The U.S. market is extremely competitive, especially if you are a B2B company. Do you want to establish your presence or enter the American market? We will help you with that. These Public Relations tactics and tricks work well – check them out!
The U.S. is the capital of PR—it’s where it all started. There is no other place on Earth with so many universities offering PR degrees. The industry is worth $16,2 billion U.S. dollars, compared to $100 billion… globally! (Statista) This makes the market highly competitive, but also expensive. Large national PR agencies, usually in big cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Boston, won’t consider a project for under $15,000 per month.
However, you can still achieve a lot – both by performing some PR activities in-house, as well as by engaging local, agile PR specialists/agencies.
To help you make the most of communication activities on American soil, I invited two outstanding specialists to co-create this post with me. Oliver Hays and Bob Spoerl have mastered all the ropes of Business-to-business Public Relations. They are running their renowned PR consultancies specialised in B2B, and have worked for non-American companies (from Asia, Europe etc.) to establish their services in the U.S.
Please note that in the PR Guide below, we focus on differentiators of B2B PR. If you want to go deeper into certain aspects of PR, you can refer to other “chapters”:
- How to tackle Crisis Management? (By our top experts from the US and the UK)
- How to write a perfect Press Release?
- How much does PR cost (not only in the US)?
What is B2B Public Relations?
B2B PR means simply business-to-business public relations. You can understand it in two ways:
- Type of PR performed by B2B companies, which offer their services to other companies, not consumers.
Obviously, software houses, HR corporations, online management (Slack, Upwork) and marketing/analytics platforms (Monday.com, Piwik PRO) focus on different PR practices that Kellogg, Reese’s, Heinz or Duracell, which intend to attract individual customers.
- PR activities focusing on gaining trust and credibility among other firms, organizations, trade associations, stakeholders, etc.
B2B PR Tool Kit
B2B PR explained step by step
Discover these tricks and tactics to either kickstart your own PR efforts or… to know what to demand from your contractors:
Plan: Comprehensive & goal-oriented
Before launching a PR campaign in the US, brands need to understand who they are and who they want to become in the states. There are sometimes language barriers or nuances which need to be addressed prior to entering the market. US English varies from UK English. Not only that, a brand needs to understand the tone, culture and relevancy of their product or service within the US marketplace.
A good place to start if you’re considering entering the US market is to conduct thorough market research into the media landscape. You’ll want to take into account both regional differences and industry-specific nuances as you prepare to make news and announcements in the States.
Example: Sotrender U.S. entry
Be comprehensive and goal-oriented in your approach. Take for example, a company Enterie worked with, Sotrender. Before even exploring a public relations campaign, our Enterie US partner embarked on a fact-finding exercise to explore competitors, messaging opportunities and a detailed SWOT analysis for Sotrender. This also included an analysis of Sotrender’s social channels and messaging on the website to explore how the message would be conveyed to a U.S. audience.
Other factors to consider before launching a B2B PR campaign:
- How will you measure ROI?
- What will be your KPIs?
- What is your current share of voice compared to companies currently in the media landscape in the US?
Sure, any brand can write a news release and distribute to a list of US media reporters. But, to get the most out of your entry into the US market, make sure you have a comprehensive, goal-oriented plan for how you’ll make inroads in your B2B PR efforts. This free ebook “Expanding to the US: How to Prepare for PR” from our Chicago-based Partner will help you with that.
Localisation. Public Relations in the USA
Some B2B companies, very successful in their origin markets, often struggle to understand one crucial fact:
We are doing the same here in the U.S., with an even higher budget on campaigns etc., and it’s not working at all!
Actually, that’s the thing! Simply replicating past strategies won’t cut it.! Preparing a US-centric strategy, encompassing both business and PR aspects, is crucial. This strategy should cover topics such as:
- understanding your customer/partner
- competitors and their best practices
- potential resellers and distribution partners
- dos and don’ts in the U.S. market
- buyer personas
- conferences to attend – meet your future partners in person!
Your internal Data: use it!
