisis Planning is Essential

Never has it been more important for companies to clearly define what a crisis IS (and isn’t), and what will happen in the essential minutes if there is a crisis. In a world where millions of messages can spread around the world in an instant, crisis communication planning is required for any company looking to grow.  It isn’t just enterprise companies that have crisis communication risks. When Silicon Valley Bank crashed, thousands of startups were caught in the crosshairs of a heavily covered media crisis, and very few of them had any plans or resources to react. What about crisis planning for an influencer meltdown, or a product recall? What will you do if a competitor goes on national TV and slams your brand or if a TV personality publicly slams your brand?

Crisis communication planning isn’t just a precaution—it’s a strategic imperative. Here’s why we emphasize the vital role of crisis communication planning:

  1. Proactive Reputation Management: Crisis communication planning is a proactive approach to safeguarding your brand’s reputation. By anticipating potential crises, developing response strategies, and establishing communication protocols, you are better positioned to manage and mitigate the impact on your brand’s image.
  2. Timely and Coordinated Response: Time is of the essence during a crisis. Having a well-thought-out communication plan ensures a swift and coordinated response. This agility is crucial for addressing issues promptly, minimizing misinformation, and maintaining control of the narrative.
  3. Building Stakeholder Trust: Trust is the bedrock of any brand. In times of crisis, stakeholders—including customers, employees, and partners—seek transparency and authenticity. A carefully crafted crisis communication plan helps you communicate openly, demonstrating accountability and a commitment to resolving issues.
  4. Navigating Media Scrutiny: Media scrutiny can intensify during a crisis, and having a predefined communication strategy enables you to engage with the media effectively. Whether providing accurate information, managing media inquiries, or disseminating updates, a well-planned approach helps you navigate media challenges confidently.
  5. Protecting Employee Morale: Employees are a crucial asset, and their morale can be deeply affected during a crisis. A clear communication plan ensures that employees are kept informed, reducing uncertainty and anxiety. This, in turn, contributes to maintaining a cohesive and resilient workforce.
  6. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Crises often bring legal and regulatory implications. A comprehensive crisis communication plan considers these factors, ensuring that your communication aligns with legal requirements and regulatory standards. This safeguards your organization from legal ramifications.
  7. Learning from Past Incidents: Effective crisis communication planning involves analyzing and learning from past incidents. This iterative process allows organizations to refine their strategies, update protocols, and continuously improve their ability to handle crises.
  8. Preserving Customer Relationships: Customers are quick to react during a crisis, and their loyalty can be tested. A well-executed crisis communication plan helps you reassure customers, address their concerns transparently, and maintain a positive relationship even in challenging times.
  9. Preserving Market Value: A poorly managed crisis can have lasting effects on market value. Crisis communication planning is an investment in preserving and, in some cases, even enhancing the market value of your brand by demonstrating resilience and a commitment to responsible management.

Buyers are Craving Certainty

All B2B and B2C buyers crave certainty, stability, and trust. It’s been a wild and wooly five years, and this being an election year, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. While inflation is starting to improve, buyers are still getting used to the “new prices” on items that have essentially stayed mostly flat for a decade or more. In exchange for their hard-earned dollars, buyers want to feel their purchase has been valued and that it’s with a company or product they can trust. Your company needs to be firing on all cylinders to secure new revenues, and buyers simply won’t tolerate actions that create instability or a disconnect between themselves and the brand.  This is another reason thought leadership still plays a crucial role in today’s PR.

This goes for actions big and small. This is why crisis planning is essential, but it’s not just a highly visible PR crisis that brands must stay alert to. If your CEO reschedules meetings regularly, that’s a red flag for potential business partners and media; it makes any and all PR more difficult to get lifted.

If you’re raising an investment round, you may have considered PR. Whether someone suggested it to you or you’re PR curious, you’ve probably wondered why PR comes up so often when you’re seeking investment. From your Series A and beyond, a good reputation helps you raise more money faster. PR helps you attract investors, provides ongoing confidence to investors, and helps the company’s valuation. These are the reasons investors like to see companies use some investment funds for marketing and PR. They know you can run a profitable business without PR, but you can’t be the market leader without PR. So, when should a startup hire a PR firm?  We work with a lot of companies either seeking acquisition or raising funds. Let’s dig deeper into how PR helps secure investors.

