Pints, PR and the power of endorsement
The difference between PR and advertising? It’s a question anyone in the trade is used to hearing, and we all have a stock response. But earlier this week it was nice to hear the distinction come directly from the customer’s mouth.
The scene was Techbrew, an occasional meet-up – in a pub – of tech and software companies in Dublin under the auspices of IBEC and the Irish Software Association. It’s a relaxed Thursday night get-together with just the right mix of pints, finger food and invigorating discussions from young and not so young tech companies recounting their tales of the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
You can’t but be impressed by the drive and energy of entrepreneurs out there. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and it applies readily to some of the firms on show. One speaker was telling us how, balking at the cost of exhibiting at the key trade show for his sector in Amsterdam, he decided to take out a suite in the nearest hotel – just 500m away – and try to lure attendees from the show (via a fleet of courtesy cars) to a demo area they had set up there. That was bold ambush marketing, and it worked. They were booked out all week and saved about €75,000 in exhibition costs.
Just as interesting was the emphasis he placed on endorsements for B2B start-ups. Had he known the value of testimonials from the outset, he says, he would have gladly traded 40% of year one income in return for a major client’s agreement to shout about how good a job he was doing for them. Endorsements from industry leaders are clearly a rapid springboard to market acceptance.
Which brings me to PR, of which our speaker was an advocate. When you think about it, PR represents an endorsement in much the same way: a journalist, presumably knowledgeable and respected in the sector, has opted to devote space to your brand in recognition of its importance. Anyone can buy an advertisement, but editorial coverage says that what you are doing is deemed worthy of being brought to others’ attention. The more prestigious the media title, the more valuable the endorsement.
PR is an underutilised asset in the B2B communications mix. But, remember, it can’t be bought, it has to be earned. As was said at Techbrew, don’t look for it unless you have a story to tell, because without a story there is no news, and news is the fuel for the editorial endorsement that can set your business apart from the crowd.