B2B Tech Public Relations Briefing with Sam Whitmore


Before the internet, trade media coverage were the main source of inbound links available to B2B technology companies. 

Now, bloggers, podcasters, influencers and other B2B content marketers have expanded the chorus of third-party voices, while the migration of ad dollars to the web has decimated the traditional trade and media landscape.

If you're at a B2B public relations firm, there are more outlets to communicate to and through, but fewer of them are run by journalists. So while there are plenty of new voices, when it comes to ad-supported trade and mainstream news media, there are fewer opportunities for coverage. 

Keeping track of reporters coming and going is challenging. And keeping dips on the editorial personality of the different tech outlets is another piece of the puzzle that an account executive at a b2b marketing communications agency has to deal with.

For B2B communications firms.

Sam Whitmore has covered tech for decades, starting as a reporter, editor and EIC at PC Week. In 1998, he launched Sam Whitmore Media Survey almost by accident, and it has provided enduring tech media analysis and consulting services to tech PR pros and media buyers ever since.

“B2B editorial is service journalism,” says Sam. “There’s two communities, the buyers and the sellers. As an editor, I’m with the buyer, providing perspective, data, pricing, everything I can to make the buying decision easier and more efficient. If I’m a reader on the supply side, I want to know what’s happening on the competitive side of things, the reseller landscape, etc. B2B PR people need to see themselves in the service side, either to the supplier or the buyer.”

If you’re in B2B Tech PR, you’re probably representing sellers. Good Tech PR firms focus on what the demand side wants to hear. A bad B2B PR agency leads with the message the vendor instinctively wants to deliver. But editors want a balance.

So if you’re representing a CRM provider and trying to land your message, frame your pitch against buyer pain points. Get beneath the superficial ‘we’re better than the other guys’ angle. Talk about something like how your API is easier to program and maintain, because that’s a value proposition buyers can identify with.

When it comes to social media in tech PR, Sam says it’s changed a lot in the sense that the algorithms in many platforms have become less organic and more commercial, making it tougher to be heard without paying for reach. 

Also, advertisers are not as concerned with reach as they are with engagement, as measured by session duration and activity and authority, as measured by how narrow and deep their coverage is. The number of followers isn’t as crucial for B2B tech advertisers as the number of engaged followers.

For example, tech publisher IDG decided in early 2020 to concentrate their news coverage on specific topics on specific media brands. For instance, they now run all their digital transformation coverage on CIO. You'll find next to nothing if you search their other brands, Computerworld and InfoWorld, for digital transformation.

The approach is to define a narrow topic, cross-link the sites, and get rewarded by Google for being an authority in each niche. So by putting a disproportionate amount of content about one topic in one title, they make it easier for Google to index and categorize them as authorities in one area, instead of distributing those topics like confetti across their editorial portfolio.

By contrast, they concentrate their crypto coverage at Computerworld. You won’t see anything about crypto on CIO or Network World either. It’s a programmatic decision to increase time on site by aligning content by brand. Study special reports and topic pavilions on tech publisher’s sites to see which topics they’re most interested in, and map your pitches accordingly.

Jessica Lessin, CEO and founder The Insider

The hot publication in the tech space is The Information, run by Jessica Lessin, which, pound for pound, has the highest IQ of any magazine out there right now. The other two not to be ignored are CNBC and Business Insider.

On the topic of tech PR in the age of COVID times, Sam prophesied the advent of a new type of marketer who can monetize the activity of people who participate in online events. “There’s going be a premium paid for people who have experience monetizing the data and the behavior — whether it’s cross-selling content, memberships, creating new partnerships — from virtual events,” he said.

You can listen to the interview at the top of the post and subscribe to Earned Media Podcast for more on the latest developments in earned media marketing.

The way to compete against a PR agency in Austin, Palo Alto, or any other hot tech PR market these days is by focusing on a measurement like share of voice.

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