PR & thought leadership

B2B gold: secrets from the trade PR whisperer

Christine O'Connor | September 14, 2021
trade PR whisperer

Illustration by drante

If your business has a B2B component, trade PR should be part of your communications plan. A trade PR strategy will help you tell your organization’s story the way you want to, reach highly targeted audiences, build your reputation as an expert in your field and spread your content further—if your team executes it correctly.

To unlock the secrets to a fulsome and effective trade PR strategy, I interviewed my colleague Sarah—aka “the trades whisperer”—whose expertise in this arena has helped our team get ongoing, business-building exposure in industry outlets for cleantech startup Optimum Energy and other clients.

What can brands pitch to trades besides new products?

If you just focus on products, you’re missing 90% of the pie! The most important thing to remember is that trades, like other news outlets, aim to keep their finger on the pulse of important issues that their readers care about. This means staying up-to-date on what’s happening on in the sector you’re focused on and immersing yourself in its sensibilities, language, issues and seasonal rhythms so that the topics you’re pitching meet trade outlets’ needs.

Three of the best ways to pitch your brand or its leaders are by offering expert quotes or commentary, submitting case studies and contributing articles that share (and show off) your expertise. Trade newsrooms often are sparsely staffed and editors look for reliable sources and well-written content to help them serve their readers.

How should a brand decide which trades to pitch?

When starting a trade PR campaign, it’s crucial to do thorough research so you understand the landscape you’re going to traverse. Trades serve niche audiences and won’t publish content that isn’t directly relevant to their readers. Figure out what you have to offer and look for outlets that run similar content.

Also consider the content formats the publications like to run. Scroll through their online versions, subscribe to their e-newsletters and pay attention to the different types of content you see—Q&As, listicles, video explainers, op-eds, how-to articles, case studies and so on. In doing so, you’ll also gain fluency in the field and see what repeating issues are top-of-mind.

What about timing trade outreach?

Trade publication editorial calendars offer insight into what topics the outlet plans to cover throughout the year. If your story or news matches one of the listed topics on an editorial calendar, it’s a good sign that your pitch may resonate. Most of these publications still run stories in print versions as well as online, and they have long lead times for print—check the deadlines.

Reading the online versions of the trades that you’re targeting will help you identify what material they are using outside of the editorial calendar. Trade outlets have regular columns and sections that are standard fare, and these offer more opportunities.

Fortunately, pitching expert sources who can comment on industry happenings and trends is an evergreen tactic, as are case studies and contributed articles by your experts.

What are some of the hidden challenges of trade PR?

Establishing credibility is the most challenging aspect of trade PR. Trade newsrooms, like most media, receive a high volume of incoming pitches and have fewer staff members to vet them. To establish a relationship with writers and editors, you need to not just get their attention, but also build your credibility.

Trades often use case studies to showcase strong examples of the latest and best in their fields. Providing a well written, thoroughly researched case study with professional photos can be a nice entrée to outlets that regularly use them. An excellent case study proves your product or service as well as your writing mettle and know-how.

Displaying a proficient understanding of the industry also goes a long way toward establishing your credibility. If you can speak or write intelligently about news and trends, you are more likely to earn your target editor’s respect. As you drill down to the individual editor level, use the buzzwords and jargon that they use and refer to recent issues to build rapport.

What winning strategies can you share?

Think of trade PR work as tending a garden. You’re cultivating, you’re caring, you’re planting and watering. It takes patience. If you enter the process with a long-term goal in mind, you’re more apt to get the right results since you’ll build the relationships and get to know the outlets’ interests and voice.

If you’re working on contributed pieces and case studies, keep in mind that although they’re time-consuming to write and require a healthy budget, they pay off handsomely. As with a professionally produced case study, the contributed piece, if well written, will wow the editorial staff. Contributed articles can also be reworked and recycled for multiple uses, so you get a lot for your investment.

While trade PR is not a fit for every brand, any B2B company should include trade outlets in its media strategy, especially if leaders are experts with something new to share or have strong views on ongoing issues or trends.

If your brand is addressing a global problem or offering a ground-breaking solution to an industry pain point, you stand a good chance of getting coverage—if you do your research, reach out at the right time and share strong content.

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