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WHAT'S IN THIS GUIDE?
This guide goes deep on the content creation and distribution side of inbound B2B PR strategy planning.
- It discusses how joined-up planning for creation and distribution is the surest way to content success.
- It walks through a 6 step plan for content mapping – a winning method for less-is-more content creation and organisation to support long-term results (bonus: also includes a handy downloadable worksheet).
- And it ends with the 9 need-to-know content types for inbound B2B PR pros, and the resources and tools that can help you make the most of them.
Use this guide to inform your strategy and escape the cycle of spray and pray B2B content distribution forever.
THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG: CONTENT CREATION OR DISTRIBUTION
B2B content distribution can feel like something of an endpoint in your PR strategy.
After developing your objectives, conducting persona and audience research, making channel choices and getting creative, you kick your babies out of the nest and see how they fare in the real world.
But whether your content soars or plunges to its death will actually be because of decisions made much earlier in your strategy development.
What actually sets the stage for successful B2B content distribution – measured by discoverability, engagement and performance – are strategic decisions around:
- Audience insights – who are you talking to and where are they online?
- Channel strategy – where are you going to talk about it?
- Content formats and types – how are you going to talk about it?
These are all things a good strategy will be absolutely clear on before you sit down to write, film or design any content at all.
So, while separating content creation and distribution into different stages is helpful for your ‘to do’ list, when planning it’s vital to know how the two link together.
Doing so will help you create strong content hubs (explained in Section 3) that boost your B2B PR results through better search performance and more trust from your audience.
It will also give you greater clarity of, and control over, your content pipeline so you don’t fall into the biggest content trap of them all: publishing content for content’s sake. In the world of building trust through genuinely useful content (see How to create a B2B PR strategy that sings), less is usually more.
So, step away from the ‘Publish’ button. What we’re about to tell you could make the difference between six months spent chasing your tail while leads slip away or being an inbound B2B PR hero.
Let’s get started.
INSIDE AN INSIGHT-DRIVEN B2B CONTENT STRATEGY
The definition of great content for inbound B2B PR is useful content – simple as that. Only useful content will get you the traffic, shares and backlinks that you need to become a trusted authority on your key topics.
That means you need to know who you’re talking to, what makes them tick and the pain points that you can help them with.
Who or what does your audience already trust?
For this we use personas, a key feature of which is where – or from who – these people get their information. Essentially, this means where do they already place their trust and how can you join that exclusive list.
For example, if your insights tell you that their industry or job role relies heavily on peer recommendations and trade media, then your brochure is a waste of paper and Instagram account a waste of pixels.
For this group you’d be better off putting your efforts into sourcing case studies and testimonials, or building customer advocacy programmes, that you might shape into content for customer events, targeted social media and a steady source of news and opinion for the trade press.
This is worth spending time on during your strategy planning – ask yourself over and over again: if I was this person, why would I trust my company or solutions? Brainstorm it with colleagues and validate your thinking with sales. The more views on this the better during early planning
How can you win their hearts as well as their minds?
Another key but often overlooked feature of persona research is the emotional drivers that prompt your audience to act. These can be the most powerful lever of all in an inbound B2B PR content strategy.
Looking to inspire? You might create stunning or intriguing visual content for Facebook, combined with some seriously punchy opinions for Twitter. You need to help them feel informed and knowledgeable? A series of explainer videos on your YouTube channel and homepage might be a good place to start.
Where does your audience live online?
We’ve covered the PESO model for B2B content distribution extensively here.
The channels you populate your own PESO model with depends on where your audience ‘lives’ online and how they respond to one channel versus another.
For example, some industries have audiences that are highly active on one social channel and totally absent from another. Instagram and Pinterest rule the roost in lifestyle, for example, but they’ll be less effective than LinkedIn and Twitter for reaching senior business leaders or people working in professional services.
Where does your audience live, on social media and elsewhere?
Are they ever at their desk, or are they constantly going from meeting to meeting with only five minutes between each to check their email, read that article sent by a colleague and like that cat video on Facebook?