First Step: Segment Awareness

Many companies discount B2B or industry PR because industry publications don’t have the public cache of larger business publications like Bloomberg or the Wall Street Journal.

But that’s a mistake. Industry PR is one of the most underrated PR assets when looking for investors. Investors often circle an emerging industry sector, like healthtech or cleantech or cannabis,  to find opportunities, and vertical publications are a great resource. Let’s face it – your startup will not be a unicorn until you’re a segment leader. This type of PR might include thought leadership or owned content campaigns. If your company does not have many search results, industry PR is a natural first step.

There’s another reason to start there: it’s excellent practice. Having 10-15 interviews under your belt really makes a huge difference when you DO get an interview with a national publication. And these credible pieces show investors you’re ready for a capital raise.

Use Data and Insights for VC Funding

A key trend in securing media is providing data to journalists. Journalists are more constrained than ever before. Third-party, statistically relevant data is the crown jewel for consumer business publications like Fortune and Bloomberg. But if you don’t have that kind of research, especially if you’re a SaaS company use the data at your disposal. I don’t mean customer data, I mean information like trends that your product is seeing.

The media isn’t the only stakeholder group that loves data: VCs do, too. Having this data really gives you many ways to capture VC attention, drive and lead conversations, and earn trust from stakeholders. And the best part? You can keep some of this data private and in your pitch deck, which you can use in your funding pitches.

Build Today for Tomorrow’s Funding

Less than 1% of companies appear in the Wall Street Journal or Forbes. Earned media is valuable because it’s difficult to secure, and the credibility factor is greater than anything you can buy. But quality PR is a marathon, not a sprint, and the investment in PR becomes more valuable over time because the more press you secure, the more likely you are to be seen as credible.

Sometimes, companies who are raising funds come to us to help them close a deal. They say, “If I could get a few pieces of press next week, that would be great.” While we might assist you with some sponsored content or contributed content, that’s still an incredibly tight turnaround for us, in part because we don’t know your brand, your voice, and your leadership. And unless you’re already in the news cycle, it’s even less likely a company will secure earned media in that time frame.

PR for investors takes time. PR is branding to journalists. Here’s a typical situation: our groundwork pays off when a newsjacking opportunity presents itself, and journalists trust our client because we had been building that trust for three months already. After that, the company became a credible source for relevant topics for some of the world’s biggest media outlets.

Remember, credibility is not something you turn on and off; it’s something you nurture and guide. That’s PR, and that’s why it’s so valuable when you’re raising capital.

Added Bonus: Crisis PR Preparation

When you’re in the middle of a raise, that’s the last time to scramble for crisis PR. Should you have a crisis, whether that’s a product recall or something more complicated, when you’re raising money or pre-IPO, PR can be the difference between simply surviving and thriving after a crisis.

Crisis campaigns start at $20,000, and that’s after you find a PR firm while your crisis is spinning out of control. When you have a PR firm on retainer, the crisis will still be expensive, but your management of it will be swifter, more strategic, and more effective. With the help of a good PR firm, you can steer your way through the crisis and out the other side with confidence and your brand intact. You might even get bonus points from investors for handling the crisis well.

Taking care of your reputation always pays dividends. When the timing is right to raise capital, that’s a great time to hire a PR agency. A good reputation will help you raise more money, faster.

With the emergence of ChatGPT, the world is waking up to changes in content. While these disruptions aren’t always visible to the average reader, top PR agencies have been aware of these changes for quite some time; well before AI-generated content. These changes are impacting all media, including tier one media outlets. These changes aren’t all bad – in fact, for PR savvy B2B companies, leveraging these opportunities can be game-changing. Whether you’re a challenger brand, an emerging industry or Pre-IPO, from CleanTech to HealthTech to Cannabis and AI companies, these are the 2024 B2B media trends leaders need today.

 

2024 B2B Media Trend #1: Thought Leadership, Not Just for CEOs

While CEOs will always play an important role in B2B brand reputation, today’s B2B companies can leverage other brilliant C-Suite leaders to expand their horizons and speak directly to their customer base. Let’s say you’re a SaaS platform for accountants – why not take advantage of thought leadership opportunities for your CFO? Your CEO probably has insights your customers and potential customers would really appreciate, and the signal you’re sending to them is “we get you.”

