Tag Archive for: content strategy

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 Trend #6: Paid Placements vs. Advertising

Paid placements look different today than they did even three years ago, and some have highly credible thought leadership opportunities. Used strategically, these paid thought leadership opportunities  can provide a platform and opportunity to share a distinctive point of view. Consider these content strategy opportunities within the context of both media coverage and advertising so you can activate and optimize their benefits.

As a respected and experienced PR agency, a question we get all the time is, “Can you guarantee coverage?” The answer to this question gets cloudier and cloudier as the media world evolves. First, let me explain that earned media, the most valuable coverage, comes from a respected media producer and media outlet. This kind of coverage can not be guaranteed, but a good PR firm can improve your chances considerably. This is what we call earned media, and it’s what most people think of when they think of PR. Yet today, there are options for paid content. This content trend looks a lot like editorial coverage, and in some cases, it goes through a rigorous editorial process, but it is not earned media. I think it is critical to understand the differences between paid placements in magazines and earned media coverage in magazines and TV. If you’re of a certain age, you may remember these as “advertorials.” Paid content is different from advertising, primarily because of the format. Paid placements rarely offer any analytics or tracking in the way digital advertising offers; they are more of a digital PR tool.

You’ll see disreputable PR agencies advertising these kinds of placements as “guaranteed coverage.” The reason this is unethical is that these are NOT coverage; they are placements Paid placements have a variety of options and availabilities, and we believe paid placements have a role in a strategic reputation or awareness-building campaign.

Guaranteed Paid Op-Eds and Editorials

From Rolling Stone to Forbes to Entrepreneur and beyond, numerous outlets allow thought leaders to publish their points of view. This privilege comes with an annual membership cost.

Each of these publications accepts submissions which undergoes a rigorous editorial process. However, none of these publications will allow you to advertise your product or your company outright through this platform. You must still provide value to the reader, and these pieces are published when the outlet decides to publish them; the writer has very little control over the timing. The membership will include a bio profile and photo of the writer, and typically, this will contain a link to your website; these are high-quality links and can be a nice addition to your SEO efforts.

When we offer these to our clients, we are completely transparent about the pricing and the conditions. Typically, we ghostwrite the pieces with approval from the thought leader and walk the piece through the editorial process. Because we understand the process, our pieces are typically accepted on the first submission, but we know exactly how to handle the revisions and corrections when they aren’t. This is important because the first round of editorial review can take up to four weeks, and if there is a second editorial review, that too can take up to four additional weeks. To keep the process moving, you want your piece to be well-written and meet the editorial standards the first time.

Supposedly, you can publish unlimited articles for your membership cost. Still, between bandwidth and editorial timelines, the most we’ve seen our clients push through is six times a year. Still, there are six outstanding opportunities to share your point of view. Also, these are strictly online pieces, they will never be published within the print version and I’ve never seen them on the primary landing page of the online magazine.

One of the most important aspects of these articles is activating them; writers should share them in owned content, like newsletters and on social media. After all, if you want to share your point of view, then share it. These pieces will still have a level of cache, providing you with a more elevated platform than social media. Some paid placement publications will allow you to republish the article after a certain time, which means they could be repurposed on LinkedIn or blog.

Paid Content in Magazines

What if you don’t have much to say and aren’t ready to step into a thought leader’s shoes? There are also paid article publication options—from business to niche lifestyle, publications like USA Today to US Weekly, and even Tech Crunch. While some outlets may charge as little as $2,000 per article, the more prestigious the publication and the better the offering, the more expensive—sometimes $30,000 and up.

We offer these options to our clients less often, but sometimes, they make sense as part of a larger content strategy. The offer varies by publication, but these pieces are usually submitted and already completed and will undergo rigorous editorial oversight. Sometimes, they will include a “do follow” link, and sometimes, they won’t. Our services include writing the piece in an editorially acceptable way to reduce the back-and-forth cycle of editorial changes. For our bespoke clients, paying that much for a single placement rarely makes sense when you’re working with a firm that’s securing 3 to 4 pieces a month; even with our boutique PR pricing, the per-piece price becomes much more attractive, especially when combined with our strategic oversight.

