Beth Monaghan from Inkhouse Media and Marketing had a really good take recently about why she entered the public relations field, and why what she does on a daily basis is so fulfilling. You can read her piece at Ragan.com here.

It was thought-provoking for me, especially as a PR, social media and marketing communications practitioner focused on the B2B space. I’ve worked in this sector for a decade now, and the prior five-plus years before that I worked as a B2B trade magazine editor, so I’ve got a fair amount of perspective from both sides of the divide between PR and editorial.

b2b-key-featureLike Beth, I love what I do, but she’s right when she points out that there are plenty of horror stories about PR gone bad, and that’s as true on the B2B side as it is B2C. The biggest bugaboo I’ve seen, especially among younger practitioners, is placing undue emphasis on getting the clip versus understanding exactly what they are pitching and why it matters to a media outlet’s audience. Focusing on the clip itself becomes a little self-serving, which is why it’s hard to blame media members for being a tad cynical when mistakes are made.

This field isn’t for everybody, and I would add that B2B is in many ways an acquired taste. In my estimation, practitioners have to be willing to dive in and make three things the cornerstones of their daily efforts on behalf of a client brand – because really, in a media member’s mind, they are the brand:

1. The language your audience uses: You’re bringing information to a certain group of people, who work in a certain way and have a specific language they use. That includes both base technology types and the acronyms that are key to any industry, and technology types. For example, when I represented a client in the energy management space, I talked about NECA and NEMA, which built more credibility than spelling out “National Electrical Contractors Association” and “National Electrical Manufacturers Association”. And when you’re talking about switchgear, transformers and panel boards, you better know not only what they do but the value they add.

2. How your audience participates in its market: Your audience works within the confines of a given market, each of which have their own nuances. Take trade shows and conferences, for example – which ones are truly top-tier, and how is your client participating, i.e., booth presence, speaking engagements, after-show events, etc. And what are the key issues that drive that industry forward? I used to work with a client in the packaging space, and one of the hot-button issues was sustainability, so I needed to understand all sides of the issue to help our client contribute to discussions on this matter – in our case, sustainable inks for variable-data ink jet printers.

3. How your client’s innovation adds value to your audience: What a B2B client makes is important, for sure – but what’s infinitely more important is the value to the customer. For example, I used to represent a client in the lighting control space; the fact that the products had a cool name and did cool things was secondary to the fact that its value was saving the building owner/operator customer money and creating a ton of convenience for those who occupied a building. In other words, product features are NOT benefits.

Remember, a brand is what “they” say it is – “they” being customers, clients, supporters and the like. A B2B PR practitioner is at the front lines of shaping brand perception, so leveraging more than the superficial is a job requirement.

Image credit: Pymnts.com

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UnknownI’m back, after nearly two weeks of convalescing after my most recent surgery, and frankly, VERY glad to be back. It wasn’t pleasant … a tonsillectomy and work on my soft palate left me feeling like I was swallowing glass shards for the better part of the last couple of weeks. Ick.

But, two pieces of good news. For me, it’s over and I’m well on the road to recovery. For you, I had the chance to do a fair amount of reading while I was recovering, including The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Though this book focuses on personal and spiritual growth, I was struck at what I took away from it from a personal brand standpoint.

Years ago, a guy once told me that “the most powerful position is now.” I guess intellectually I understood what that meant – you shouldn’t live in the past, because it’s gone forever, and the future has yet to be forged. Made sense in the early 2000s as my career was in its early stages.

But more than 10 years have gone by, and I’m in a different spot, personally and professionally. For one, I’m currently a stay-at-home parent, and spending a lot of time thinking about how this experience will impact my career. Don’t get me wrong … the decision my wife and I made in this area was the right one. Yet I am wondering what the implications will be when I re-enter the workforce. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Scratch that. Obviously, I’m overthinking it.

That’s where The Power of Now comes in, and hence the application to my personal brand, and perhaps yours – because there’s a big difference between what your personal brand was, what it is now based on current conditions, and what it aspires to be. Here are the three big lessons I took away from the book in this realm:

1. Don’t overthink things. As alluded, I can be notorious for putting way too much thought into things, including the current state of my personal brand. Tolle is pretty blunt when it comes to this, saying “Thinking has become a disease. Disease is what happens when you get out of balance.” Nothing wrong with putting adequate thought to solving a problem, but it becomes a problem when it’s all-consuming. “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly,” Tolle says. “Used wrongly, however, it becomes destructive … It is not so much that you use it wrongly – you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.”
Stop and ask yourself: How much time to you spend thinking about your personal brand? Are you out of balance?

