PR in the Service Economy: Eight Ways to Build a B2B Reputation

Are you doing PR for a B2B company that provides a service?  Yes, that means you, all lawyers, consultants, financial advisors, asset managers, software developers and search firms.  In fact more than half of the US GDP has come from services companies since 1982 , which is why marketing intangibles is a critical skill in our world.

Last week, I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the St. Louis chapter of PRSA on this topic – which is based on multiple conversations with my fellow BlissPR colleagues about how we help our clients achieve their business goals.

B2B service companies are great clients because they stretch us to come up with a clear vantage point on technical and often enterprise level matters.   But they can also be tough clients because they are very busy, as well as risk averse and slow to adopt change.   When we are faced with creating a new campaign, here are some of the things we think about to get out of the traditional “lather, rinse, repeat” kind of PR.  Here is what I said in St. Louis – what have I missed?  (Want to make sure you see this, @tressalynne)

  1. Raise the Altitude.  First, get up above product.  If you are discussing the features and benefits of what the company sells, you won’t get the audience’s full attention.  It’s like looking at photos of someone else’s kids.  Find out what the audience truly cares about, and focus on that.  Here’s a great example of a major financial company surfacing the issues of concern to its customers, who are heads of HR:  MetLife’s 8th Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study.
  2. Carve out an Issue to Own.  Second, don’t be afraid to make an idea the hero of the moment.  The idea can be an issue, a trend, a topic area – think “privacy” or “motivation” or “risk” or “capital flows” — but it’s not the product.  Then build a microsite or a blog or a strong point of view around that.  We have seen consulting firms take this tack, and predict that corporations will do so as well.
  3. Be of Service to the Communities you Care About.  What does your client know that can help the communities that they serve?   How can you help them do their own business better?  Often, research, benchmark data, opinion, counsel can be packaged in a way that galvanizes decision-making.  Here’s an example: BDO’s Retail Survey.
  4. Enter the Ongoing Conversation. If your client is discussing a topic that matters, and has a point of view or research that extends the conversation, then you better be finding the right dialogues, and the people (bloggers) who are influencing them.  Addict-o-matic is a great way to find them.
  5. Learn to Share.  Once you have created your content, deliver it in many forms and formats.  SMPRs, video, data nuggets, how to advice, predictions.   And don’t be afraid to partner with a media outlet to deliver all that content goodness.  Here’s an example of what we mean:  Bloomberg Group Study Identifies Best Companies for Leadership.
  6. Don’t Hog the Microphone.  When your client is the only one talking –even if he or she is the smartest person in the room, it’s less interesting than if you invite other voices in to the discussion.  Open it up and more people will listen.    That’s what they found at McKinsey’s whatmatters microsite.
  7. Get Local.  If there’s a national trend – movement of some kind, whether it’s a rule change, a regulation, legislation – there will likely be local fallout.  Capture it!  People care about changes and problems happening in their own backyards, and are more likely to pick up the phone and call someone in their own area for help.
  8. Build Your own Community.  In the old days, we used trade media to reach niche markets.  Not so much anymore.  Plus niche markets are getting nichier.  Sometimes you find them, sometimes you have to help your clients create them.  So if it’s CFOs of Canadian natural resources companies, or hospital facilities managers in the southwest, or med students who care about TB,  or meeting planners for financial services companies, sometimes it’s easiest to build your own audience.

That’s what I came up with – what steps would you add? Click here to see the full deck or feel free to email me at

To reach Abby:

Phone: 212.840.0088
Twitter: @abbycarr
LinkedIn: Abby Carr