Unlike earned content, which usually stays up as long as the outlet exists, sometimes paid placements appear for a certain amount of time (e.g., three months) and then disappear. Sometimes, the pieces will include disclosures like “sponsored” to indicate to the reader that this is not news; today’s readers understand the implications of sponsored content as much as they know paid partnerships from influencers; the reader accepts the content as paid, and will read it if it’s good content, but they do not have the same value because the reader understands the difference.

Remember that paid placements rarely appear on the front page of the magazine’s website and certainly don’t appear in any of the printed versions. The key advantage is the ability to control the message a little more. While all these outlets will also have an editorial process, you will have more control over the piece’s shape and even possibly links to your website within the piece, which happens more rarely in earned media. Again, activating these sponsored articles can add much value to your investment.

Press Releases: Paid Content Old School

Press releases are a unique tool. They are completely in your control, yet there is a very expected format for them; deviating from this format is a reputational ding for journalists. If a journalist sees a poorly formatted press release, they will assume you don’t have PR representation, which could impact whether they approach you or how they approach you. Today’s press releases hold value as a powerful piece of paid content within a branded search—they rarely generate earned media by themselves.

You control your press release for the most part. You may not make libelous claims, and there are some other editorial conditions, but most companies never encounter any issues. Press releases can typically be issued quickly. Press releases for publically traded companies have some additional requirements.

The pricing on press releases is mostly determined by the credibility of the outlets that republish your press release along with the length of time they stay up.  While your press release will also be on the press release site, most press releases published by online outlets like Yahoo Finance stay up for a certain period time. How accessible your press release is in a branded Google search is also variable. If you want your press release to be visible and even included in the “news” section, then the pricing will be more expensive.

Paid Product Placement

Some television segments offer paid product placement. Typically, the hosts engage with the product and discuss how they would use it. Other segments are pre-recorded and distributed to multiple stations.

These placements also must qualify for the segment in various ways and often be relevant to a gift-giving season or other editorial cycle. We offer these placements within our consumer product PR Sprints for qualified products. Sometimes, the TV show will require that show’s ability to meet demand; sometimes, they will need a split in sales. In some cases, major market TV stations will also allow an in-studio lifestyle segment or interview. The editorial conditions for this are specific and variable. Pricing on TV segments is usually in the 5-figures.

Sometimes, these segments will live on YouTube; sometimes, they won’t. Sometimes there is a written companion on the news website, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes the written companion includes a link, sometimes it doesn’t.

Affiliate Product Placement for Consumer Products

Finally, we have an affiliate product placement. Affiliate links earn a commission on sales for the site that hosts them. You might have seen ads for Rakatun, that’s an affiliate program that gives the commission back to the buyer if they aren’t already using an affiliate link.

We’re seeing more and more that when publications do reviews, they want to include an affiliate link so they receive a commission on the piece; consumer product PR agencies are taking note and developing campaigns accordingly. These pieces are typically in gift guides or other reviews of products lumped together. Occasionally, you may receive a featured piece, a stand alone piece for your product.

Journalists typically work with particular affiliate networks; we’re happy to guide our clients to those networks. A whole genre of journalists only writes articles with affiliate links. On reputable media outlets, you will usually see a disclaimer at the top stating that they have genuinely reviewed and approved the product but may receive a commission if a purchase is made. I think it’s an easy way for readers to support publications, and the disclosure means there are no ethical concerns.

From the reader’s standpoint, there is no difference in experience, but from the brand standpoint, there is. For one, there aren’t direct links to your site. It’s a matter of debate how these links impact SEO, but it’s fair to say there’s no clear answer. Second, the brand is paying a commission on those sales. The brand sets up the commission; setting your commissions is an art and science.

Buyers seem very accepting of these practices, especially GenZ. Because the outlet authentically reviews the product, the brand still gets third-party validation. Because the outlet receives a commission on each purchase, you may find affiliate link articles with a very long shelf life that get promoted on social media and landing pages.

 

In Conclusion

Paid content does have a place in today’s well-rounded marketing and PR campaign. But it’s important to know what you’re getting—and what you’re not. You can bet there’s a catch if it seems too good to be true.

There are so many ways consumer brands can effectively reach audiences today. Brands have a dizzying array of choices; it’s easy to lose track of the difference between paid content, what is sponsored content vs branded content and how does it work with PR? Even the term “media outlets” is confusing because there are so many. For our purposes today, media outlets refer to traditional publications with online versions rather than social media platforms or blogs. Today’s online and print versions (where they still exist) are radically different. There is usually a lot more content on the web version, and there are no space limitations, meaning sponsored and branded content has been democratized. It used to be that only the most prominent brands could afford to buy space in magazines like Women’s Wear Daily or People Magazine, but today, buying content on those online versions is possible for much smaller consumer brands.

