B2B Trend: Hiring SMEs to Lift PR Efforts ⬆️
How tech vendors are filling a gap left open by busy founders
Hello! It’s been 180 days since my last newsletter. Things went up. Things went down. Like Bitcoin, I hope you’re climbing into positive territory in Q1!
Today’s newsletter presents a hiring trend impacting marketing’s ability to raise brand awareness that I’m increasingly seeing with our roster of B2B clients and across tech.
You’re choosing to read my thoughts over anything else at this moment. Thank you. I cannot express how seriously I take that. K, back to the GIF party!
How SMEs Take PR Efforts to the 🌙
SMEs that are not founders or product marketers nearly guarantee press coverage. Yep, the value of an in-house SME is this incredible. This lesser-known secret will increase the chances that reporters, podcasters, industry influencers, partners, and prospective customers will pay attention to you.
What usually happens at most B2B companies is executives "Frankenstein" the SME role by randomly borrowing the brains of folks across departments like customer success and marketing instead of being the SMEs themselves.
CEOs/Founders: “Could the head of marketing or customer success do this?”
Execs who want to start PR efforts but can’t put the time in ask me that. My answer:
Reason number one: it’s not their focus or a priority. Oftentimes the following happens when an SME isn’t a PR firm’s go-to contact who has agreed to set aside time to work with them on an ongoing basis.
A media opportunity is presented by a PR partner to their main point of contact who says the appropriate SME is unable to meet a reporter’s deadline. Someone or anyone with a pulse is asked/ordered by an executive to jump on said media opportunity, and they usually do it. The person is excited to be asked and featured, plus they’re responsive. Great, the opportunity wasn’t lost. But it’s the second ask where the wheels usually come off — due to competing priorities.
The standard scenario for media opp #2 goes like this. Whoever spoke to the media the first time the proper SME is asked to do a second interview. They say “sure” or “maybe.” Oof — enthusiasm dropped. But then they get pulled into something and fade. The common result: a disappointed reporter who didn’t get what they needed. What’s extra painful, they quoted a competitor in their story.
The second reason a dedicated SME is a gamechanger for PR programs is they have the awareness to not be self-promotional. Most employees drink the “company juice” and mention company services, or worse, sell to reporters. These are qualities the press doesn’t want in their sources.
Tip: Journalists prefer not to speak with anyone in marketing
A third reason is few employees are both public-facing and developing external-facing content. The fact is most employees aren’t hired to work with marketing or PR partners so they don’t have the necessary skills that an experienced SME does.
Why SMEs Aren’t At More B2B Challenger Brands
In the last 48 months, the concept of having a full-time SME has been trickling down from enterprise tech companies to primarily funded midsize company leaders. For decades, giants like IBM have had high-paid, strategic SMEs make the media rounds. They’ll share takeaways from a new report they conducted, discuss brand trends, what consumers are buying, ya get it.
Since the pandemic happened, dozens of sharp founders at startups have pegged CTOs or Heads of Content as part-time SMEs. However, for reasons mentioned above and more, it’s a stopgap. Additionally, it’s usually short-lived. Very few emerging B2B businesses have this gap filled the way they should.
Stay tuned, this trend is still in the very early stages. We’re not seeing this in full force yet because:
1. Few founders know the value of this key hire
2. Fewer founders can afford SMEs
Yet, the worth an SME brings to a growing B2B company is at an all-time high. When their roles are clearly established and they're actually trusted by a leader to go out to the world to share smarts and evangelize, SMEs are:
1. A+ media resources
2. Magnets for talent that aid HR efforts
3. Often influencing the sales pipeline
4. Able to steer and develop valuable content
5. The company face at events (e.g., micro events, NRF, webinars)
6. Suited to aid in partnerships
7. Reviewing proprietary data to be boxed up and shipped to journalists
8. Generally "in the know" (endless wins here)
9. Sharing helpful advice for potential customers on industry podcasts, on stages, etc.
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