Scaling a SaaS Business: 3 Ways PR Can Assist

Every year, SaaS companies set out to change the way we work, communicate and live. Some, like Salesforce, Microsoft or Adobe, become household names. But for every behemoth SaaS business, there are thousands of others doing equally impressive work we know nothing about.

These companies have customers, killer solutions and kick-ass teams behind them. The one thing they’re missing? An avenue for scaling a SaaS business beyond the initial success.

Enter PR.

Public Relations should be a crucial component of any organization’s business strategy. It’s all about helping businesses build strong relationships with their core audiences, whether that be customers, prospects, stakeholders or investors, and influence the brand’s industry perception — both of which are equally important for those eager to scale.

If you’re looking for a solution to your SaaS scaling problem, here are three ways SaaS PR can help.

1. Build Strong Brand Awareness

Have you ever thought to yourself, “We would have no problem scaling our SaaS business if our potential customers just knew we existed?” Sure, you could always fly by on word of mouth, but that’s a less-than-effective marketing strategy in today’s digital world. One of SaaS PR’s greatest assets is its ability to build brand awareness for your target customers. By targeting the publications your audience is reading, touting your brand through expert advice in thought leadership coverage or company news on a platform feature or growth milestone, public relations helps your business get visibility in front of the people you want to establish a relationship with.

2. Position Your Brand as an Expert

Now that your target market knows you exist, the challenge is how to ensure you stand out among the competition. Every SaaS company competes with at least one other business offering a similar solution. The goal is to ensure your audience thinks more highly of your brand when assessing the market. Using PR to tout your subject matter experts’ knowledge through contributed content, expert quotes or robust media interviews will help your audience recognize them as a reputable source. So when they need to think of an industry expert, your brand’s spokespeople are the first to come to mind.

3. Own the Industry Message

While positioning your brand and thought leaders as industry experts, you have the opportunity to own the industry message. Often, competing companies have conflicting points of view. Aside from promoting your company’s core message, one of the best ways to dominate the space is by getting involved in the timely topics happening within your industry. SaaS PR allows you to turn trends into coverage through reactive angles so you can ensure your brand has a lead on competitors trying to insert themselves into the conversation.


PR is the fuel that powers SaaS companies’ scaling engines. If you’re looking for more fuel to scale, contact Lindsay Groepper to learn how BLASTmedia can help.

How to Set and Measure PR OKRs: Objectives and Key Results

PR professionals get a bad rap for setting non-measurable goals like “increase awareness” and reporting on outdated vanity metrics like potential reach. We deserve a bit of a break — we’re top-of-funnel creatures and don’t have the luxury of making a direct impact on sales as measured by bookings or even form fills like our counterparts in demand gen. At the same time, we’re responsible for coming up with impactful goal-setting mechanisms that help our peers in marketing understand the value of PR.

That’s why our agency, like many of our clients, uses the objectives and key results (OKR) framework to guide our goal setting. Before I dive into how to set PR OKRs for your business, a bit of background might be helpful. 

Where did OKRs come from? 

Created by Andy Grove at Intel and later evangelized by venture capitalist John Doerr (who literally wrote the book on OKRs), OKRs have been adopted by many mega-successful companies like Allbirds, Google and Netflix. OKRs include both overarching objectives (O) as well as specific key results (KR). OKRs should be collaborative, ambitious and measurable. They allow you to transparently track goal progress and create alignment between individuals and their managers or between teams. 

What is an OKR? 

Objectives are the ultimate goal — what are we working toward? And KRs are how we get there. According to a pretty good breakdown on Measure What Matters, “Effective KRs are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable. You either meet a key result’s requirements or you don’t; there is no gray area, no room for doubt. At the end of the designated period, typically a quarter, we do a regular check and grade the key results as fulfilled or not.”

How do OKRs work in SaaS PR?

In an ideal world, the objectives your PR team is working toward come from your own marketing team’s existing OKRs or goals. PR activities shouldn’t exist in a silo; they should map to overarching marketing and business objectives. When we first start with a client, we ask to see their team’s OKRs and begin with those objectives as our foundation. 

That could be anything from building a category, increasing awareness, driving inbounds/leads, establishing a thought leadership platform, or positioning against a competitor. We like to have no more than 3 objectives for each client each quarter, with 3-5 key results per objective. Below are a few examples (not an exhaustive list) of the types of KRs we might slot under each category. 