 

Sponsored content vs branded content

What is sponsored content?

Sponsored content is produced in collaboration with the brand; the brand has at least some oversight.

Sometimes sponsored content includes indexed links useful to SEO. This is perhaps one of the most compelling advantages of sponsored content. It creates an inbound link from a reputable online source, and it shows up in Google searches, which enhances reputation.

Like an ad, sponsored content may guarantee a certain number of views or placement over a guaranteed amount of time. Some influencers or publications require complete creative control, especially with product reviews. Depending on the outlet, sponsored content, because it has editorial oversight, very often lasts longer, sometimes indefinitely.  Depending on the publication and the format, it will appear with “sponsored” or “ad” designations per FTC guidelines. Branded content can be an article in a publication or an influencer video.

What is branded content?

Branded content is a hybrid of editorial and paid content produced by the publication; it is native-appearing. The placement and content oversight are paid for, and in this way, it differs from earned media. Like sponsored content, branded content is far less interruption than traditional digital advertising. Sometimes branded content includes indexed and because of the editorial oversight, do-follow links useful to SEO.

How to effectively use sponsored and branded content?

The most successful sponsored content and branded does not read like an advertisement.  Instead, it maximizes the space to create entertainment value or evoke an emotional response with storytelling. Creating content that viewers want to read is why paid content is more effective than banner ads. Very often, paid content isn’t even directly about the brand, and it may be a piece of content that distills critical messages to the audience without directly pushing the company; instead, it moves the consumer’s perception of a product or a lifestyle change.

Over and over, I see paid content that feels like a giant ad, and I know it’s because someone in marketing, or maybe even an overly enthusiastic CEO read the copy and said something like,  “There’s no call to action!” or “We aren’t even talking about our product’s best features!” And so the entire piece reads like the brand website. This is such a sad waste of viewer attention. The intent is to create or reinforce the customer journey. Customers almost never buy on the first interaction with a brand, think about paid content as a first or second meeting.

Is paid content effective for consumer brands?

Branded content drives up to 86% more brand recall than traditional advertising. That’s a considerable uptick. So why does anyone do any other form of traditional advertising? The reason is that branded content works because it doesn’t feel like a strong call to action; rather, it feels informative or entertaining, or even like news.

How are branded content and sponsored content similar?

 

How to choose between brand content vs sponsored content? This might be a matter of budget. Experienced content creators like editors at sought-after publications are not cheap.  Sponsored content is often less expensive, and it isn’t usually as in-depth as branded coverage, nor is it always premium quality. Some outlets do not ever place sponsored content in a front page rotation, where they might for premium branded content.

Paid content is effective because, unlike paid advertising, it doesn’t interrupt the viewer’s experience. Very often, there isn’t even a solid call to action in sponsored content. Because there isn’t a strong call-to-action, many brands run ad campaigns alongside their sponsored content to cement brand recall, improving click rates on traditional advertisements. Like an ad, paid content may not be permanently hosted or appear in search indefinitely.  Paid content, when done well, engages the viewer for a longer period than an ad; as importantly, because the view engages with the content, they will be more likely to remember it.

We love paid content because, unlike a traditional ad, it’s usually stickier and can be leveraged in many of the same ways as earned media.

How does it compare to earned media?

Sponsored content feels more trusted than advertisements but not as trusted as independent coverage or reviews. But, like earned media, it provides a way for brands to reach viewers while they’re in the mindset to consume content or while they’re searching for information related to the brand.

Because it isn’t paid, earned media is more trusted, and therefore, more valuable. Also, earned media is permanent. We see search results for earned content that is several years old but still relevant. So earned media is far stickier.

How does it fit in with PR and content strategy?

From a PR and content strategy perspective, we like to use sponsored or branded content to kick off a campaign; this gives us some control over the message early on and guarantees some visibility and search indexing. We use paid content with many of our thought leadership programs, to help leaders develop their voice, their point of view, and reputation. We also use paid content for product introduction. It is not uncommon to see brands use sponsored content in other forms of promotion and advertising.

In short, we think a lot of paid content makes sense with a digitally savvy PR campaign.