Influencer marketing: the return of B2B media relations

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Influencer marketing is a phrase that’s been bandied around for a couple of years now, rising in popularity. In fact, according to Influencer Marketing Hub, there has been an incredible 1,500% increase in searches for “influencer marketing” over the past three years.

However, along with the rise in influencers has come the rise in scepticism, from both the brands and the customers. To counter this, more stringent guidelines have resulted in greater transparency, but #paid #ad #spons can be a little off-putting and damage the relationship between influencer and reader.

We were thinking about how, and whether, to harness influencer marketing for our B2B clients when it occurred to us that the biggest influencers in the B2B market are, inarguably, the trade publications.

In the years before self-publishing via your website was possible, nearly all manufacturers, suppliers, consultants, etc saw the benefit of being featured in a trade publication that was delivered to the door of your target customer. Newshooks were created, press materials duly written and submitted for consideration by the editorial staff. And, if published, the longed-for coverage was third-party endorsement of the company’s achievements.

Then came the internet. And everyone saw the opportunity to include content on their own website – a fantastic, controllable space where whatever you wrote saw the light of day. And there are definitely benefits to this. Sharing content on your social channels helps to engage people both within your network and outside it, through judicious use of hashtags or group chats. Web-hosted content also has SEO benefits, supporting your aims to be more visible and move up the search rankings for key terms.

But, what it can’t do is to provide the value that an influencer can bring – that independent, third-party validation. Nor can it guarantee the reach to a wide and engaged audience. And finally, it can’t sit within a broad context so that readers can view it on its merits and draw their own conclusions about its validity.

We spoke to Claire Smith, editor of Ground Engineering, the official magazine of the British Geotechnical Association established in 1968 and read by around 5,000 geotechnical professionals each month, about her thoughts on the trade publications, and editors in particular, being influencers.

“Whenever I turn up to do an interview or site visit, people always ask me what’s happening in the industry. They always want to know my perspective on what’s happening and get an idea of what the forecast is as well, so I think we are influencers.”

Claire continues, “A lot more companies do have blogs and news releases on their websites now, but I think people come to B2B magazines so that they have more of an informed source that brings together all of that information and acts as a verifier. Also, it’s very difficult to go to each individual company website to get a comparison, plus people often only go to websites that they already know to find information. B2B magazines open up opportunities to find out about companies and initiatives that people don’t know about so much.”

Having recently been named as an IFSEC Global Influencer, Roy Cooper, publisher of Professional Security magazine, is recognised by the industry as someone whose opinion counts. He too has noticed a decline in companies investing in media relations.

“Not only have we seen a reduction in the companies investing in PR activities, but we’ve seen a drop in the quality of information provided. It seems there is a generation of ‘writers’ who are used to writing for their own website, but not so much for the editorial stringency of a publication. We had a press release submitted recently that was only about 300 words long, but 30 of them were the company name. When it’s our job to produce a magazine that readers rip the plastic bag open to read, providing that type of PR isn’t going to make the cut.”

Press coverage in respected titles builds trust with your target audiences because it has to be earned. Making sure that there is genuine relevance to that niche readership is key, as is ensuring that it’s a balanced piece. Think about what you read in magazines and newspapers outside of work – you wouldn’t be drawn to something that you felt was overly promotional – that’s the same for the trade publications. Make it readable, and interesting.

Don’t overlook media relations in your marketing campaign, which should contain a good mix of earned, owned and paid activities to gain maximum effect. There are many benefits, but harnessing the voice of an ‘influencer’ is one that shouldn’t be overlooked.