Debunking the Divide: The Common Ground Between B2B and B2C PR

July 19, 2018

Debunking the Divide: The Common Ground Between B2B and B2C PR

July 19, 2018


Do business-to-business (B2B) PR and business-to-consumer (B2C) PR have anything in common? For many PR professionals, the two specialties are worlds apart. While differences do exist, B2B and B2C PR professionals often mirror each other in terms of strategies they employ and objectives they target. Below we focus on what the approaches to B2B and B2C PR have in common.

  1. Develop detailed buyer personas

Both B2C and B2B PR professionals must think strategically about who is making the purchasing decision. This goes beyond the basic demographic questions about gender, age, and location. What motivates your buyers? What would help convince them to choose your product or service? A detailed customer persona can help companies segment audiences and target them with content and messaging that will resonate with that specific group. In B2B communications, the focus is more typically on a persona’s role in a company or common challenges in their industry, whereas in the B2C realm, a persona’s purchasing habits and lifestyle aspirations tend to be more important. In both cases, taking the time to define and use buyer personas helps communicators connect with their target audiences.

  1. Create convincing content

Before making a decision or purchase, both corporate and consumer audiences do their research. Increase the odds that they come across your company or brand with content that addresses questions or concerns they may have. Quality content tailored to what your audiences would be searching for – through the use of strategic keywords and external links – can help improve rankings in search engine results and increase the likelihood that your target audiences will find your content when conducting their research.

For example, Airbnb connects with consumers through its publication, airbnbmag. This collection of the Airbnb community’s stories and travel tips reinforces the company’s expertise in the travel industry in a way that aligns with the brand’s core offerings and values. Potential buyers looking for travel tips for their next vacation may be swayed to use Airbnb instead of a hotel after seeing a helpful roundup of best places to eat like a local in San Juan on airbnbmag.  On the B2B side, HubSpot, a data CRM and marketing tool, uses blog posts, white papers, data visualizations, and free webinars to show potential buyers how to maximize the software and to demonstrate the value provided to businesses already using its tools.

By becoming a go-to resource, your business can build credibility and confidence among people interested in your products or services. Both B2B and B2C companies need to think about the end-to-end buying experience that they offer to potential clients and customers if they are to be successful, and informative and engaging content is a way to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.

  1. Tell a compelling story

Traditionally, B2C PR puts more emphasis on storytelling to create connections with customers whereas B2B PR relies more on data to make its case to decision-makers. Both approaches have their benefits: Stories are relatable and emotionally resonant; numbers show objective results. Combined, they complement each other: Stories backed by data can appeal to human emotion and logic, both of which play a role in the decision-making process. When B2B and B2C PR professionals deploy an approach that combines quantitative and qualitative storytelling, they can be more successful in connecting with their audiences’ hearts and minds.

Music streaming service Spotify frequently uses internal data about users’ listening habits to make connections with current events and social trends. Spotify produces content that explores these connections in a compelling narrative. For example, Spotify’s blog post about #BlackGirlMagic examined the movement’s origins and influence on listening trends by looking at artists most streamed in Black Girl Magic playlists and cities with the highest number of Black Girl Magic playlists. By tapping into an influential, timely movement, Spotify was able to tell a story that resonated with its users while backing it with their user data. Search and discovery app Foursquare, which provides local businesses a platform for people to find them, published a report in 2016 for local businesses looking at foot traffic trends near several of Donald Trump’s properties in both “red” and “blue” states. The study examined whether the location of Trump properties impacted surrounding businesses. The graphs showed foot traffic decreasing, especially among women in blue states. The study was extremely popular with news outlets, which used the study as background for pieces about the controversies around Trump using his presidential campaign to boost his real estate businesses and about the effects of increased partisanship on businesses.

  1. Have others sing your praises

Third-party validation – whether in the form of reviews, awards and recognition, or shout-outs from influencers – is one of the most effective ways for B2B and B2C companies to build credibility and trust. Customers of consumer brands frequently turn to friends, family, social media, and online reviews to make decisions before buying. Most consumer-facing companies know this and understand the power of their customers’ opinions and perceptions of their brand. Consider streetwear brand Supreme – in lieu of traditional paid advertising, Supreme’s cult customer following comes from seeing fashion and culture influencers like A$AP Rocky and Pharrell wear the brand. This third-party validation from trendsetters creates a cool, aspirational aura around the brand among customers.

B2B buyers also look to third-parties before making decisions about service providers or B2B products, often turning to colleagues, industry influencers, and reviews or rankings for guidance. For example, awards can demonstrate a company’s successes, differentiators, and leadership. Consulting firm Deloitte has won awards in categories like “Best Place to Work” and “Top 50 Consulting Firms,” all of which highlight the firm’s strengths and add to its positive reputation as a leading consultancy.

  1. Become influencers and thought leaders

Both B2C and B2B companies leverage PR to brand their executives—who are often the driving forces behind a company’s industry leadership, values, and culture—as experts and influencers in their spaces. Placing bylined articles, providing expert commentary on industry trends and breaking news, and speaking at influential events helps to position executives—and therefore companies—at the forefront of their industries. Industry leadership can also lead to broader recognition, trust, and influence on other topics affecting society.

Investment firm Blackstone’s CEO and co-founder Steven Schwarzman is an established corporate advisory and investment expert. Under his leadership, Blackstone has become one of the most successful and nimble investment firms in the world. Schwarzman’s reputation as a thought leader in banking regulations and the economy made him a top choice to chair President Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum (which was eventually disbanded), as well as to speak on tax reform and banking regulations at the World Economic Forum at Davos. Elon Musk of Tesla is known as a technology and clean energy pioneer because of his company’s electric cars and other disruptive and energy-saving products. This foundation gives him a platform to assert his voice and become a go-to resource about the future of accessible renewable clean energy, as well as innovations like AI and space travel. Apple CEO Tim Cook is considered an influencer in the tech industry because of his leadership in keeping Apple and its products ahead of the curve. But he has also used his platform as the leader of a global tech giant to share his opinions on subjects outside of or related to tech, such as human rights, workplace diversity, and privacy rights, while also positioning the company as a “good guy” in society.

B2B and B2C PR certainly have their differences when it comes to tactics, tone, and metrics. But, by looking to each other for inspiration rather than focusing on differences, B2B and B2C PR professionals can expand their toolkits and spark creativity in their work.