There’s no reason your C-Suite leaders need even to write their own content, ghost writers do the heavy lifting. In fact, from a brand reputation and thought leadership standpoint, having a ghostwriter is the most optimum choice. Top PR agencies have excellent writers in their ranks and you can take full advantage of their decades of discipline by leveraging that talent to do the heavy lifting of creating content calendars and ideas, not to mention eagle-eye editing.

While owned content remains extremely important, third-party thought leadership opportunities abound today. Never have there been so many opportunities for the C-Suite to make their mark. Today’s ambitious leaders are contributing to Forbes, Newsweek, Entrepreneur, and even industry verticals regularly. And that’s relevant because according to eMarketer, content marketing is the #2 channel driving revenues for B2B companies.

 

2024 B2B Media Trend #2: Give Me The Data

As advertising revenues decrease for top publications, there have been huge swaths of layoffs for journalists. Today’s freelance journalist doesn’t have the weight of the publication behind them in the same way and that means gathering marketplace, consumer, or trending data is harder than ever.

B2B companies can double down on earned media by commissioning credible research or leveraging their own data to provide insights to journalists on trending business stories. And remember, even the top business publications are chasing stories that are of broader interest to the public. Data is the hero of B2B PR – use it.

Not only will using data give you a burst of earned media coverage, but your customers will appreciate it, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. A well-structured survey will be useful throughout the year and position your company as the top of your industry immediately. Reports like this are also an excellent way to build out your database of potential customers.

Is commissioning credible data expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Only if you enjoy seeing your company in media outlets like Fortune, Inc., and Bloomberg. Even the Wall Street Journal uses third-party data, and there’s nothing like a quote from your leadership that solidifies a point of view with hard data.

While we’re at it, make PR decisions based on data, too. Modern PR firms have access to data that extends beyond reach and impressions. Identify target KPIs with your PR agency and demand they keep track of those KPIs quarterly. Your stakeholders, like B2B investors, will love this data and allow you to create credibility. Avaans Media uses a combination of social listening and AI to project trends and report on KPIs.

 

2024 B2B Media Trend #3: The Purpose Matters

As 2024 is an election year, there will be ever more eyes on how businesses impact culture. B2B companies can help their customers and themselves by articulating purpose beyond making money. Purpose-driven PR isn’t just for consumer brands anymore. This is especially true for Pre-IPO B2B companies.

Numerous B2B brands have leveraged purpose to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, Purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees, more loyal customers, and are better at innovation and transformational change.” Purpose is your secret weapon to productivity and PR because purpose gives you another connection to make to timely news stories, especially trending stories like climate and the changing labor force.

If all that isn’t reason enough, because so many B2B leaders shrug off purpose-driven initiatives, it’s a great way to create a competitive advantage, even and especially when there is uncertainty.

2024 B2B Media Trend #4: Re-Thinking Social Media for B2B Companies

For the past two decades, Twitter was the town hall that gathered VC, potential customers, and media. PR-savvy CEOs took a personal interest in Twitter and knew how to leverage it. What’s more – media outlets LOVED going to Twitter to find sources, take a pulse, and find perspectives. But today, Twitter (X) is a red hot mess. The platform is unstable; the future is uncertain; the bots and trolls have taken over, and media outlets have jumped ship because of reduced credibility. There has been an onslaught of Twitter replacements, from Meta’s Threads to Jack Dorsey’s Blue Sky. But neither of them have quite reached the levels of Twitter (yet). But LinkedIn is a trusted standby and more and more professionals, including journalists, are finding refuge there.

LinkedIn has so many ways to improve a B2B brand, but one of our favorites is the LinkedIn newsletter. Leverage this this with premium content gets delivered right to the inboxes of your subscribers. Inboxes that your newsletter doesn’t have access to. LinkedIn is also experimenting with AI-generated content that allows thought leaders to contribute.

2024 B2B Media Trend #5: Use Your PR for Recruitment and Sales

Media coverage provides proof to investors, clients, and the public. But it also provides social proof in recruiting and sales.