There is one part of your B2B business that is yours and only yours: your data. You can wisely distribute some part of it to get the audience’s attention. Some companies struggle to share it, as this is one of the main assets. Well, again: it is possible to share only some parts, which does not damage your business but gives the journalists and influencers a reason to mention your brand and build its awareness.
Otherwise, you can pay a research agency to create and conduct original research for you. Make it unique. You can then write branded ebooks, prepare press releases based on it, etc. – remember that the research itself cannot be the final goal. The way you distribute it is!
Example: Plum Research Case Study
Our U.S. PR team worked with Polish analytics company PlumResearch to craft compelling storylines and hooks from its internal data. Plum provides detailed audience measurement for OTT and linear TV—the company shares streaming data about how well shows are performing across popular platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and HBO. Our team zeroed-in on this and worked closely with the internal marketing team to craft a media strategy which included both predictable rankings and pitches to share exclusive and insightful streaming data to target industry reporters.
With an ongoing weekly “Top 10 Netflix shows” ranking using PlumResearch’s total hours watched metric, our team lands consistent, favorable coverage in outlets that present this type of content, providing PlumResearch earned media that in turn showcases the company’s ability to deliver data to prospects and clients.
Other creative headlines for stories have included: “Less Than 36% of Netflix Viewing in U.S. Comes From Originals,” “ Streaming Isn’t Lifting Oscar Movies’ Sagging Fortunes,” Netflix Gaining Viewer Traction With Older Licensed TV Shows,” “Ginny & Georgia’ and ‘Manifest’ Boast Highest Completion Rates on Netflix in 2023,” and more. Outlets like Variety, What’s On Netflix, The Hollywood Reporter, Media Play News, and others have turned to PlumResearch’s data to provide their audiences with useful articles about streaming data thanks to our collaborative efforts with PlumResearch.
Thought Leadership. Your Ambassadors within the company
Your in-house experts are probably the best asset of your company – even more than your product or service! They also may become your Ambassadors. Use them to gain credibility and publicity.
There are several ways to position your employees and their expertise:
- media interviews
- mentions in traditional and digital earned media (you might seek PR agency support to get them)
- guest posting on blogs and media outlets
- conferences, trade organisations
- podcasts (extra budget might be helpful)
- social media expert posts (LinkedIn!)
Importantly, the above activities should not be directly sales-oriented. You should build an expert image first. When you are considered an expert in your craft, sales pitches will appear spontaneously!
In B2B PR, the voice of the expert is paramount. In order to make sure that your subject matter experts are understood, and reach the right audience with the right message, bylines and contributed articles are critical to increasing the share of voice for your business. This also ensures that you have the ability to provide longer explanations of trends, topics, and key insights which your company offers its clients.
So, what should you talk about? Be the voice of your industry. Comment on newsworthy topics. Conduct and discuss the research. Share your expert knowledge.
Your communication team‘s task is to strike a balance between the profile and the number of experts you communicate with the wider public. On one hand, higher-ranking executives, such as C-level management, are better positioned in traditional media. On the other hand, if your CEO is not American, and lacks a deep understanding of American business culture, media landscape, and the concept of thought leadership (again: it’s not sales!), your local Country Manager may be more effective. Media training could be beneficial at the beginning as well.
Example: LRN Case Study
LRN Corporation is an advisory and professional technology and services firm in the ethics & compliance space that approached us with the need to expand their presence in the U.S. and build awareness in the U.K., Germany and France. Apart from an outreach to compliance industry influencers, and verticals like manufacturing and HR, we also targeted national media outreach to offer LRN leaders as subject matter experts at the forefront of the discussion of ethics and culture in the workforce.
We landed nearly 100 placements in just over a year in outlets including Fortune, Fast Company, Law360, Forbes and various industry-specific titles. We also successfully secured just-in-time interviews with major media outlets and built momentum for their internal PR and marketing teams to maximize and repurpose across other marketing channels. Read more
There is a subtle difference between B2B and B2C media relations. Like everywhere, usage of traditional media is dropping in the U.S. (newspaper publishers’ revenue by 52% in 20 years), with the audience’s attention shifting to social media. However, in B2B industries there are certain outlets, where it’s extra beneficial to appear not only to raise brand awareness but also trust and credibility.
