Opinion: PR can address lack of insight in B2B

Richard Fogg, CEO at CCgroup, talks about the lack of insight in B2B PR when compared with its consumer counterpart. PR is a ‘science’, he says, and can provide the insight businesses need.

Richard Fogg 1

Richard Fogg, CEO at CCgroup

I remember it clearly. It happened on a Wednesday morning. The moment when, after 16 years, I lost my temper with ‘PR’.

We were on the up after a difficult year and had received two briefs overnight. One was for our consumer lifestyle practice Escapade, the other was for our tech practice CCgroup.

One was for a confectionery brief, where the average product sells for just under £1, and the other was for a cloud security brief, where the average product sells for just over £100,000. One was nearly 20 pages long, and the other was nearly two pages long. You know what’s coming.

The briefs
After reading both briefs, I can now tell you when consumers buy confectionery, I can tell you why they buy confectionery, I can tell you how they feel about nuts in their confectionery – and a million things in between. I have a rich tapestry of insight and information and scientifically-driven intelligence on which to base creative campaigns to engage these consumers and sell the chocolate bar.

Shall I tell you about the B2B tech brief? It won’t take long.

I’ve read it, so I now know what the product is and what it does. I know the client wants awareness and sales, but I don’t know who the buyer is, where they are, when they buy or how they view the problem this thing solves. If it wasn’t for our own research, I’d have nothing to go on other than guesswork (and it doesn’t matter how informed your guesswork is – it’s still guesswork). How are we supposed to develop creatives that work from this brief and sell a £100k product?

The significance
The B2B tech client doesn’t know its buyer. They might be able to hand you a few job titles on enquiry, some hand-me-down anecdotes from a long-gone sales guy or a flaky customer survey they produced three years ago, but that’s it.

Depressing isn’t it? Multi-million, billion-dollar clients are basing their entire marketing and sales plans based on hearsay, anecdotes, rumours and old surveys. Remember how the interweb and ‘data’ were our saviours in this new world? Not so much.

The challenge with B2B
I devoted my professional life to B2B PR because, to me, consumer PR was the equivalent of choosing to play Snap every day rather than Poker. I was wrong. B2C PR is far more sophisticated than B2B PR. Deal size is irrelevant.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the CEOs, CMOs, CSOs et al that we report to on the B2B tech side of things are any less sophisticated than on the B2C side of things. I’m saying that the hunt for insight in B2B tech is perilous, expensive and, frankly, difficult.

Insight to the rescue
After a year serving on the PRCA’s PR and Communications Council, after being involved in a working group on the ‘science’ of PR and after seeing the unmet demand for insight and planning from agencies and clients alike, I figured we’d have a go at fixing it.

Enter Aperture, a company we started in March. It’s using psychology, data and technology to derive insights into a world previously devoid of insight.

The idea that PR is just an ‘art’ is old and irrelevant. Yes, we’re creative sorts, yes, we love a challenge. But show me the PR that lusts after a comms problem without any audience, market or psychological insight.

It’s time to stop accepting the brief we’re given. It’s time to accept that PR is as much ‘science’ as it is ‘art’. And the outcome is this: ‘science’ wouldn’t take a job without insight, and neither should ‘art’. We’re better than that. We need to stop.

  • Richard Fogg is the CEO of CCgroup, Escapade and Aperture. For more on the role of data and insight in B2B marketing, visit here.
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