6 Ways Trade Outlets Trump National Media for B2B Marketing and PR

6 Ways Trade Outlets Trump National Media for B2B Marketing and PR

Whenever we ask clients about their “dream placement,” national media (especially the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) always top the list. These multi-platform outlets, after all, attract millions of eyeballs on a daily basis.

Although there is no denying the substantial publicity boost a mainstream media outlet can bring, trade pubs and niche outlets offer several advantages, especially for companies in business-to-business industries such as healthcare IT. Savvy PR pros recognize their importance and feature them prominently in PR/marketing plans.

How do healthcare trade outlets trump mainstream press for B2B PR? Let me count the ways:

Target audience. A mention in USA Today is impressive but offers little benefit to a company that markets a telehealth platform. While millions of people visit the site daily, it’s highly unlikely they are there to learn about telemedicine. An article in Becker’s Hospital Review, with 1.4 million monthly visitors, has a greater chance of reaching clinicians and medical directors. In addition, buyers in the later stages of the buying cycle prefer to get their information from trade outlets. That’s because B2B outlets dive deeper into technical details while major publications cover broad topics in general terms.

Legitimacy. Trade outlets are highly respected by industry insiders. Health IT professionals rely on industry associations such as HIMSS and CHIME to provide insight on laws and regulations that affect the industry. A consistent presence in their newsletters and websites can brand a new company as a legitimate player or help establish a company founder as a thought leader.

Digital presence. There is a definite trend away from print toward digital, which means fewer space restrictions and more room to expand on a topic. There is also a trend toward specialized sites and blogs (e.g. HIStalk, Healthcare Musings). Even LinkedIn has a healthcare channel run by a former editor of Modern Healthcare. Answers Media has created several sites — HITECH Answers, Health Data Answers, RCM Answers, to name a few. It also has an internet radio station, HealthcareNow Radio, with 15 shows attracting 1,400 listeners a day who listen an average of 30 minutes. An article on one of their sites could potentially be seen by 42,000 visitors, shared among 25,000 social media followers, and be featured in a weekly e-newsletter sent to 50,000 subscribers.

Greater use of press releases. Have press releases become obsolete? That may be true for pitching B2C publications, but B2B pubs welcome news releases relevant to their niche audience. Trade editors are also more willing to run press releases in both print and online, Tweet them out, and include links back to your website, enabling you to re-share the posts and expand reach.

Sending a new product press release along with a brief pitch about a new tablet device for seniors to a trade publication such as McKnight’s Long-Term Care News is a direct hit. It shows you know the publication and its audience.

Article placements. National publications prefer to report about large companies and breaking news. Getting quoted in a major publication may take weeks, even months, though it is not impossible as this example in Forbes shows. On the other hand, niche editors are happy to report on small companies in their sector. As long as the pitch is on-topic, they will respond to media requests faster and publish articles sooner. In addition, because trade outlets are often short on staff, they’re more open to accepting contributed articles as long as they are objective and vendor-neutral. Click here to see a sample placement in Health Data Management.

Reversioned content. PR can repurpose a byline article placed in a niche publication into owned media, webinars, case studies, and pitches to larger outlets. We call this the “turkey carve out” approach to content. It works only if you start out with a 25-pound turkey, not a Cornish game hen. We advise or remind our clients to amplify the article using corporate social media channels. We also recommend creating a marketing e-blast to customers and prospects with a link to the article.

Journalists and editors for major newspapers and consumer magazines often use trade journals to research article assignments. The trade pub article may become your ticket to being part of a bigger story in a major consumer pub, eventually getting your CEO the mainstream hit s/he desires.

What to do when PR is “not working”

What to do when PR is “not working”

Every so often a client will tell us they aren’t sure our PR (public relations) efforts are working. The first time a client expressed that sentiment to me I was immediately defensive – because we had been placing well-written bylines in industry publications, coordinated multiple interviews and helped them populate their website with meaningful press releases and blog posts.

Then the client went on say he was basing his opinion on the fact that his company hadn’t seen an uptick in sales leads since starting their PR program six months earlier – which immediately stopped me from obsessing. I then realized that my client 1) didn’t have a firm grasp of what public relations is and isn’t, and, 2) didn’t understand what his company could and should be doing internally to leverage our PR efforts to advance other organizational goals – including the generation of more sales leads.

In case you ever find yourself wondering if PR is working for your company – and what to do if it’s not – here are a few thoughts on what public relations is and isn’t, as well as some suggestions to help your organization maximize the value of its PR initiatives.

Back to basics: what’s PR anyway?

At a high level, PR involves raising public awareness about a company, including its leadership in the industry, unique offerings and differentiating qualities. Public relations professionals focus on making companies top-of-mind within their specific industry niche.

To help raise a company’s profile, a PR firm will often capitalize on national industry trends to showcase an organization’s capabilities, differentiators, innovation and/or expertise. PR companies also promote members of a client’s executive team as industry thought leaders, either through media interviews or the placement of bylined, thought-leadership articles.

On the other hand, PR is not:

  • A lead generation service – though occasionally a well-placed interview does attract new prospects.
  • My octogenarian father doesn’t fully understand what my PR job entails and often tells people I handle things like writing catchy slogans, creating magazine ads and coordinating promotional campaigns. Of course, these are all functions that fall under the advertising umbrella and not traditional PR activities.
  • Marketing, which primarily focuses on the promotion and selling of specific products and services.

One final point of clarification: though advertising, lead-generation and marketing are not considered PR activities, many PR firms – including Amendola – offer these services, as well as content creation, social media, strategic counseling and more.

PR: a marathon and not a sprint

PR is often described as a marathon, rather than a sprint, because it typically takes months – even years – to realize the fruits of your PR labor. But a well-crafted and strategic PR program usually delivers the desired results over time. Within our firm, for example, we’ve witnessed small start-ups grow into industry leaders. We’ve also seen clients who have realized their exit goals after PR campaigns helped them appear on the radar of companies looking for investment and acquisition opportunities.

If you are just a few months into a PR program and questioning why your CEO still hasn’t appeared in the Wall Street Journal, you may want to check the marathon mile marker and reframe your expectations. Results rarely happen overnight – and this is particularly true if you don’t have end-users or executives willing and able to talk to media, or if you are in an over-crowded market niche.

Amplifying the value of PR efforts

If you’re anxious to see results from your PR program, here are a few best practices to help amplify the value of your PR efforts:

Social media. Any time a new interview or thought-leadership is published, share the news on your social media channels, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Also consider sending an e-blast of the article (or a link) to your customers and prospects. Be sure to include relevant hashtags and a short summary. Do share the article link multiple times, though try to mix up the messaging each time.

While you do want to leverage all placements, make sure too that your social media content includes more than self-promotion. You’ll gain new followers faster if you also post commentary on industry news or share interesting articles that are not directly related to your organization. To be seen as an industry thought leader you must demonstrate awareness of the broader market, and not just what’s going on in your company.

Here are some additional social media best practices to consider.

Stay fresh.  Try to maintain a regular cadence when issuing press releases, posting new blog posts and publishing thought leadership articles. Companies sometimes struggle with this, especially organizations that must secure content approval from multiple team members. However, fresh news and commentary should be a priority as it helps keep your company top-of-mind with the media, prospects and customers.

Also, be sure your website is updated with new content on an ongoing basis. When dropping a press release to the media, the news should also be immediately shared on your site. Similarly, add links or summaries of interviews and bylined articles as soon as they’re published, and regularly add new blogs on relevant topics. Visitors will return to your site more often if it’s seen as a source of interesting and regularly-updated content.

Cultivate thought leaders. For many company executives, the role of industry thought leader comes naturally. For others, talking to the media about current opportunities and future trends is more of a struggle.

