In the world of tech start-ups, there’s often a suspicion of large, established firms. This makes sense – tech companies are focused on disrupting the status quo, and nothing screams status quo like a large institution.
Yet, when it comes to #public relations, B2B organizations should keep an open-mind about working with recognized, full-service firms. It’s no accident that many of these firms have been around for a while and worked with many successful clients. While full-service #PR firms do come with a few drawbacks, for savvy B2B companies that know what they want out of PR, using a large agency can be immensely beneficial.
We’ve covered many aspects of the PR experience for B2B companies in our recent series of blogs. In this piece, we examine the role of full-service PR in the B2B world. Michelle McGlocklin, Vice President of Global Communications at Rimini Street, was kind enough to speak with me and shed light on why B2B companies should consider working with large PR firms and how they can get the most of the partnerships. Here are some of her key pieces of advice.
Understand the full-service edge
Most importantly, companies should know why it’s worth considering a larger PR agency in the first place. For McGlocklin, full-service firms are most effective for clients that are seeking a high-level of sophistication, and/or are interested in leveraging a larger brains trust across different disciplines. You would also consider a larger, networked firm to leverage their international reach. Full-service firms have vast networks of contacts, as well as experienced staff. If your company can capitalize on this type of influence, a large PR firm might make sense.
Act local to become big
Another reason to contract with full-service agencies is that they often have subsidiaries or affiliations in most, if not all, key markets in the U.S. and globally. McGlocklin noted, as you’re growing awareness of your brand, being able to team-up with an affiliate with insider knowledge of the market in Kansas City or Seoul, etc., greatly increases how fast you grow. Your PR messaging should be able to hit a targeted audience, and with partners across the world, you can tailor that message to each market with help from a local expert.
Revel in the new
If a B2B company contracts with a full-service firm, one thing they should not only expect, but demand, is a constant stream of fresh ideas. To McGlocklin, a quality firm can be measured by the new, innovative, and creative ideas they’re able to churn out. If you’re not getting this from your firm, they’re failing you. Working with PR firms should be a partnership — B2B companies should not have to prod or push their agencies to give them these ideas. Full-service firms should be challenging your plans and offer recommendations at all times, aiming to stay one step ahead of you.
Structure the relationship the right way
Most work places are not a democracy for a reason — if everyone had equal say, it would be nearly impossible to make decisions and get anything done. The same holds true for your relationship with large PR firms. Though full-service firms can bring diverse networks of PR talent to your campaign, McGlocklin recommends structuring the relationship so that there is only one person ultimately in charge of your account. That should be the person through whom all communication and activity updates are funneled. You might have work going on in Ukraine or Singapore, but you should be getting updates on these efforts from your main point of contact.
Measure your progress
McGlocklin echoed a theme sounded by other PR professionals I’ve interviewed: namely, use data and metrics to assess the success of your PR strategy. Your firm should have a way to gauge the level of engagement with every piece of content that goes out the door, including whether they followed a call to action. Your PR strategy should include analyzing everything from where your content appears, whether you have third-party support quoting you in pieces, to whether your key messages made it into the headline or body of the coverage. Track the details to know your impact.
An often overlooked aspect of tracking is how impactful your analyst relations engagement is, which McGlocklin says should be a key component of most B2B technology communications programs. She gave two ways to measure the success of your program with analysts:
- Did you influence the outcomes of any relevant industry reports?
- Do the key industry analysts in your field now fully grasp your unique value proposition and strategy to the point where they’re referring clients to you?
If you can’t affirmatively answer these questions, your strategy is not succeeding.
What does success look like?
McGlocklin rightly pointed out that success is different for every company. Obviously, success involves meeting the original goals of the program, but success is not static. And companies should frequently re-evaluate their PR plan to do real-time course corrections. Because the tech industry evolves so rapidly, your PR strategy has to be nimble and ready for anything — from senior management changes to surprise moves from your competitors. If your firm cannot keep up with the changes, you’re with the wrong firm.
What not to do
When asked for recommendations on what to avoid or mistakes to look out for, McGlocklin’s first point was to take note of a PR agency’s attention to detail. If their internal correspondence with you is littered with errors for example, that should be a red flag about their ability to deliver quality work.
She also cautioned against complacency. If your firm is not constantly producing and/or continually looking for ways to take the communications program to the next level, the program will lose steam and so will its effectiveness.
The power of teamwork
But, for McGlocklin, it’s also up to the client to be an active participant in the relationship. She said too often partnerships end up purely transactional. These relationships don’t work in life, and they don’t work in PR. The more you treat your agency team as an extension of your own team, the more committed to you they’ll be. And that means offering up compliments when they’re deserved instead of treating success as something that should come because you’re paying for it.
Michelle is VP of Global Communications at Rimini Street, responsible for global brand awareness and external influencer communications. She has more than 20 years of B2B global technology comms experience, holding senior communications roles at companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Weber Shandwick, a leading global PR firm. Michelle is a seasoned communications change agent with a passion for leading teams through business transformations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations (with a minor in business) from San Jose State University, and is a graduate of the London Business School Executive Education Program.
Check out the rest of the blog series: