Our company is creating a new category to sell to large enterprises and we need to build a PR strategy to help our business. Do you have any suggestions for how we can maximize our chances of success?
Many of the greatest companies in history created new categories entirely. Yet, the thought of investments in such companies often gives investors cold chills because of the risks. Often no line item exists in a corporate budget exists for your product and no natural champion is obvious. By the time they figure it out, you may be out of business.
Most VCs hear “marketing” or “PR” and hear the sound of a giant toilet flushing with their money. That is because most PR and marketing efforts are catastrophically amateur and ineffectual — all drain and no gain.
Your strategy needs the right message and the right people to execute it. If your company does not resonate with your massive transformative purpose (or, your “why”) deep in its bones at every level of the organization, you will have a harder time convincing the world of your mission. Those who carry the message to the world also need to have the substantive knowledge, contacts, and credibility necessary for the task. If you have a complicated financial services product, for example, your PR team needs to understand the nuances and, ideally, have serious decades of experience in the industry.
Who will influence purchasing? Within an enterprise you may have lower-level champions in different parts of the organization, such as supply chain, IT, or elsewhere, but you will also need support from finance, the C-Suite, and perhaps even the Board of Directors, depending on your price points and the magnitude of your product’s intrusion into the company’s operations.
Part of PR is creating a discourse around your category so that it fits into a narrative structure to justify the expenditure. You may need to aim for the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times to get the credibility you need. Or perhaps industry publications should do. Journalists do not want to be shills for your product, so you need to create the thought leadership around your new industry and create fresh takes to gain coverage. Select elite coverage with articulate evangelists giving reasoned, persuasive arguments builds upon itself when your message resonates.
Often category creators find themselves facing natural predators within target organizations. If your product replaces an entire existing function or embarrasses it with its existing low-tech incompetence, you will have an enemy to adoption. We have had a few investments over the years which failed in part because we made certain entrenched functions irrelevant. You will rarely succeed selling Uber to taxi companies.
One frequently overlooked stakeholder is regulatory bodies. Often regulators and legislators do not understand new categories of businesses, as they reason by analogies which are frequently decades or centuries old. You must coordinate your strategy with the regulatory scheme you want.
Do not overlook other often hidden influencers. For example, if your product can substantially lower losses from cybercrimes, perhaps the insurance carriers are an indirect PR target. They can require use of your product for their covered clients to lower loss rates. Many companies have employed similar strategies with medical technology that lowers medical or privacy errors and malpractice claims.
The most common mistakes I see are entrusting your PR strategy to someone who likes to pray and spray by writing generic releases and blasting publications indiscriminately, or hiring your friend’s niece or nephew who just graduated with an English B.A. and a Marketing minor and who has no experience whatsoever.
Like all things, coordinate a unified strategy across all fronts and execute it with an elite team to get the results you want.