If you have executives who find it challenging to communicate the company’s key messages or share their vision for the industry, encourage them to invest time in media training. Many PR firms offer this service and can help executives craft jargon-free messaging, as well as provide tips for delivering their story clearly and succinctly.

An additional tip for thought leaders: make yourself readily available to media when opportunities arise. Editors appreciate leaders who make themselves assessible and will remember the courtesy, should your company ever need a favor from a member of the media.

Find more tips for thought leaders here.

How does your organization evaluate the effectiveness of its PR efforts?

What An Older, More Mature Lebron James Can Teach Us About Crisis Communications

What An Older, More Mature Lebron James Can Teach Us About Crisis Communications

In most cities, a sports star leaving to join another team wouldn’t quite reach the level of crisis. No doubt, the world has countless far more serious and urgent problems.

But Cleveland’s a little different than most cities. Egos are a bit more fragile here after decades of job loss, population decline, environmental damage, and not to mention sports ineptitude –  or so it seems to this (humble) outsider who first moved to Cleveland about a decade ago.

So after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ drubbing yet again at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in June, coupled with LeBron James’ impending free agency, thing were looking pretty bad for Cleveland. Despite hailing from nearby Akron and enjoying close ties with the local community, LeBron looked likely to depart Cleveland for a sexier, more glamourous destination, leaving the locals he left in his wake feeling abandoned and forgotten.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. But to LeBron’s credit, he learned from a past mistake, and let Cleveland fans down a little easier this time, while simultaneously providing a lesson on crisis communications.

We’ve seen this movie before
The date of “The Decision” by James – July 8, 2010 – is one that lives in Cleveland sports infamy. On that night, the then-25-year-old who is perhaps the greatest sports star the city has ever known crushed his hometown fans by announcing on live TV his intention to “take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” Next came the reaction. A city mourned, jerseys were burned, insults were hurled, and one melodramatic fan called it “the worst day of my life.”

Later that night, Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert hastily published a scathing open letter notoriously printed in comic sans font excoriating James for a “several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special.” Illustrating that Gilbert’s PR team had ready access to a thesaurus, the irate owner peppered his letter with several enjoyable descriptions of James and his decision, including “cowardly betrayal,” “shameful display of selfishness,” “shocking act of disloyalty,” and “heartless and callous action.”

To be clear, the majority of Cleveland fans weren’t angry at James for signing with Miami; they were upset by the “needless pain” he inflicted on the city for the spectacle of “The Decision,” which I recall one commentator comparing to a newly minted millionaire going on national tv to tell his high-school sweetheart he’s dumping her to move in with a supermodel.

Indeed, players change teams all the time (LeBron has now done it three times) “but no player has ever done it with the pomp, phoniness, pseudo-humility, and rehearsed innocence” as James, as a Chicago Sun-Times columnist correctly observed. That’s what understandably perturbed Cleveland fans, and later provided James with an opportunity to show growth in his style of public communication.

A second chance
After James spent four seasons in Miami and won two championships while making the NBA Finals every year, in 2014 he did what was once unthinkable. He mended fences (kind of) with Gilbert, rejoined the Cavs and led the city to its first major professional sports championship since 1964.

Then James broke Cleveland’s heart all over again. On July 1, 2018, the now-33-year-old James announced he was leaving the Cavaliers once more, having signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

But this time it was different – no self-serving, nationally televised special; no week-long buildup of drama and, thankfully, no jersey burnings or lamentations about the worst day of fans’ lives. James and his advisors simply delivered the news in 36-word press release:

LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While unnecessarily trumpeting his major accomplishments on the court isn’t the height of modesty, James deserves credit for learning from his mistakes and rolling out his latest “decision” in a far more muted, low-key fashion.

And that brings us to what we can learn from James in crisis communications: Be brief, take responsibility, get to the point and don’t sugarcoat things.

