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Which type of PR should come first in the life of a business – B2B or B2C? Peter Curtain* reports

Attention growth companies – want to get better known? First, start building a network – then, and only then, start addressing consumers.

But wait, what’s the difference? B2B PR – business or corporate communication, is engaging with a company’s ‘audiences’ – those groups it knows or ought to know better. B2C PR is consumer-focused and largely directed at consumers who buy products.

And note, I’m discussing growth companies – quite different from big, established enterprises with well-known brands.

A PR campaign is a significant investment – in money and management time and attention, so a communication programme must deliver. That means planning and preparation, the right actions at the right time. You wouldn’t climb a mountain with the wrong map or equipment – it’s the same with PR.

A B2B programme will have its own objectives, timeline, messages, actions, engagement opportunities and methods accurately to evaluate outcomes and measure success. Typically, a B2B programme will focus on business and financial media platforms rather than consumer; trade shows, not exhibitions targeting householders; think LinkedIn, not Facebook.

Why pique consumer interest while your key product or service is yet to go on sale, undergoing trials or in development? The last thing management wants is people demanding a brand then being told it won’t be available for 18 months.

So focus on B2B PR first, and once that’s been shown to work, do B2C as a follow-up or as an additional stream. It’s not an either/or – one follows the other.

Growing companies need to establish credibility, develop a reputation as a good employer or credit risk, position its CEO or CTO as an expert or industry spokesperson, expose partnership opportunities, present its core technology or process as new and beneficial, or create a ‘buzz’ to spur investor interest in a (further?) fundraising, or a combination thereof.

Whatever else they may be, these are all B2B objectives, and this sort of trust-building lays the foundations for a terrific B2C campaign when the time comes.

Depending on the efficacy of the B2B campaign, 18 months on, say, the company will have made progress in establishing its credentials as a successful industry participant, led by a plausible management team, with beneficial IP and a bright future.

When news and consumer journalists check their cuttings to research a story on this emerging brand, they’ll find expert trade comment that influences what they write. And when shoppers check their mobiles before buying, they’ll have the information they need to decide.

That’s why for growth companies, B2B PR comes first.

*Peter is Director of Allerton Communications.