PR is dead. B2B companies that spend money on PR agencies are, for the most part, wasting resources and paying a huge opportunity cost.
Now, it’s not their fault. PR used to be the right way to communicate with your market (customers, investors, talent, influencers). Scratch that – PR used to be the only way. There were no other options. If your brand wasn’t on that industry magazine, or that radio/TV spot, or that newspaper… you were screwed. Your brand didn’t exist.
But the world has changed, and B2B brands need to adjust to it.
The Post Mortem: Why PR is Dead
The goal behind PR is to gain credibility. But here’s the problem: credibility can’t be paid, it has to be earned. If you can buy it, it’s not credibility – it’s something else.
Let’s talk about how pervasive and shady this industry is:
We used to associate industry magazines like Forbes to be the key to our marketing’s success. That was back when an editor had to approach you to write about you or, at least, you pitched them and they saw value in your story. There still was an attention-middleman that decided if your company’s story is worthy or not, but it isn’t as drastically horrible as it is right now.
Today, it’s not even about if your story is cool enough. It’s about if you have $1,000-$5,000 to light on fire. That’s it, that’s the only requirement. Like The Outline said, it’s a literal menu:
“A brand mention in The New York Times costs $5,000. TechCrunch costs $4,500, Business Insider costs $3,000, and Forbes costs $1,950.”
But it gets worse. Here’s what happens behind the scenes on, let’s say, Forbes:
Forbes has 1,400 contributors; they are UNPAID and help publish 200-300 posts per DAY (that’s how insignificant your mention is, by the way). Because these contributors don’t get a dollar from it, they often turn to the dark side: getting money from those PR agencies to forcefully mention your name in passing.
Morally, you shouldn’t want to be part of this. It’s a bribe.
But from a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense either. The views of these articles are low, you have to drive traffic to it but don’t own the site or the traffic so you can’t retarget and, worst of all, you’re letting an unpaid contributor share your story vs sharing it yourself.
Besides, everyone knows you bought that placement. Again, you can’t buy credibility.
PS. If you’re wondering how I know this, I started my career by being a ghostwriter for a Forbes contributor. I’ve been inside and seen how the machine works. Horrified, I found a better way for B2B companies to share their story than letting a 19 year old ghostwriter for an unpaid contributor get bribed by a shady PR agency. This goes deeper than Inception.
The New World: Why B2B Brands Need to Become Media Companies
If credibility can’t be bought, the alternative is to earn it. And this is how B2B brands can earn real attention and credibility that translates into business results:
You earn it by turning your B2B brand into a media company and creating a content flywheel.
PR was killed by what we call the Democratization of Attention. The market’s attention went from gated sources (TV, Radio, Industry Magazines, etc.) to open sources (Twitter, Linkedin, Medium, Podcasting, Youtube, etc).
After that change, B2B companies are now realizing they don’t need some editor’s permission to share their story and create demand. They can own their content, own its distribution and, ultimately, own their story.
Where TV existed, now we have Youtube. From radio to podcasting. From Forbes to Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s a new era, and PR is, unfortunately (not really), the old dinosaur that was bound to be disrupted.
We killed the industry. And we’re not sorry.
Now, creating and distributing content isn’t easy. It presents a different set of challenges, but it gives the opportunity to all those companies that haven’t raised $3B and aren’t the traditional media’s favorite son; the ones with a story to tell and a market to disrupt. And that makes us happy.
So, define your strategic narrative and create a content flywheel. Win the attention of your market and leverage it to win on brand. This will be obvious and industry standard in five years, but you can pioneer this now and take advantage of seeing it before others.
The best B2B already act like media companies:
While most companies still rely on old marketing tactics like PR or content that the market doesn’t want to consume (whitepapers, ebooks, etc.), there are a handful of winning B2B brands that understand they need to become media companies.
A few examples:
- Outreach x Sales Hacker
- Zapier x Makerpad
- Stripe x Indie Hackers
- Hubspot x The Hustle
- Microacquire x Bootstrappers
- Salesforce x Salesforce +
- Influence Podium
The winners already live in the new world. We believe your company should also be in this list. It will take everyone else five years to catch up, but the time to pioneer this movement and break through this window opportunity is now.
If you run a B2B company and see the world the same way we do, we’d be happy to chat and help you and your company pioneer this movement.