How to Identify a New Thought Leader for Your SaaS PR Strategy

When thinking about spokespeople for your organization, you’ll likely start at the top of the organizational tree with the CEO and leadership team members. But, in reality, your thought leaders should go beyond the CEO, and maybe even your leadership team, to cultivate coverage that supports a variety of marketing goals. 

Part of our process to garner coverage that contributes to those goals is setting up story mining sessions with subject matter experts (SME). In addition to traditional spokespeople, like a CEO or founder, our team often looks to story mine with an SME based on the industry the company is looking to target. For example: For brands targeting martech, we may recommend the CMO; for those dealing with GRC, we might recommend someone in compliance/security.

Why?

Because — among other reasons — publications seek out various types of expert sources. 

Depending on your SaaS brand’s key audience and what messages you want to share, the publications your PR team looks to target likely range from top-tier business publications to trade publications targeting either a specific discipline, like marketing, or a specific industry, like logistics. If your team is targeting more than one type of publication — or trying to generate different types of coverage — you’ll want a few different people on your spokesperson bench ready to contribute thought leadership. Here’s how to find them.

Uncovering the right subject matter experts

The right SME is not always a member of the C-suite. It might be someone more ingrained in the day-to-day tactics of a specific department who has perspective on a new best practice. Consider what job titles you want to reach: Is there someone from that same discipline who could speak to their pain points and point to solutions? Consider your industry: Is there someone who really has their finger on the pulse of what’s happening, who could offer perspective on the industry as a whole? These individuals have the potential to contribute to thought leadership efforts as industry-specific SMEs. 

For example, Recruiter.com frequently quotes and shares content from HR leaders whether they be directors, managers, generalists or c-suite executives. The content might discuss HR tech predictions, how to leverage an applicant tracking system or an op-ed about location-based pay. Marketing Land taps CMOs, VPs of marketing and directors in its content. Marketing Land articles cove a variety of trends in marketing tech, data privacy regulations and best practices in ABM strategies.

Guide them through media interactions

Now, you might see some of the examples above and say, “Kelsey, there is no way I can put my HR manager in front of the media!” 

Yes, not everyone at your organization will be ready for a media interview tomorrow — and that’s okay. There are ways to involve new thought leaders, especially those who are not yet ready, trained or comfortable in an interview setting. Work with your PR team to identify opportunities that allow for collaboration and review. Here are some of the ways to leverage new industry-specific SMEs to secure media coverage:

  • Contributed content – This is an easy way for PR professionals to turn a story mining session with an SME into a piece of content. The message is controlled and facilitated through you and your PR team.
  • Pre-approved quotes – In the case of a media contact looking for a story source, they may accept a quote or written answers to questions in lieu of an interview. Again, the messaging is controlled and can usually be facilitated through you and your PR team.

Media interviews are a learned skill and PR teams have media training resources available to help thought leaders nail interviews. Training sessions could include information about the interview process, potential questions, interview “don’ts”, conversation control techniques and mock interviews. With training sessions, those leading overall strategy will have the opportunity to gauge an SME’s level of readiness for interviews and spot areas that might need more work before going on the record.

As SMEs become more experienced in participating in thought leadership opportunities, you can always reconsider what kinds of opportunities they can take on. I recommend starting with opportunities like podcasts or interviews with trade outlets. Then they can graduate to top-tier interviews. You can accelerate this process by developing the thought leader’s media presence with additional training and feedback sessions.

Looking to identify thought leaders for your SaaS organization? We can help! For questions about the right SMEs for your SaaS PR efforts contact our team.

PR and IR’s Role in a SaaS IPO

Now is an exciting time for SaaS companies across all industries: fundraising is hot, IPOs are booming and the opportunities for growth are unprecedented. With so many paths to choose from, we’re at a pivotal moment in the tech industry.

For those looking toward an IPO, putting support in place to assist with investor relations (IR) is likely top of the to-do list. Historically, companies may have saved this task to just before an IPO — some even going public with no IR plan in place. However, today, SaaS companies often involve IR teams earlier in the process, as soon as they’ve determined that an IPO is the best option. 

While IR and PR sound similar, adding IR to the mix doesn’t mean it’s time to drop your PR team or downplay their efforts. (In fact, it might actually mean the opposite.) Let’s take a look at the difference between IR and PR — and why, if you’re on the path to an IPO, you need both. 

The difference between IR and PR

National Investor Relations Institute defines investor relations as “a strategic management responsibility that integrates finance, communication, marketing and securities law compliance to enable the most effective two-way communication between a company, the financial community, and other constituencies, which ultimately contributes to a company’s securities achieving fair valuation.” 