From a recruiting standpoint, when your brand is an industry leader, PR helps you attract the best talent. This is especially important for hypergrowth companies who need top talent to take them to the next level or emerging industries that need to establish broader credibility. Your media coverage tells a candidate as much about you as your recruiter does. Plus, ambitious employees like to imagine that there is room for them to be included in media coverage.

PR takes a lot of heat for not being trackable. We disagree, PR is trackable, when your PR is aligned with your business strategies. But nowhere is that more clear than how PR increases revenue. PR helps your current customers stay confident in their choice, reduces friction for new customers, and stimulates potential revenue by allowing you to share solutions that potential customers didn’t even know could be solved.

B2B services are high-stakes. Whether you’re a SaaS company, or provide other enterprise services like Recruiting, CleanTech, or HealthTech, the competition is stiff, and the TAM, while it might be valuable, isn’t likely huge. And with today’s high levels of uncertainty, for B2B companies, it’s more important than ever to make the decision-making process easier than ever, secure additional investment or prepare for IPO. So how do winning B2B service companies stay competitive during times of uncertainty?

 

Thought Leadership for B2B Competitive Advantage

B2B CEOs have a bird’s-eye view of their industry and marketplace trends – they have to, so they know how to steer the company. This often includes insights that are valuable to your target buyer. If you haven’t already, now is a great time to use executive visibility to increase brand awareness. Yes, your CEO can and should champion your company, but they can gain the trust of insiders and analysts by contributing to the conversation within your industry.

There have never been more media opportunities for CEOs with distinct points of view. The opportunities are endless, from podcasts to opinion pieces and contributed insights. Take the time to create a topic calendar, and remember that podcasts often book months in advance, and contributed content usually has an editorial process that can take three weeks or more.

If your Google search “Who is [executive name]” doesn’t return pages worth of positive, reputation-building content, now is the time to remedy that. Executive visibility is critical in B2B services.

Leveraging PR as Content

Getting the interview or coverage is great, but you can make that coverage work for you when you leverage your PR. Activating your PR coverage makes it more valuable to you and is a great way to support the journalist. And just like a lot of content, you can re-use your PR for a long time. There’s no shame in sharing it repeatedly on social media. Just use your content judgment about context, platform, and frequency.

 

Owned Content For Trust That Supercharges B2B Services

B2B service companies can stay competitive by leveraging PR; from case studies to reports and statistics, B2B companies make waves and even national news with trends and statistics. General business and industry journalists share something: their love for data. Put together notable data points that you can share in your owned content and use it as a jumping-off point for topical pitches all year long.

While B2B media coverage often depends on long lead times, creating your own content is not. Use owned content to share your own narrative and improve your company’s LinkedIn presence. While we’re at it, consider launching a blog on Medium or LinkedIn. Despite what people say, you can repurpose content on these platforms and they are great inbound links and another way to get your message out to the targeted audience.

 

Be More Than Press Releases

There’s more to PR than press releases. Don’t get me wrong – press releases have a role in the content eco-system, but they aren’t useful for securing media.

For quality B2B coverage, your storytelling must include at least two of these three elements:

  • Timeliness/trending news tie-in
  • Clear audience impact/relevance/newsworthiness
  • Statistics and data which add context or change long-held assumptions

Emerging industry media coverage has an advantage regarding newsworthiness, but be careful not to fall into the lazy PR trap of describing everything as “innovative.” Emerging industries really need to craft compelling stories, and brands that differentiate set the agenda. Look at Marc Benioff at SalesForce. Over the years, SalesForce has set a lot of agendas, from employee culture to event marketing with Dreamforce. Benioff knew that great B2B storytelling spanned an array of topics, and headlines drove trust, and investor confidence, and attracted top talent – he knew not every piece of coverage had to look like a sales piece in order to be effective.

For quality media coverage, you must be ready and able to share who your customers are and how they benefit. Your case studies are critical – while no journalist will write an article based on your case studies, ensuring your spokespersons can articulate the case studies in a brand-consistent, media savvy way will make news coverage even more beneficial.

 

Times of economic uncertainty can be times for groundbreaking growth for B2B companies. Whether your company is pre-IPO or you are raising venture capital, PR is your partner and you can leverage it during times of uncertainty to keep growing when others are flailing.