Insight for Budgeting B2B Marketing and PR Efforts in 2011

Now that it’s February, there are several trends emerging regarding what B2B companies will focus their marketing and PR efforts on in 2011.  The contribution of the B2B Practice Group of the Worldcom Public Relations Group, the world’s largest network of independent PR firms, is a collection of insights shared among partners in North and South America.  Through a roundtable discussion, a few trends emerged about the direction of the Public Relations profession in 2011:

1) Public Relations firms must continue to improve clients’ digital communications capabilities. PR firms made great strides in 2010 and many clients, such as professional service firms, have put PR companies in the social media driver’s seat. However, because clients are now convinced of the power of digital communications, simply maintaining the status quo will not be enough over the next year. Clients want to maximize digital communication efforts, and want PR firms to figure out the tools that best fit their strategies and produce desired results.  If PR firms don’t deliver on this opportunity, clients will look for guidance elsewhere.

2) Social media communications will be more controlled by both client companies and regulatory agencies. In the latter area, the SEC and IRS have already gotten hip to Twitter and other social networking sites. The growth of these communities forced regulatory agencies to begin understanding how the sites operate, and how clients are using them. The increased interest in social networking sites will most likely result in new regulations in upcoming months.  At the same time, as clients recognize the power of social media – for both good and bad — they will seek to tighten their internal controls.

3) Reputation management (RM) will become more of a strategic necessity, with clients formalizing RM roles and functions both internally and externally. In mid-December, a seasoned independent marketing and PR consultant said that the biggest uptick in his business in 2010 was in the reputation management space.  He attributed it directly to the rapid evolution of social media and how fast and furiously everything moves on the net. It appears that there will be more calls from CEOs to “get things off Google” in the next year than previously anticipated.

4) Three magic letters remain at the forefront of all conversations about Public Relations: ROI. What has changed is that PR firms now have more tools to help prove ROI. This year, Public Relations will become even more “wrapped around” content creation, and because of that, PR firms have an opportunity to really morph the ROI conversation into: “what constitutes success?”

5) This year, PR firms will likely move beyond “social media.” Campaigns will become more about the content and the conversation, and less about traditional PR. Currently, many professional services firms are using social media as a way to promote their content. This is a fine starting point; however, in 2011, B2B companies will start having conversations, and ultimately begin figuring out how to profit from listening to customers and providing them tailored services that answer the questions they are asking. For more, Harvard Business Review has some very helpful survey results on this topic.

Cortney Rhoads Stapleton is Senior Vice President and head of the Professional Servies Practice at BlissPR New York.  She is also the chair of the global B2B Practice Group for Worldcom Public Relations Group, the world’s largest network of independently owned public relations counseling firms. Check here for more information on the B2B Practice Group within Worldcom Public Relations Group.

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