While a few global PR agencies may have an internal IR team, most PR agencies are not equipped with knowledge of the financial and securities laws, which falls under the specialty of an IR firm. With both marketing and communication listed in the IR definition, however, it’s easy to blur the lines between IR and PR. While both disciplines stress the importance of consistent and effective communication and look to influence investors, the strategies and tactics implemented by each differ in the months leading up to an IPO. For example, IR might focus on working with the general counsel in developing a disclosure policy, whereas a PR team might execute a thought leadership campaign in the media to show executive expertise in the space. 

Investing in PR ahead of a SaaS IPO

Many SaaS brands looking to IPO already have a PR strategy in place before engaging an IR firm or otherwise enlisting help with investor relations. These brands understand how PR can support factors that contribute to the perception of IPO readiness, including category creation, brand awareness and positioning. 

If you are at least 6-12 months from filing your S-1 and without a consistent PR strategy in place, engaging with IR might be a good signal that it’s time to engage a PR partner as well. Be mindful to establish a consistent PR presence well ahead of the quiet period, as the SEC will take note of any new or aggressive changes in PR strategy once you enter that period. Not only are investors one of the four pillars of SaaS PR, but establishing a consistent PR strategy — including interviews with the media and other thought leadership — well ahead of filing, can lead to a more productive quiet period.  

If an IPO is on the horizon, BLASTmedia — the only B2B SaaS PR agency — can play a pivotal role in your strategy. Or, if you’re simply looking to learn more, come say hello! 

PR When Preparing for an IPO Quiet Period

We’re in the middle of an initial public stock offering (IPO) boom, with Renaissance Capital reporting a nearly 200% increase comparing the first half of 2021 to 2020. Preparing for an IPO process is an exciting time for companies, which often announce the news with fanfare. And, as we’re still working through a pandemic, positive news on growth and development feels all the more exciting.

But for SaaS PR teams, quiet periods might introduce a caveat into their IPO timelines and strategies. Mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), quiet periods exist to stop insider training and improperly impacting stock prices. They’re also sometimes used around quarterly earnings reports. Despite the “quiet” in quiet periods, public relations for companies going public doesn’t need to come to a screeching halt. Here’s what to understand about the process. 

PR does not need to come to a halt during an IPO

If stopping all external communications is one side of the coin, the other uses a megaphone to shout audacious statements on products, trends or financial information. While there might be a scenario for either, the ideal strategy is somewhere in the middle.

Maintaining a normal course of business and communication is possible. For example, if your company has provided a “State of the Industry” report every quarter, this asset has a paper trail and is something your prospects or customers have come to expect. However, issuing a brand new announcement around a not-yet-generally available product with executive quotes on how it will revolutionize the category could generate a flood of new customers or interest. In a quiet period, that announcement may be interpreted as a ploy to pump up stock pricing. 

Additionally, if reporters often interview your subject matter experts (SME), you don’t have to freeze this strategy. However, consider the topic and publication. A video interview with Cheddar will likely require disclosing financial information — avoid this! — whereas an SME speaking on the best practices of team management to an HR trade publication will likely not broach sensitive topics. Again, if this type of media engagement was a normal course of business before an IPO, it can likely continue.

PR teams should also consider requesting email interviews rather than calls to ensure all parties (marketing, legal and the executive team) fully vet responses before publishing. This tactic avoids any accidental slip of the tongue or an unexpected question from the publication. 

Don’t ghost the audience that got you this far 

While a quiet period is necessary for brands, your customers and prospects aren’t expecting you to disappear on them for weeks. Keep your base engaged with the activities that caught their attention in the first place, like data-driven insights that shines a light on a new trend or helps your base solve a problem and thought leadership from your SMEs.

If you’re seeking public relations for going public, BLASTmedia — the only B2B SaaS PR agency — has played a pivotal role in every step of the process. If you’re looking to learn more, say hello.

The Intersection Between PR and SEO

We know PR coverage can positively impact SEO. From securing coverage for contributed content with target keyword phrases to earning natural editorial backlinks in media outlets with a high domain authority, SEO is an important part of our PR strategy. But you don’t have to take our word for it. 

I got together with Cyrus Shepard, an SEO strategist from Moz, to pick his brain about how PR affects SEO. We talk about the intersection between PR and SEO, keywords, search engine result page (SERP) rankings and links. 

MEGHAN: Does PR help with SEO?

CYRUS: Ultimately, SEO is about popularity, relevancy and trust. In that regard, strong PR can definitely help with SEO, albeit sometimes indirectly.

MEGHAN: Are there specific SEO metrics PR can help impact?

CYRUS: There are actually several metrics PR can help impact. The first—and likely most important to SEOs—are web links. Links are a significant SEO ranking factor and is measured by metrics such as Domain Authority and Page Rank.

When PR is successful, it can impact the volume of Branded Searches (when someone searches Google for something in a way that uses your brand name). Branded search volume is another important metric that is often correlated with SEO success.

Finally, though not directly connected, good PR can help a business win search traffic Share of Voice (SOV). This simply refers to the amount of visibility a website has across a large range of search results relative to the competition.

MEGHAN: How does coverage that mentions your brand name (but doesn’t link back to your website) impact your brand’s overall SEO?

CYRUS: In SEO, we refer to “unlinked mentions” — i.e. mentions of your brand that don’t link to your website. While these don’t carry the weight or influence of actual links, they can still be important. Google has the ability to extract “entities” from web copy. Your website/brand could be an entity, as well as your employees or products. When Google identifies an entity, it can often make a connection with other entities—including your website—even when there isn’t a direct link. It’s also possible Google can learn other things from these unlinked mentions, such as when they perform sentiment analysis. So an article that has positive things to say about your brand, even if that article doesn’t link to you, may produce a small positive signal about the entity that is your website.

MEGHAN: How does the domain authority of publications for which coverage is secured impact a brand’s domain authority?

CYRUS: Roughly speaking, the more authoritative and trustworthy a site is, the more powerful authority it passes to other sites (generally through links.)

That said, a site’s authority isn’t the only factor at play. Relevance is another huge factor. In this way, it can sometimes be more beneficial to get coverage on a smaller but highly relevant site/page than less-relevant coverage on a higher authority site.

MEGHAN: How can PR coverage help impact SERP rankings for branded and non-branded keywords?

CYRUS: In general, PR coverage can help a site rank for branded and non-branded terms based to varying degrees on the following factors:

  1. How relevant the coverage is to the site’s target topics/keywords. E.g. Does the coverage use the same terms/topics in its headline and body copy?
  2. Does the coverage include links to the site? Followed links are typically stronger than nofollow links (though Google may now take nofollow links into consideration). And nofollow links are typically stronger than unlinked mentions, but all of these could be valuable.
  3. The authority and trust of the publication where coverage is obtained.
  4. The sentiment of the coverage. While this is only rumored to be a ranking factor, positive coverage may help rankings, while negative coverage could actually hurt.

MEGHAN: When developing a marketing strategy for companies you’ve worked with in the past, did PR align with any SEO efforts?

CYRUS: Some of the best SEO campaigns I’ve seen were actually led by great PR people. I’d love to see more PR guiding SEO strategy itself. This is because PR folks on the ground often have a good sense of what journalists are looking for and the topics they want to cover. The “PR-First” approach can often lead to more significant SEO gains.

MEGHAN: Are there best practices PR professionals should adhere to in order to be SEO-friendly?

CYRUS: Based on the above question:

  • Try to get coverage from the most relevant sites/pages possible
  • Work to get links/mentions direct to the client website, in the following order of importance: Follow Links > Nofollow Links (including those with “ugc” and “sponsored” attributes) > Unlinked mentions.

For more information on how PR can support SEO, check out our PR for SEO blog series!

Overlooked Marketing Tools That Can Be Leveraged By SaaS Sales Teams

Whether the discussion centers around lead quality, buyer personas or content, there seems to be a never-ending battle between sales and marketing departments to stay aligned — not just in SaaS, but across industries. When it comes to content, the sales team is rarely using the content that the marketing team is creating — in fact, according to data from eMarketer, 90% of content developed for sales is never used in selling. Continue reading “Overlooked Marketing Tools That Can Be Leveraged By SaaS Sales Teams”

What Does Agile Marketing Mean for PR?

The term “agile” likely isn’t new to you, especially if you work at a tech company that relies on agile software development. Agile marketing is, as a HuffPost article defines it, “a measure of the speed at which marketing gets done and a philosophy about ‘how’ marketing gets done.” (For a much more complicated but colorful definition of agile methodology, this clip from HBO’s Silicon Valley, a BLASTmedia favorite, is worth a watch.) Continue reading “What Does Agile Marketing Mean for PR?”

Why You Should Consider Looking Outside of Silicon Valley for a B2B Tech PR Firm

Silicon Valley is America’s innovation posterchild. Under the shade of tech giants like Salesforce and Facebook, startup seedlings sprout at a rate that outpaces other cities. It would be natural to assume that in an area with many B2B tech companies, many B2B tech PR firms would have also taken root. And with such a stellar location, you could also assume the majority of these agencies would have the resources to secure your company consistent coverage on an ongoing basis. Yet only one of these assumptions is true.
Continue reading “Why You Should Consider Looking Outside of Silicon Valley for a B2B Tech PR Firm”

SaaS Leaders Deskera and SignUpGenius Tap BLASTmedia to Lead B2B PR Strategy

(INDIANAPOLIS— July 24, 2017) — BLASTmedia is pleased to announce the addition of Deskera and SignUpGenius to the company’s roster of SaaS clients. The national PR agency, which specializes in working with B2B technology companies, was also recently tapped to lead media relations efforts by two other SaaS companies—DemandJump and Signal Vine. Continue reading “SaaS Leaders Deskera and SignUpGenius Tap BLASTmedia to Lead B2B PR Strategy”