The B2B media – or ‘trade press’ as we used to call it – has undergone some significant changes over recent years. Back in the day, journalists within each sector were a small group of professional writers, who enjoyed long careers in the bosom of the industry, travelling the world and reporting on an established calendar of events. These days, the new generation of industry media outlets is predominantly digital, permanent editorial staff are the exception as opposed to the rule and the remote nature of communication makes relationship building a real challenge.
Digital differentiation is difficult
This evolution has also impacted upon those responsible for creating and distributing PR on behalf of companies (or clients), as digital now dominates in their world too. PR is now more about digital differentiation than it is about traditional techniques, with expertise required in a seemingly expanding plethora of new skills, from brand building to SEO strategy, reputational management to link building to whatever comes along next. Today’s PR professional seeks out widespread digital coverage, social media impact and other online chatter.
Within this evolving environment, with all involved obsessing with ‘digital’ activity, marketing planners need to think long and hard about how they stand out from this crowd, how they differentiate. And as with the products and services they aim to promote, the key to this is ‘content’. It has always been the case, but now more than ever, the PR professional must focus harder than ever on creating quality, stand-out content. Prior to the arrival of this multitude of online media platforms, in order to secure publication in a printed paper or magazine, releases and stories needed to be genuinely newsworthy and/or creative, and clearly targeted at a defined audience. The so-called ‘shotgun’ approach had little or no place.
Credibility of content is crucial
In that space, press releases that were fundamentally sales promotional pieces would have largely been ignored or, at best, classed as ‘advertorial’ and required to be paid for. And like it or not, the same credibility requirement exists today, with media channels that simply recycle releases that are purely promotional being (correctly) viewed as inferior. And for the journalists, a genuine sense of integrity and a nose for an authentically newsworthy story are still the greatest attributes to possess.
This talent for identifying stories, and angles, irrespective of the size or budget of the source, is a fantastic differentiator for clients, PR professionals and media channels. Within the digital space, where there are so many outlets competing for the same copy, this talent may have even greater value. It is the textbook trained Marketing Managers who tend to focus on data and search performance, and it may indeed be regrettable that qualities such as ‘instinct’ are of less importance in this more anonymous, digital space.
Platforms now prioritise content quality
The positive aspect in all of this is that the best media platforms will always recognise and value quality. In fact, this is becoming truer than ever, with Google now showing very clear bias in favour of editorial content quality. In a B2B space such as ours, the provision of genuine information is the first priority, and should surely be followed by education, entertainment and somewhere farther down the line, a sales message. And if a sales message is all you have to say, then purchase an advertisement or a banner.
Despite the sheer volume of content in our digital spaces, skilled PR practitioners should still be able to communicate real news, write well and provide Editors (and readers) with a point of genuine interest and relevance. And those who can will continue to make an impact and rise to the top.