If your B2B comms strategy is struggling to generate the levels and quality of press coverage you are used to, you are not alone. But rest assured, it is possible to adapt in a way that delivers the results your business needs.
Through greater levels of creativity, tenacity and lateral thinking, you can still generate invaluable impact through earned media.
But the brands that are achieving cut-through are not only using creative storytelling techniques but also applying lateral thinking on channels. This is generating a bigger business impact for them and the effect is also more measurable.
The reason why generating earned media coverage is so challenging for brands is clear. Driven by a combination of declining readership, the commercialisation of the relationship between brands and the media and the dominance of ‘mega issues’, the media landscape has changed and continues to change swiftly in the UK.
In fact, our own research shows that 21% fewer articles were published by top UK media over the five years between 2016 and 2021 and brand-led stories fell by 28% during the period. Brands are also increasingly being associated with societal issues – the very same ‘big issues’ (sustainability, mental health, wellbeing, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, racial justice and equality, and the future of work) that accounted for 44% of all media coverage.
So with media coverage shrinking, B2B comms strategies need to adapt.
Fiona Goldsworthy, Managing Director, Business and Technology at Brands2Life, says, “Earned media is still very important but it’s harder to gain cut-through. The pandemic encouraged brands to be open to doing things differently. In B2B comms, you can still reach the right audience but it requires new channel strategies and more creative stories.”
The range of effective earned, owned, shared and paid channels for B2B comms is now broad. And while coverage on page six of a leading national daily can be powerful, so too can the same message delivered on LinkedIn, shared by an influencer, and supported with a targeted ad.
“That integration through the marketing funnel is when it starts to deliver real, measurable impact,” says Fiona.
“LinkedIn, for example, is a powerful channel for thought leadership, network building, profile building and the paid option can actively share relevant content with the right people.”
Strong engagement can also be achieved with video and podcast content. Brand films offer the advantage of putting a human face and voice to a brand – something that has delivered dividends both in winning new business and in the recruitment market. Podcasts engage listeners in a uniquely intimate way and are especially effective in communicating purpose-related issues.
Compelling content on LinkedIn can even help secure executive profiles in earned media.
Fiona says, “Journalists increasingly review LinkedIn profiles. If you are pitching an executive profile, content posted on LinkedIn – bylines drafted on an issue they care about, for example – increases the journalist’s interest because they can see that person has some interesting ideas.”
Earned media coverage remains powerful but with opportunities diminishing, the storytelling needs to be far more creative.
As we say at Brands2Life, ‘Better Stories, Bigger Impact’.
Fiona says, “Everything we have learned in B2B comms shows we need to be more creative, compelling and even surprising in our storytelling; we need to break free of the standard templates.”
Some examples of Brands2Life’s creative storylines that delivered huge impact for clients include:
Communicators in the B2B space need to constantly challenge ourselves. This means asking: Is the story tired? Are engagement levels falling? Does the channel reach the right stakeholders? Could we improve the business impact?
With so many brands competing for so few press coverage opportunities, the B2B approach needs to adapt to generate impact. And that means either by switching channels or refreshing the story, and quite often both.