03 November 2020

The future of B2B public relations: a need for speed and broader appeal

Nick Ford-Young

When it comes to PR, B2B has long been seen as two steps behind B2C. But when it comes to the whirlwind that is 2020, the lag between the two can be measured in months, not years.

Today consumers and businesses alike not only want to see meaningful products, campaigns and messages; they want to see purpose and a public point of view. Consumer demand for transparency in the new world we live in have accelerated this shift – and we’re now in a place where there’s no turning back.

The need for speed and a broader appeal

Financial Times Correspondent, Patrick McFee, says “with the ever-changing media landscape and fewer reporters to cover any given company or topic, we’re finding that the narratives gaining the most traction are those focused on what a product or solution enables at a much broader level beyond the product itself.”

Coupled with this need for a broader appeal, the speed at which news and information now spreads means yesterday’s strategy is out-of-date before you know it. ‘B2B’ and ‘speed’ are not terms that have historically been associated, but while speed and changing consumer sentiment is often seen as an issue primarily for B2C businesses, the impact on B2B today cannot be underestimated.

Three trends to watch in B2B PR

SPEED – data-led insight:

Data that underpins stories will heavily influence the way B2B PR is considered and delivered going forward, whether that be leveraging increased insight and opportunities in a businesses’ own data (for instance, to demonstrate customer trends that only they can see) or through using external data sources to inform content strategy.

The speed at which insights can be developed is increasing exponentially, with real-time data demonstrating trends, sentiment and share of voice in an instant. Today, this must be a key part in informing campaigns – enabling B2B brands to be more light-footed and play into developing trends in real-time.

According to Cision research, 75% of journalists say fewer than a quarter of the pitches they receive are relevant or useful. Using data insight in a timely way to ensure the message is both meaningful and relevant will ensure the topics that matter most to target businesses rise to the top.

BROADENING APPEAL – the rise and rise of thought leadership:

Consumption of straight thought pieces has grown nearly 10% over the past year, and even higher in B2B. 55% of B2B decision-makers also said they see thought leadership as an important way to vet a business – stronger, even, than thought leadership simply being used as a gateway or ‘reason to talk’.

While many B2B businesses have been more shy in putting out genuinely insightful, forward-thinking and standout content – potentially wanting to avoid any mainstream limelight altogether – the times are changing. Those businesses that are able to shine a light on industry relevant issues or opportunities, creating and curating discussion, will be the businesses that are seen as appealing to industry leaders.

Demonstrating purpose:

Historically B2B businesses have frequently hidden behind their organisational structure, not thinking or feeling like they need to act as a consumer facing organisation. But now, just like consumers, B2B customers expect their partners and suppliers to have a point of view and demonstrate a purpose and set of values that align with their own. This is a difficult challenge for many B2B brands – who may need to go back to the drawing board to redefine what in their case these actually are – but once developed, they should be put out there front and centre.

In a COVID world where businesses are seeking more for less, those that are bold and build a story around their purpose in a business relevant way will likely be rewarded for it. For those that can’t, they shouldn’t be afraid to pivot to succeed – we’ve seen whole markets change their focus over the last 6 months, from making ventilators rather than car parts to frontline food boxes rather than food manufacturing. As we move forward, those that find a purpose that resonates will be rewarded for it.

B2B public relations: an exciting outlook

We are increasingly going to see B2B businesses getting more creative, leveraging data and being more comfortable in taking a stance on issues that matter most to their clients, with aligned purpose, values and mission. The combination of increased speed, broadened appeal, well-defined purpose, a data-led approach, and, ultimately, increased creativity makes the future of B2B PR more exciting than ever before.