While this is a lesson that apparently took James eight years to learn, healthcare organizations can learn from his mistakes by never committing them in the first place.

And it’s probably best to avoid ever proclaiming that you’re taking your talents anywhere.

Webinar Wisdom

Webinar Wisdom: 3 best practices for webinars that wow… and get results

I have a confession. I’m not ashamed. It’s my truth. I love a webinar. I love everything about it. I love writing the title and description. I love promoting it and watching the registration count rise each day. I love when the day finally arrives and the presentation comes to life.

I even love the items on the post-webinar to-do list like sending the follow-up emails to keep the audience engaged, warming up the leads for the sales team or converting them into new sales opportunities. Yes, that’s really why I love webinars. I love the results—and by that, I mean the results when everything is done right.

However, I’ve found that many marketing and PR professionals don’t share my pro-webinar passion. In fact, much to my horror and astonishment, many of them are firmly planted in the anti-webinar camp. But I understand their point of view. Most likely, they have been discouraged by a webinar that fell flat, or they simply don’t understand how to harness the true power of a webinar.

As a lover of webinars, with a successful track record over the last decade, I’m here to help with some tried-and-true best practices.

Create customer-focused content

There is almost no better forum than a webinar to highlight your customer’s successes. Why? It’s much different to just read a case study than to have your customers verbally share their stories. On a webinar, attendees can experience that case study live, identify with the challenges and celebrate in the successes – which could soon become their own successes with the help of your company.

Now, having a customer co-presenter is the best-case scenario. We know that complete, fully baked customer case studies can be hard to come by or even nearly impossible when companies are launching new products. But there is incredible power in a customer case study that’s still in progress as well. Whether the journey has just begun or the results are preliminary, it’s still better for attendees to hear from their peer rather than just your team.

Webinars with customer co-presenters are almost always more well-attended and more successful. Plus, with customer co-presenters, your company also benefits from being associated with your customer names and brands. Even if someone doesn’t attend your webinar, they may remember that you work with that top hospital.

Prepare for an interactive experience

Even though a webinar is somewhat similar to any other speaking engagement, it’s technically much different. It’s challenging to speak into the phone rather than speak into a crowd of faces that may be either nodding their heads in agreement or nodding off out of boredom. That’s why it’s so important to leverage the technology to create an interactive experience that benefits both your attendees and your speakers.

Even the most basic webinar platforms offer a polling feature which should be used 2-4 times throughout the webinar. We often recommend to clients that they start with a poll question to get a better understanding of what the attendees are looking to learn or why they chose to attend. It can also be helpful for the initial poll question to serve as a gauge for understanding the “level” of attendees. For example, how would they rate their organization’s progress on the journey to value?

Also, did you know that one of the easiest, most painless ways to drive future registrations is right at your fingertips during each webinar? At the end of your presentation, while you still have a captive and hopefully happy audience, simply invite attendees to the next relevant session in your webinar series. When sessions are monthly or quarterly, attendees who enjoyed your webinar usually will vote “yes” via a poll to be automatically registered for the next session.

Focus on follow-up, not just promotion

Lastly, it’s incredibly common for even some of the savviest marketers to focus almost entirely on webinar promotion rather than placing equal importance on the webinar follow-up communications.  Don’t neglect the attendees who just spent 30-minutes or an hour with you! They are now primed and ready for more so it’s mission critical to send timely (ideally within 24 hours or less but 48 hours max) follow-up emails to attendees and those who registered but didn’t attend.

It’s also important to send them more than just the webinar recording or the slides. Perhaps you can offer them a new eBook about best practices featured on the webinar or you may have a written case study to share on the same topic. It’s not always about having new content to share. It’s about having relevant content to share and becoming a go-to expert.

Regardless, it’s important for your follow-up communication to be educational and informative to drive continued engagement. After all, once someone spends an hour with you via a webinar, they are more invested. Now it’s about keeping them invested in your content, your customers and most importantly, your company.