This has real consequences for the kind of content you need to be gearing up to create, because…
… you reap what you sow when it comes to B2B content marketing
The content you create often defines how you can distribute it, because some story types and formats will be better suited to one channel over another (see Section 4).
Avoid painting yourself into a corner by fully defining what your audience insights mean for your B2B content distribution strategy – long before you invest in developing specific content types.
Yes, you can force fit pretty much any content type into an email campaign but the best performing content is created with its intended distribution channels in mind.
You should be clear on where you’re distributing your content in order to reach your audience, and then create that content in formats that best leverage those channels’ unique advantages.
This means your planning should simultaneously layer down from your big topics and layer up from your distribution channels (informed by your audience insights), eventually meeting in the middle where content types are decided.
So let’s take a look at how that works.
A SIX-STEP PLAN FOR CONTENT MAPPING AND THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTENT HUBS
Flooding the internet with your random musings is the fast track to irrelevance and the opposite of what inbound B2B PR is about.
You need a content planning approach that allows you to confidently zero in on your best topics (guided by audience insights and keyword competitiveness or opportunity), and make them work as hard as they can for you.
Content that works hard, is content that signals your authority on a subject, in both the eyes of search engines and real people (never forget people when creating and distributing content).
The best way to achieve this is to create ‘content hubs’, wonderfully outlined here by Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media.
In Andy’s words: ‘When content is focused on a topic [in content hubs], it piles up, reaching higher above the competition and gaining visibility.’
With content hubs, a focused investment of time and money in one or two big ideas can sustain a whole campaign for many months – if your content is well researched, based on actual insights, and supported by your own data and genuine expert commentary.
Imagine you’re a company that makes a data analytics solution, which promises to take stunning data visualizations out of the hands of data scientists and into the hands of mere mortals such as marketing bods – or the undead, in sales (joking, sales friends!).
For this to happen, you need a B2B content strategy that educates a group whose only previous experience with data visualization is making pie charts in Excel (which they think work just fine, thank you very much).
Gini Dietrich, the inventor of the PESO Model, has published an excellent blog post on generating content ideas and distributing that content in line with the PESO model. Under the heading ‘Where to start’, she walks you through starting with a main topic before layering in a ‘supportive base’ of further topics to guide the content you create.
We’ll take Gini’s model and show how Analytics X can layer in distribution channels to create their content hubs and a comprehensive editorial calendar.
Step 1 of 6 – Choose your main topic
Let’s assume that in your topics research you’ve spoken to sales about the most commonly asked questions by prospects and customers, and that you’ve validated or augmented that input by looking at keyword search volumes using something like the SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool.
This informs your main topic.
Step 2 of 6 – Add your channels
Using your audience insights, you know the channels where you can best reach them – so they get added to the bottom of your map.
Step 3 of 6 – Select your best possible content types
You also know that your audience trusts peer recommendations, is motivated by being more productive, put off by disruptions to their current workflows, and their next promotion depends on adding more value to their role and company.
So next you add in your view on what that means for the types of content your audience will find most useful. Be general here, as in think of the content pieces that might allow you to educate, inform and reassure your audience, like this:
Step 4 of 6 – Select sub-topics to support the main one
Now let’s go back to topics. Under your main topic, you need to create sub topics that support your main topic. These are the storylines that will form the core of your content hubs.
Step 5 of 6 – Brainstorm content ideas for those sub-topics
Now, brainstorm each sub-topic for content ideas to tell each story – these will populate your content hubs.
Step 6 of 6 – Join it all up
The final step is to link the two halves to establish your B2B content strategy plan. For example, you might decide your best course is to turn the A-Z of data visualization into an eBook, a supporting webinar and a blog series; which you’re going to distribute/promote on LinkedIn and Twitter, the company blog and via email to your database of prospects.
This now forms the basis of your editorial calendar that helps keep you and/or your writers on track, and allows you to see how far your content will stretch.
In our example we have six planned pieces of content and their derivatives, which could potentially support a six month campaign if we distributed it in line with the PESO model, like this:
Cool, huh? You can download some blank content maps to try it for yourself.
Trust us. This approach will, firstly, help you create a strong content hubs that over time will boost your inbound B2B PR results through better search performance and more trust from your audience.
Secondly, looking this far ahead will protect you against feeling pressured later down the road into publishing something (anything!) that risks undermining quality or relevance, or doesn’t contribute to your overall inbound B2B PR strategy.
THE NINE NEED-TO-KNOW CONTENT TYPES FOR INBOUND PR
But what kind of content should you be creating?
Clever marketers and inbound B2B PR specialists are always tweaking some the ‘classics’ – such as making infographics interactive – or inventing new ones, such as interactive video.
But there are nine core content types that every B2B PR pro can use to build winning content hubs.
Remember: creating a hub means thinking about how these might work together, to pile up highest and make sure your story is the one that gets found online.
1) Ebooks and white papers
Best for: High-value, practical, problem-solving content that establishes your authority and generates leads. Marketo says that “77% of buyers will provide their basic contact information for high value content”.
Key features: Practicality is key so look to include checklists, step-by-step guides, worksheets, FAQs, actionable data and insights, and links to further reading and useful resources.
Where and when to use them: They can thrive at the center of content hubs so use them to dive deep on major storylines, and as a call to action for other content pieces such as blogs. Host them on your domain with a custom landing page optimised to drive conversions (see here for landing page inspiration). Or, if budget allows, place them as sponsored content with key media, like this.
Distribute them with: If hosting them yourself, use long-form blogs to cover a selection of key chapters or concepts. Striking images are proven to promote information recall, and any diagrams or charts can be used on social media to drive click-throughs or simplify complex topics for media outreach. Use your marketing automation platform to run email promotion campaigns (these tools will also allow you to treat your visuals as trackable assets, so that clicks to an image from an ebook posted on LinkedIn can be attributed back to that post). Also, use bylines and opinion pieces for media outreach or, if placing them as sponsored content, negotiate promotion strategies with the publisher that maximises their readership, database and social reach.
Helpful tools and resources:
- Canva is just one of many places online where you can create an eBook for free.
- DIY Book Covers lets you create 3D renders of your ebook to look like an actual book.
- Designrr turns any blog into an ebook and features a 3D cover creator (excellent if your budget doesn’t stretch to creating an original design, although we recommend original design wherever you can afford it).
- CoSchedule shows you how to create an attention-grabbing white paper.
2) Bylined articles, opinion pieces and guest blogs
Best for: Securing media coverage, thought leadership, raising awareness, generating traffic back to your site and high quality backlinks that boost SEO.
Key features: Bylines and opinion pieces need a strong point of view from a high-authority author. Original data and insights are a massive advantage, as are good images or graphics (think diagrams or data visualizations). It’s also better if they’re on a topic that has some longevity, or is ‘evergreen’ as they say in the trade. Evergreen content does not become dated or irrelevant over time – a huge boost for SEO – and is highly valued by editors and blog owners due to its potential to keep bringing in traffic long after it’s published. Critically, bylines and opinion pieces should always have a hook that links back to your site, otherwise how are they helping your overall inbound B2B PR strategy? While backlinks from other sites are difficult to secure, if you include a link to a piece of data, a white paper or some research that’s hosted on your site, you may get lucky. Without it, you almost certainly won’t.
Where and when to use them: As a key part of your media relations and backlinking strategy.
Distribute them with: Press releases are a great vehicle for selling in bylines, if what you have to say or promote is newsworthy. The news is the hook for your outreach, but the offer of a bylined opinion piece might be what clinches the deal. Other than that, the most important thing is the content you’re linking back to on your site – is it unique enough for the publisher to include the link, and high-value enough to tempt readers to click through? If you get a byline or guest post published then share, share, share on your social media channels.
Helpful tools and resources:
- Check out this article on Forbes, Five Ways To Increase Your Chances Of Securing A Byline.
- If you secure your pitch, these tips will help when it comes down to the actual writing.
Best for: Blogs are great for establishing authority over the long term, boosting SEO performance to increase site traffic, and nurturing prospects towards a sale.
Key features: Successful blogs have five key features:
- Posts are structured to be readable, skimmable, and shareable. Pro tip: longer posts provide more value, perform better in SEO terms and get more shares.
