Penetrating the B2B Media

Stack of magazines

If you really want to attract attention to your business, try getting some exposure in business-to-business publications and other trade media. The coverage can not only catch the attention of current and prospective customers, as well as potential recruits, it can also position your company and its executives as thought leaders and industry experts.

B2B, or trade, publications are hungry for editorial material. These days, reporters and editors are called upon to find worthwhile material for news articles, features, blogs, website content, discussions on social media sites, webinars and podcasts.

Trade journals can be national or local — most major cities have them — and the Internet is probably the fastest way to find both. For example, a Google search for "realtor publications" or "grocer publications" will turn up several entries on the first results page. Change the word "publications" to "newsletters" and you can find other potential publicity vehicles.

Once you get onto a website, you can likely find the publication's guidelines for submitting news releases, articles and photos. The publication may also post its editorial calendar or at least provide instructions on how to get it. (See right-hand box for more information about editorial calendars.)

Making Your Pitch

B2B publications are interested in a variety of content. One of the most common topics is what's happening with a company's personnel. People within an industry are always interested in who's been promoted, hired, moved to another company, won awards or given speeches.

Avoid sending ideas with limited interest. For instance, sponsorship of local community events is unlikely to spark much editorial curiosity in a national publication unless it is particularly unusual or innovative, or has broader appeal as an example that other organizations could follow.

Three general ways to approach B2B and other publications are:

1. Send news releases. These should include the who, what, where, when and why of the topic. Include at least two sentences from a company executive that can be used as comments, and, if appropriate, incorporate customer testimonials. The release should be sent with a news kit that includes a fact sheet on your company, biographies of your managers and highlights of their areas of expertise, complete contact information, and professional color photos in both print and electronic formats.

2. Write bylined articles. These can position your company and its staff as "technical experts." For example, write an article examining how the economy is affecting consumer spending patterns. Or send in an opinion piece on how a legislative proposal is likely to affect your industry. Write tips-oriented articles — they lend themselves to being edited into small pieces and publications are often tight on space or need material to fill small openings on a page. Insist on attribution from your company if the article is turned into a brief item.

If you are writing a consumer piece, you can include, but minimize, how your product or service is beneficial. You don't want to come off as looking for free advertising. If other businesses in your industry are more cost-efficient or have more features, address those issues and clearly define the value your company brings to the marketplace.

3. Start a blog or develop or increase a presence on social media sites. Once you get started, spread the word. You can send items to B2B publications that are taken directly from the blog. Or let the publication know that your company's social media page has an interesting discussion on an important industry topic. Position the blog or social media page as one that consumers and businesses seek out when looking for advice, services or products.

Another possible approach is to send news tips and story ideas and offering your services as a source. This helps portray you — and your staff — as informed and helpful.

If you wind up making an unsolicited call to someone at the publication, try to find out the individual's schedule and deadlines first. If that's not possible, when the person answers, ask: "Are you on a deadline?" or "Is this a good time?"

If you are writing an article about your company, or being interviewed for one, be sure you don't divulge secrets. The finished article will, after all, be seen by your organization's competitors. If, during an interview, you become concerned, tell the person that what you are saying is off the record so that it won't be included in the article.

A Powerful Statement

Getting your company's name into B2B publications generates publicity and public relations that can be far more powerful than marketing or advertising campaigns and generate more business and revenue. Reason: Editors at a reputable publication have decided that what you have to say is worth publishing, so your company's message and image comes across as more objective and stronger. On the other hand, you do lose control over this type of publicity, as placement and the actual content are determined by the writers and editors.

Persistence is important when working with the B2B media. Not every news release or notice your company sends will be printed verbatim. But publishing professionals do notice individuals who keep contacting them without becoming a nuisance.

Once you successfully get an item published, make the most of it. Push the coverage to your company's customers by emailing it to them or putting it on your company's website. Distribute copies of articles at business associations and industry trade shows.

Gaining exposure through B2B publications doesn't replace advertising or marketing, but it does bolster your organization's credibility, raises your profile and creates opportunities. On top of that, it doesn't cost anything unless you hire a public relations professional to do the job for you.

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