2. Observe yourself impartially. The answer to No. 1 is to observe that voice in your head and what it’s saying – because what it’s saying may not be contributing to the greater good, especially when it comes to your personal brand. “The voice belongs to your conditioned mind, which is the result of all your past history as well as of the collective cultural mind-set you inherited. So you see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it. It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy.” In the realm of personal brand, I think this is where too much of your past influences how you see your personal brand – big successes from years ago, when you were in a totally different place. It could also be vague feelings about where your want your personal brand to be, based on what you’ve read and seen from your peers.
Stop and ask yourself: What is your inner voice telling you about your personal brand – about what it was, and what it could/should be?

3. Focus on the present. Tolle says one’s ego is a mental image of who you are based on your personal and cultural conditioning. But that mental image is fraught with difficulties. “To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important,” Tolle says, adding the ego misperceives the present because it puts it through the lens of the past, as mentioned in No. 2. Or it makes the present and means to and, somewhere in the ether of the future. Bottom line, your personal brand is who you are right this very minute – what you do, and what you stand for. Aspirations are fine – but is it what you are right now? Achieve those aspirations, and in the future, your personal brand will change – but what it is right now is relevant. “The present moment holds the key to liberation,” Tolle says.
Stop and ask yourself: Is your personal brand who you currently are?

The Power of Now isn’t for everybody, I’ll admit. It gets to the deep, dark recesses of the psyche, and some will simply not want to go there, possibly for fear of what they may find.

But I took that journey. It was worth it.

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Yes or No – Is There Any Legitimacy to Brand Journalism?

July 23, 2014

FYI that I’ve got surgery scheduled for this afternoon (the second of two this month, ugh), and so I’m tidying up loose ends before I head out. One of them is to tie off on the discussion generated by my previous post about brand journalism. It sparked quite an insightful discussion within the PRwise LinkedIn […]

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The Three Must-Haves to Be a Great Brand Journalist

July 14, 2014

Is brand journalism a valid term – and career path, for that matter – or rank hogwash? I read this story on Ragan.com the other day, titled Is Brand Journalism a ‘Half-baked, Made-up’ Expression? It debates this very question and gave me pause, because I happen to consider myself a brand journalist. I was a […]

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Book Review: The 46 Rules of Genius Can Have Profound Effect on a Personal Brand

June 27, 2014

Will Marty Neumeier‘s new whiteboard book The 46 Rules of Genius actually make a marketer, PR or social media professional a genius? That’s subjective, of course, but I will say this: For some of you, it’s going to have a huge impact on your personal brand, and that will have a ripple effect on the […]

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Post #200: A Brand Discussion with Marty Neumeier, Part 2

June 23, 2014

My note: For my milestone 200th post, here’s Part 2 of my brand discussion with Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation for San Jose-based international brand firm Liquid Agency, and author of The Brand Gap, ZAG, The Designful Company, Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age and the just-released The 46 Rules of Genius. Miss Part […]

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Post #199: A Brand Discussion with Marty Neumeier, Part 1

June 20, 2014

My note: Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation for San Jose-based international brand firm Liquid Agency, has written a bevy of books that have been important to my professional development, including The Brand Gap, ZAG and The Designful Company, and the just-released The 46 Rules of Genius (which I will review shortly). His thinking actually helped […]

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Measuring Marketing ROI for B2B Brands Boils Down to Laser-focus

June 18, 2014

Intimidated by Big Data and it’s relation to marketing ROI, and ultimately building a brand? Let the following sink in for a moment: There are a trillion dollars spent globally every year on advertising. Statistically, only about 30 percent of that amount is actually monitored and measured for ROI. That means more than half a […]

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Think Like a CEO: Building a Brand Through Meeting a CEO’s Expectations for Marketing

June 15, 2014

“Think like a CEO.” That right there is the key takeaway from the Stein IAS study titled Great Expectations: What Today’s CEOs Expect From Their Marketers, presented at the 2014 Global Business Marketing Association (BMA) Conference in Chicago. It was the subject of Tom Stein’s Firestarter session May 28, and recall I had the chance […]

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The Question All B2B Brands Must Ask: What Value Do We Bring to Everyday People?

June 9, 2014

I swear, my thinking can be so obtuse at times. The renowned global strategic branding firm, Siegel+Gale, released its B2B Now research study last week, which surveyed 9,500 consumers and 450 business decision-makers, and concluded that B2B decision-makers are more likely to consider B2B brands that consumers know and feel connected to. The study results, […]

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