From press to PR
I recently made a career change. After more than two decades in the entertainment technology trade press, I moved into PR and marketing. Some people called it a move to the dark side. I think some of them were probably joking, but still, it says something about prevailing attitudes to marketing.
The trade press (let’s call it B2B media – ‘press’ is too limited a term) serves an important purpose. It’s both earpiece and mouthpiece, a gatherer and disseminator of information, an authority on the trends and realities of its business sector. B2B media aims to be impartial, inclusive and broadly informative.
The marketing message, on the other hand, is focused, distilled, targeted. Marketing’s aim narrows to represent the key messages of a client – the USPs of technology, the quality of service, the creativity of design.
I’ve enjoyed the change of focus. I’m no longer zoomed out, answerable to perhaps 200 or 300 clients (yes, B2B magazines are also answerable to clients) - or, for that matter, to anyone with access to a copy of the mag and an email account. Instead, I’m zoomed in, focused on and answerable to a select few. I spend more time with them than I could before, I’m more intimate with their products, their company values, their customers. I get to see the industry from a different viewpoint.
The relationship between B2B media and marketers continues, of course. The media works with PR and marketing agencies, or with in-house marketing departments, to source and confirm the information it needs. But, if it carries any weight at all, it also picks up its own information, by talking directly to rental companies, designers, technicians, installers, specifiers and clients.
Equally, PR and marketing agencies now distribute clients’ content through various channels aside from the B2B media. People gain market knowledge from websites, forums and blogs, while the spread of information through personal professional networks, once restricted to the narrow bandwidth of word-of-mouth, has grown exponentially with the increasing reach and influence of social media. Now, we can wake up in the morning and read the views of friends on six different continents before we’ve even thought about breakfast.
We are swamped with information these days. The once-promised information super-highway has turned up, entwined with it its uninvited alter ego, the misinformation super-sewer. Amid all this noise, B2B media faces the challenge of providing unique content – in-depth interviews, insights, opinions, trends, research and statistics, while trying to raise audiences and/or revenues through digital routes - websites, digital editions, e-marketing, videos and social media.
Similarly, marketers now have access to a broad range of channels for disseminating clients’ messages. In addition to traditional print, we can now spread company news, case studies and interviews using words, photography, audio and video content, via websites, microsites, blogs, forums and, of course, social media. Using the web, dissemination can be immediate.
What’s more, virtually anyone can be a web publisher. Bloggers can become respected authorities, with a reach to rival established B2B empires; experts can share their thoughts and opinions without the need for a traditional publishing outlet.
The aim may arguably be different for each, but the demarcations between the three types of content producer grow less and less distinct. For all of us, the trick is to stand out from the ambient babble, to generate quality content with headroom, value and lasting appeal.