- Strong visual elements that mean posts don’t look like impenetrable walls of text. These could be pictures and graphics, or they might be pull out quotes.
- A clear subject-matter focus that helps them become a destination site for your audience and encourages repeat visits. For example, being a “data visualization blog” is better than a “technology blog”.
- They’re updated regularly, which also encourages repeat visits and shows new visitors that you’re still in business.
- Internal links to other great content. These keep people on your site for longer and send good vibes to Google.
When and where to use them: Blogs are most companies’ premier owned channel and the place where they can tell their story on their terms. Major announcements, new insights and helpful resources – all of this and more should be included on your blog in a steady stream of posts. As for how often you should post, well, that depends.
Distribute them with: A solid SEO strategy targeting winnable and high-value keywords, relentless promotion on your social channels, email newsletters.
Helpful tools and resources:
- We’ve linked to plenty of resources above, but also check out 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.
- As we’ve mentioned, Designrr allows you to quickly and easily turn blogs into ebooks, to increase their shelf-life and reach, and to offer readers the chance to download the blog for later (and let you capture their contact details).
Best for: Educating prospects (and customers) as part of your nurture efforts, demonstrating your capabilities or those of your product and directly engaging your audience.
Key features: Live webinars can be great but come with plenty of headaches around production, planning and attendance. Pre-recorded is increasingly the way to go, and they can keep generating views (and leads if gated) for as long as they remain relevant.
Get creative to stand out from the crowd but most webinars feature at least a presentation of some sort and a lead presenter. They might also take the format of discussions and interviews with subject matter experts, or perhaps have two or three presenters each with a unique angle on the overall topic.
Some platforms offer functionality for audience participation in the form of questions or polls – this is much more engaging than a talking head and a PowerPoint deck.
Where and when to use them: Webinars can work across the buyers’ journey but really come into their own when educating prospects through the consideration stage (owing to the format’s strengths for diving deep into topics) or for generating new leads. Depending on resources, they might be a heavier lift than other content types so prioritise accordingly.
Distribute them with: For live webinars, automated email reminders and calendar entries are essential to limiting drop offs in the lead time between registration and attendance. You’ll need an optimized landing page for registrations or downloads and a promotion strategy that includes blogs and social media posts and, ideally, targeted social advertising. Webinars can also be a great accompaniment to your eBooks – think key spokespeople drilling down into the key insights you’ve uncovered.
Helpful tools and resources:
Best for: When you have a theme with lots of topics and a landing page isn’t enough, but the corporate website doesn’t have the space or features to do it justice. A microsite can help bring it all together in one place, to provide a home for your content and a single destination for paid, earned, social and other owned channels to direct to.
Key features: The beauty of a microsite is that it can have whatever features you want – it’s just a more focussed type of website than your main one. As Boingnet says, “dedicated to a single purpose, microsites provide marketers with more creative freedom to deeply engage visitors”.
Where and when to use them: Whenever you want to provide a targeted, high quality and engaging experience around a single theme with many topics.
Distribute them with: Whatever content you create for the microsite will have its own distribution strategy – whether that’s byline articles to promote the keystone content, or webinars to dive into your latest resources. But if you’re going to the trouble of building one then you should invest time and money in promoting it as a destination for your audience on that topic. A cost-effective way to do this is with social media advertising.
Helpful tools and resources:
Best for: Building relationships and creating an experience around a product, service or company; solving your target market’s problems face-to-face; launches (content or products), securing media coverage and lead generation.
Key features: Whether hosting your own or taking part in someone else’s, a good event needs a strong story. If you’re going to ask people to take time out of their busy days, what are they going to learn? Why is this important or, even better, urgent? An agenda packed with thought leaders, original data and insights, and the chance to network with peers are all key features. Of course, your sales team are going to want the chance to connect with new leads – but a good event is not a torturous boiler room-style sales pitch, where visitors are trapped in a room for hours. It’s best to bring in interesting partners and speakers and to educate people; not stand there and tell the audience how great your company is for hours.
Where and when to use them: Events are pretty versatile. You might use them when you have something truly amazing to say and want it to land with impact; when you’re launching something new and want to create a buzz, or when entering a new market and have a big education job on your hands. Or maybe you just want to showcase all the great content you’ve made?
