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Public Relations Insights: PR’s Place in Today’s ABM World

by Jennifer Blackburn

Account-based marketing (ABM) is the modern business-to-business sales approach focused on identifying and pursuing actual decision-makers at a companies’ most profitable target accounts. Unlike traditional push-based advertising, ABM offers marketing and sales teams the ability to establish an actual relationship with prospects to pursue the most promising opportunities. Unlike inbound marketing strategies, which all companies should leverage to attract target buyers to their website with engaging content, ABM involves honing in on a small pool of individuals and pushing customized content to them.

The goal of ABM is to make target buyers aware of your product or service, so that when sales reaches out, the buyer is already familiar with what you have to offer. Through technology-driven research, strategic content and digital advertising, ABM helps marketing and sales teams to collaborate and align their strategies and goals. Once the sales team creates its list of targets, the marketing team expands reach to engage key decision-makers with content like one-pagers, case studies, whitepapers, blogs and more.

This is all good – the gap between sales and marketing has needed to close for some time now. But notice anything missing?

The Third Wheel: Public Relations

Within most B2B companies, sales teams prioritize cultivating the customer relationship, while marketing teams focus on owned content and the engagement said content receives. However, this structure leaves out a key component for awareness: public relations. PR supports company reputation through strategic external communications, which is why it should be invited to the ABM club as well.

According to leading ABM tool Terminus, stellar ABM strategies involve a four-step approach to encourage better collaboration between teams. The steps are: 1) determining account targets, 2) hyper-targeted marketing outreach via the decision-makers’ preferred channels, 3) following up with traditional sales outreach and finally, 4) measuring performance to optimize for new target accounts.

So Where Does PR Fit?

The answer: Step 2.

In the buyer’s journey, credibility is key. For companies that are less recognizable than competitors, credibility can be the deal maker — or deal breaker — in the final purchase decision. Earned media, driven by PR, serves to validate claims of marketing messages through a third-party source. In fact, earned media (i.e., third-party articles or mentions) ranks the highest in earning credibility because an outside source determined the product, executive and/or company are interesting enough to cover without being paid to do so. Marketing teams must include earned media in their content mix.

Adding Flavors Of Media

Earned media is a bigger beast to conquer than other forms of messaging for one reason – marketers have to give up the reins. It is certainly easier to plan, create and distribute sales and advertising content. Since traditional media often depends on a reporter’s interpretation or an outlet’s willingness to cover, it can be hard to determine where an earned media placement fits in an ABM strategy. To illustrate how traditional media is best leveraged in personalized messaging outreach (AKA, Step 2 of the Terminus ABM process), here are a few examples of earned media that support ABM initiatives:

  1. Thought leadership articles contributed to a target industry publication
  2. Product, growth and/or expansion media coverage
  3. Customer stories relevant to ABM-target industries published in target industry outlets
  4. Executives and subject matter experts quoted in industry trend stories
  5. Proprietary research or data reports covered by third-party news outlets

With the help of an ABM tool, here are a few examples of how to control and personally deliver earned media content:

  1. Sponsored tweets allow marketers to target specific Twitter accounts with stories they want targets to see
  2. LinkedIn advertising targets professionals by company, location, level within the organization, title and skillset with posts linking to media and news
  3. Website and landing pages are a great place to house earned media coverage links and logos, as marketing and sales teams leverage these pages via email, organic social media and display advertising

By targeting professionals with personalized advertising across different channels, companies are able to break the ice with target decision-makers, lowering the risk of initiating an overly “pushy” first impression. Focusing on a smaller pool of decision-makers further allows companies to cultivate a relationship with B2B buyers. Considering the cost and time invested to a strategic ABM approach, marketing and sales teams would do best to include PR to validate their efforts – and win customers.


Jennifer Blackburn is a senior account manager at AR|PR, one of the nation’s fastest growing tech PR agencies.

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