It is not the same for a policy-maker, or an investor, to read about you on social media or blogs, as to see you in the “Forbes” magazine. Additionally, most B2B industries have their own media – not well-known to the general public, but very important for this particular group and your stakeholders. Identifying these outlets is a task that you should undertake either internally or with your PR agency.
Reach out to journalists with your insights, reports, internal data and research. When you have big news to announce – send a press release, but avoid overusing it. Review this ultimate Press Release Guide carefully to avoid common mistakes.
Example: Sensofusion Case Study
Sensofusion is a drone defence startup from Finland (Europe), with limited reach in the United States and internationally (outside of their region). Sensofusion recognized an immediate need to start drawing the attention of movers and shakers in the defence and security space.
Our U.S. team hit the ground running (or should we say took to the skies?) with a calculated approach targeting industry-leading defence and security publications, along with drone outlets and national/international business media. Sensofusion sought quality press that would resonate with decision-makers who could pull the trigger on investments.
20+ influential pieces of earned media were arranged during one year, including interviews in the New York Times, industry media such as Defense News, Military.com, Homeland Security Today, National Defense. During the campaign, Sensofusion landed several critical contracts, including work with the U.S. Marine Corps and the European Union.
X-Factor: how to stand out? Creativity!
Well, let’s be honest. There is near to 0% chance that you are the only company doing what you’re doing. You might be the best at it – but “the best” is relative. You might have some advantages compared to your competitors – but they might be better in other aspects of the service or product.
Communication, marketing and PR are powerful tools in such a scenario. The way you creatively describe your brand, launch your business, or expand in the U.S. will be remembered!
Think about influencers or micro-influencers you can engage. Find the best even aligning to your entry strategy. Conduct a revealing report. Prepare a marketing campaign and combine it with a PR campaign.
Example: Chase for Business Case Study
Chase for Business wanted to position itself as a “wingman” for small business owners (SBOs). Chase knew that the most precious and scarce resource for SBOs was time, but that they also needed expert knowledge, tailored to their needs. Chase Business’s marketing team and our Partner PR agency Zen conducted the Chase Bizmobile campaign.
Once the 28ft trailer and mobile experiential were painstakingly designed and built, Zen and Chase embarked on the ultimate road trip. We kicked off during Detroit start-up week and used a combination of local micro-influencers and national press to make a big splash. The truck visited dozens of co-working spaces, start-up weeks, and festivals around the country. Marcus Lemonis, known from CNBC’s “The Profit”, even stopped by to invest in a duo of kid-entrepreneurs. Other traditional media hits included Business Journal, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.
Chase Business’s marketing team and our Partner PR agency Zen conducted the Chase Bizmobile campaign
Keep your team informed
Ensure that your internal audience receives consistent messaging which you share externally. When your B2B sales reps, and other marketing experts are bringing your service to clients and prospects, you want them to be speaking the same language as when your subject matter experts are featured in the media. Create consistent FAQs and talking points so that all audiences receive the same information, customized for their specific needs.
Which tools have you already implemented? Let me know your thoughts about this article or reach out to me if you need any help with your B2B PR campaign: email@example.com
Bob Spoerl is a co-founder and director of PR in Bear Icebox. Bob has worked on B2B, cybersecurity and tech clients and landed coverage in the WSJ, CNBC, CNN, the Washington Post, International Business Times, VentureBeat, The New York Times, Associated Press, Fox Business and more. Before PR, he worked as a journalist on investigative projects with the Washington Post and as a healthcare reporter.
Oliver Hays is vice president of Zen Media. His 15+ years of experience in PR include providing communications counsel to local and national clients, including fintech, banks, law firms, wealth management firms, insurance companies, data centers, breweries, and restaurants. He regularly provides clients with crisis communications plans and strategies, as well as providing in-depth media training for executives. Oliver began his career at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn, where he primarily worked on the network’s NFL studio shows.