Promote them with: Among the hundreds of ways you might promote an event, some of the more cost effective would be:
- Email and phone invitations.
- PPC advertising against relevant search terms.
- Teaser blogs and social posts trailing key content or announcements.
- Promotional media interviews with high profile spokespeople.
- Create a hashtag for the event to generate buzz.
- Bylined articles with newsworthy hooks in your Tier 1 media.
- Local print and radio advertising.
- Outreach via your salesforce.
Helpful tools and resources:
Best for: Making complex topics or interesting data easy to read and share; driving traffic to your site; as an entry point for larger content pieces or campaigns; securing media coverage.
Key features: The best infographics are easy to describe, but hard to make. Simply put they’re highly visual and intuitive representations of data. The goal is to tell a compelling story with numbers.
Where and when to use them: Use them to accompany the launch of larger pieces of content, such as eBooks, or to promote webinars. They can also supplement long-form blogs, to provide a shareable takeaway for the reader, or be chopped up into individual ‘info bites’ for sharing on social. Or you might use them as part of your media outreach (journalists are often very happy to receive great visuals that communicate complex ideas).
Distribute them with: Email or on your blog, via social, and via media relations.
Helpful tools and resources:
- Piktochart is one free tool for making infographics, and Canva is another.
- For inspiration, here’s a collection of “the best infographics ever”.
- And here’s some more info on the best way to use them.
- People Per Hour is packed full of cost-effective designers that can run you up an infographic in no time.
8) Email campaigns
Best for: Affordable and – with marketing automation tools – easy to use: email is the workhorse of B2B content distribution. Share your latest content in a monthly newsletter, or set up intelligent trigger-based campaigns to nurture leads from prospect to sale.
Key features: Writing good marketing emails is a topic all of its own (a Google search for that terms returns 542,000,000 results). Keep in mind that emails must always be relevant to your audience. If it isn’t, it’s called spam. Keep that up and your database will suffer and complaints will rise faster than you can say “unsubscribe”.
Where and when to use them: Setting aside specific promotions or events, a general rule for successful email marketing is to be helpful, predictable and unintrusive. Share only your most useful content, do it at regular times (weekly or monthly, for example) and, if you’re using data to personalise content and journeys, don’t be creepy about it.
Distribute them with: This one is simple: a marketing automation tool. These platforms enable you to build a complete picture of anyone who interacts with your company across multiple digital touchpoints. With that picture, you can create rules around email campaigns and other channels, that will help nurture prospects on a journey towards a final sale.
Helpful tools and resources:
- Head to Campaign Monitor for more on nurturing prospects with email.
- SharpSpring and Hubspot sit at the more accessible end of the marketing automation spectrum, while Marketo and Eloqua are popular enterprise-level applications.
- Optinmonster creates impactful pop-ups that can help drive sign-ups to your email newsletters.
9) Explainer videos
Best for: Short sharp explanations of your company, product or services.
Key features: Live action explainer videos are non-animated, and are best for discussing actual products or your company. Animated ones are the most popular and can be better for services or tech that doesn’t look like much on the outside. And there’s been a growing trend for a while towards whiteboard explainer videos.
Where and when to use them: On your homepage or product pages if you have just one or two that won’t be updated too often. If you find yourself making lots of these, then a specialist resource page or library could over time grow into a very high value destination for your audience.
Distribute them with: As a general rule, an explainer video might not be something you want to launch with a big bang. It’s content you might share to your email database when it’s new, and position prominently on your social channels (perhaps with a link in your bio) and homepage so prospects can quickly understand who you are and what you do.
Helpful tools and resources:
- For more, check out The 5 Best Explainer Videos (& How to Make Your Own)
- If you’re looking to create explainer videos regularly, IMPACT has a brilliant blog on where to get great set equipment such as lighting on a budget.
There you have it. A comprehensive guide to ensuring your content planning process sets you up for easy and effective creation and distribution.
You can download our content mapping worksheet here and we’ve also produced a handy checklist to help you manage your content creation here.