Industrial PR: Stretch Your Marketing Budget
In a year made difficult by low oil prices and uncertain market conditions, one of the first items many industrial businesses cut back on is marketing. No secret there. With budgets being reduced and marketing priorities reevaluated, we thought it would be a good time to share ways to get your company’s products and technologies noticed and written about by the trade media for a relatively low investment. With a plan and someone who knows how to execute, Industrial PR can stretch your marketing budget.
Content Comes First
No matter what your budget, there is no point in spending time or money on a PR campaign unless you have something interesting to promote – or even something not so interesting that you can put an interesting “spin” on. Sometimes it takes a professional from outside your company to come up with a unique angle for your story.
There was a time when a company could send just about anything to a trade magazine that said “Press Release” at the top, and particularly if you were an advertiser, it would end up in print. Those days are long gone. With so many print publications going under or consolidating, the competition for “free ink” has become fierce. The quality of your PR content is essential whether it is an article, case study, video, presentation, or combination of these. One thing to consider is that “new technology” is considered new for quite some time – years in fact. If you’ve never promoted a new product or technology breakthrough, even if it was launched five years ago … go for it.
A Press Release is Just the Beginning
We all know about the humble press release. It is short, to the point, and usually disemminated to hundreds of news outlets, online and print. There is another form of PR that can actually be much more effective: a story that somehow positions your company or products in a positive light, but has enough unbiased content that it is not seen as “advertorial”. A well written article or case study, put in the hands of a PR professional, can be “pitched” to any number of target media outlets, with a request that it be picked up for print, or published on a website. This is more labor intensive than sending out a press release en mass; but usually yields better results. Editors are busy people. They may merely glance at a stack of press releases that cross their desk in a week; but when a PR professional calls with a story, they’re likely to listen. After all, it’s their job to find or write interesting content for their publication or website, and quality content has never been more in demand.
Subject Matter Experts Matter
Even if you only intend on sending a press release out on an online news wire or to a group of trade publications, you still need someone in the company to be the spokesperson for the release. In the biz, we call this person the “subject matter expert”. It can be an engineer, a sales person, or someone from the C-Suite. The important thing is that they can knowledgably and expertly speak about the subject of your release, article, or case study. Their name will be attached to your content as the person to contact for additional information. Don’t forget this important step: editors don’t like it when they have a question that nobody can answer, and your release may end up in the trash.
Press Conferences and Media Tours
It is usually the Exxons, Weatherfords, and Schlumbergers of the industrial world who have content important enough to schedule a press conference. This approach is only for news, announcements, or updates on stories that are of interest to a much broader audience. A good example was the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, five years ago. The vast majority of industrial companies don’t have those kinds of stories to tell (and thank goodness, right? I wouldn’t have wanted to be BP’s PR representative during that crisis five years ago!)
A more casual yet just as professional way for a smaller industrial to speak to a number of journalists is a tactic called a “media tour”, where your goods or technology are toured to the media in order to see who is interested enough to cover it (write about it).
Media tours usually occur at large, national, or international trade shows, which are well attended by the trade media covering that industry, although media tours can also take place at other types of special events. A public relations professional schedules a series of appointments with media representatives at their client’s show booth. Ordinarily, one journalist is paired with a subject matter expert at your company who has a video or slide presentation they can utilize. They are then allowed to highlight a technology breakthrough, a new product, strategic alliances that offer more/better services to their customers, etc. to the journalists. The meetings are typically one-on-one, so make sure your subject matter expert is someone who likes to talk: he or she will be telling the same story many times in one day.
Keep in mind that orchestrating a media tour is not for the inexperienced and having a PR professional at your side can be key to success. A PR pro will serve a variety of functions: setting the appointments with journalists; helping to prepare your presentation materials (video, presentations, etc.); welcoming the journalists to your booth and in a sense acting as host; coaching your subject matter expert on how best to present information and preparing them for what could be unexpected questions from journalists; and finally, following up with the journalists after the event to give a last nudge that may be needed to get something written. The ultimate goal is to talk to as many journalists as possible in a relatively short period of time in order to to get the most free exposure in the journalists’ publications.
Human Interest Industrial PR
Industrial companies are human too! Does your company contribute to a local charity? Did a group, team, or department help build a home for Habitat for Humanity, volunteer at a local soup kitchen to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless, manage a gifting event for underprivileged children at Christmas, travel to a nearby area to lend a hand in disaster relief? These are just a few of the countless opportunities to promote “human interest” stories involving your company and its people that appeal to a broad audience, usually in your area or city. The media has more than enough sad and tragic news to report. They are usually glad to cover a story that elicits feelings of hope and good will.
The media won’t just magically appear at your event. You will need your PR point person to reach out to the local media and invite them to cover your story, a spokesperson from your company to speak to the media, and follow-up after the event.
Earned media is the goal of all industrial PR. PR professionals have a formula that computes every pick-up of your PR content to an equivalent dollar amount of “paid media”. While this may not be an exact science, it does look good on paper and presentations to shareholders when reporting on your marketing efforts.
Of course there is still a cost associated with industrial PR. The media may be “earned” but there is a certain amount of time and expertise required to earn it. Unless you’re a Fortune 500, it probably wouldn’t be cost effective for you to have a professional PR manager on staff. A much smarter approach is outsourcing your PR efforts to a firm that:
- Understands how to work the PR system, both online and off
- Has contacts in the local media and the trades that matter to your company
- Works to get the most coverage of your story
- Provides you with reports, presentations, and even press clippings that support your PR efforts and show ROI
PR and Social Media
Today, social media can play a huge role in generating PR buzz. Not every social site is right for industrial businesses, but the right ones can be the ultimate, free industrial PR outlet with virtually no cost attached. Social media tends to be flooded with all types of content, some quality, most trivial, which is why we recommend the following:
- LinkedIn – The ultimate white collar social media stop, having anything go viral here can have great ramifications while lending a sense of credibility to your content. Don’t just post your PR to your company page. Ask your sales people to post a link to the content on your website from trade related groups they belong to. A press release or article can also be rewritten and posted on LinkedIn as a blog by someone high profile within your organization.
- Facebook and Twitter – If you have a blog post, great picture, or press release, be sure and hit these two sites while using appropriate hash tags. Studies show that adding “See our latest video” or “Read our latest blog” or “The latest news from “X” company” generates more clicks. Submitting posts that are timely is also be a plus.
- Slideshare, Pinterest and Tumblr – Have a project that was done in stages, a process or product that is more impressive when seen? Can your PR be shown in slideshow style? Use these sites to post visual PR.
- YouTube – Last but not least, any media that can be shared here including videos, slideshows, whiteboard presentations, etc. should be uploaded not only to get them out to the world but also to utilize YouTube’s quick servers and sharing/embedding capabilities.
An added bonus to posting your PR on social media sites is the search engine optimization (SEO) boost it gives your website. Social media involvement is high on Google’s list of signals when determining which sites to serve up first in web searches.
If you have questions or want to know more about how to promote your company with a limited budget, contact Marketects today for a no obligation consultation.