No matter the industries they serve or the solutions they sell, B2B executives know that their products and services don’t materialize out of nowhere. It takes a wealth of time and effort to build a quality app, SaaS solution, or enterprise software product – and it takes just as much investment to generate demand for that product.
That investment – aka, the process of generating interest in a product – is known as demand generation. For B2B and B2C companies alike, demand generation typically falls under the ‘marketing’ umbrella, since it encompasses all activities that broaden awareness of a company and what it has to offer. Yet when launching or updating their demand generation strategies, B2B stakeholders often neglect to consider how PR plays in, thus undermining their efforts to drive demand and adoption.
A comprehensive PR strategy can be one of the most effective drivers of product demand, but it takes a bit of PR education to understand why. Particularly, it takes a more thorough understanding of how PR works and how it’s connected to its sibling discipline: content marketing.
Demand Starts With Content
As we mentioned above, “demand gen” is generally considered a subcategory of marketing, spanning both inbound and outbound marketing efforts: event participation, social media, advertising, pay-per-click (PPC) and other advertising campaigns, email marketing, and more.
Largely though, demand generation is about explanation – of what problems your industry faces, why those problems matter, and how your product solves them (and/or solves them better than the competition does). As such, the primary marketing discipline driving demand generation, especially for B2B companies, is content marketing: Blog posts, downloadable whitepapers, and other content resources provide B2B companies with an avenue for conveying their value proposition and competitive advantages.
The key to effective content marketing, however, is making sure those resources reach their most valuable target audience – the audience who will absorb the information and develop an awareness of or interest in the company and product behind the content. And that’s where the increasingly intertwined relationship between content and PR becomes apparent.
Content Fuels PR
The traditional view of public relations, still held by many, is that it’s all about sending press releases, pitching reporters, and seeing who ‘bites’ at a potential media opportunity. Those efforts remain vital the practice of PR, but the discipline is evolving rapidly to focus more on storytelling – and shaping industry narratives – than on waiting for a journalist to cover a story for you.
And pitching reporters isn’t about sending them news (that they may already know) or broad ideas (that they may not care about). Rather, it’s always been about providing media professionals with relevant storylines that compel them to look at existing issues, events, and circumstances from a new or different perspective.
Sharing relevant, actionable storylines with interested audiences is the goal of content marketing, too – creating obvious synchronicities between the two disciplines. Yet the interconnectedness of content and PR has as much to do with the value of corporate storytelling as it does with the changing media landscape – in which high-quality content is king. Newspapers and trade publications are no longer the only media outlets covering B2B industries today. Across every sector, there are a multitude of independent and corporate-run blogs that executives turn to for information and advice.
As such, reporters, columnists, and other journalists aren’t the only writers PR pros need to reach; bloggers, and the members of large media companies’ internal content teams, are just as important. And with an ever-increasing number of high-quality, industry-specific media outlets comes an ever-increasing need for high-quality, industry-specific content that tells a great story.
PR Breeds Demand
When pitched with an interesting storyline, many media pros request a bylined article from the entity behind the idea – presenting an opportunity for that B2B company to showcase what problems their industry faces, why those problems matter, and how their product solves them (and/or solves them better than the competition does).
That should sound familiar, since it’s that kind of “explanation engine” that fuels product demand and brings the ecosystem full circle. To put it simplistically, PR wins placements on media outlets for high-quality content; high-quality content conveys the value of a product; the audience of the outlet develops a demand for that product. That’s why PR is such an important piece of the demand general puzzle – without it, B2B companies face challenges reaching their target market.
Of course, like most aspects of B2B business development and marketing, demand generation is a long-term process that requires attention to the fundamentals: Well-written, data-driven, non-promotional content; targeted, high-impact media outlets; long-term relationships with a broad array of important media professionals.
Yet just like creating a product, creating demand requires a wealth of time, effort, and investment. (And a smart PR partnership may be the best demand-generation investment you ever make.)