Sample OKRs

Awareness

  • Pieces of coverage
  • Reach of coverage / UVM
  • Number of announcements per quarter
  • Submit for # awards and/or speaking opportunities

Building or leading a category / repositioning

  • # pieces of coverage including a specific key message
  • # pieces of coverage in specific vertical
  • Leveraging a customer use case that demonstrates expertise in vertical/category
  • Secure # analyst briefings

Inbound leads / opportunities/SEO/traffic

  • # of backlinks
  • # of referral visitors to website
  • PIeces of coverage that are driving traffic to website
  • Average Domain Authority of coverage 

Thought leadership

  • # of pieces of contributed content
  • # of quotes / interviews / podcasts
  • Coverage for certain spokespeople
  • Submit for # speaking opportunities

Position against a competitor

  • Share of voice percentage maintenance or increase
  • Coverage quality comparison
  • Submit for # awards competitors have previously won
  • Issue # releases around competitive differentiators

Monitoring and measuring PR OKRs 

Once you’ve established OKRs, regular check-ins are essential. At our agency, we include OKRs and current status on every bi-weekly check-in. In addition to updated numbers, we list a confidence level. On a scale from 1-10, how confident are we that we will achieve the KR? If we’re in the second half of the quarter, and confidence levels are below 5, we strongly consider changing our goal-setting methodology. 

In our frame of reference, OKRs should be set as stretch goals with a completion rate around 70%. If we’re exceeding each KR, we know our goals aren’t ambitious enough. We rank OKRs according to this measurement: 

  • 100% completion or more (We knocked it out of the park.) | Exceeded 
  • 70% to 99% completion (We delivered.) | Good 
  • 40% to 69% completion (We made progress, but fell short of completion.) | Progressed 
  • 0% to 39% completion (We failed to make real progress.) | Unmet 

This goal-setting format holds us accountable to achieving results–yes–but not just any results. Results that map to your specific marketing objectives, and hopefully have a measurable impact on your brand. No two sets of OKRs across our client roster look the same because no two PR programs look the same. While establishing a regular press release cadence may be important for Company A leading up to an IPO, that same KR could be meaningless to Company B, which operates in a space with little to no news activity. 

Bottom line: SaaS PR professionals must grow their measurement criteria beyond vanity metrics. PR OKRs are our answer to the age-old question of how to measure the success of a media relations program. 

PR to Reach a Product Led Growth and Developer Audience

Product-led growth (PLG) models have exploded into the SaaS industry, with tech brands like Slack, Airtable and Calendly becoming critical components of our new hybrid working environment. Defined by Openview Partners, who coined the term, PLG is an end user-focused growth model that relies on the product itself as the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion and expansion. It’s no surprise, then, that PLG brands make up over half of the companies on the 2021 Cloud 100 list.

Developers are the backbone of this model, as these pros build, ship out and improve upon the platforms we use every day. As a marketer or PR professional, if you’re looking to reach developers, you’ll need to keep PLG’s tenets in mind to convince and convert this savvy (and skeptical!) audience. 

Skip the buzzwords and go straight to the results 

Software developers are experts. They’re deep into the complexities of their own software and will undoubtedly be aware of the challenges and opportunities available to others in their field. 

If marketers are building external copy for a dev audience, take a red pen to any mention of buzzwords like world’s first, unprecedented, life-changing, or new paradigm. We’ve all seen late-night infomercials make outrageous promises. The importance of avoiding this dials up to a ten for developers. 


Instead, author Adam DuVander told TechCrunch how successful messaging to developers includes, “clear documentation, help getting started and use cases to spark creativity.” The quicker we are to the point, the faster devs will dive in and tinker. 

This means one of the common aspects of PR strategies today, contributed thought-leader content, might not be the best approach to getting in front of your developer audience. These types of pieces might be too wordy or read as promotional. 


But I’m not saying devs don’t want to hear your thought leader’s perspective. We need to reevaluate where the messaging is going. 

Involve yourself in the (real) community 

Look beyond the go-to channels to find your dev audience.

Press release wires have their own value, but issuing through PRNewswire and sharing a post on LinkedIn isn’t going to be enough to drive engagement. We’re not talking about underground, Matrix-style hubs, but whether on Twitter, in subreddits, Stack Overflow or DZone communities and Discord channels, you’ve got to dig deep into these communities to understand the day-to-day. This is where you should start having conversations. 


And, once you’ve found your niche, your SME’s own voice won’t be enough to check the box. To alleviate any concerns about messaging being overly promotional, put your own customer use cases front and center and have them speak candidly.

This could look like coordinating a webinar where your core buyer sees and hears their problems unfold from the experience of another. You could also tap your customers for media opportunities where they talk about the best practices and tools, like your own tech, that help them do great work. Do this time and time again, though, as your dev audience is going to need proof.

Take the feedback in stride


If you’re a PLG company trying to reach developers, you already recognize the value of feedback on the path to improvement. But, it’s easy to forget this mindset if your team gets negative feedback. Celebrate that as a win too.

Be mindful of what worked and what didn’t: Was the use case clear, or did we offer value? Are we engaging in the right channel? Do we have a community of partners who can help us educate and amplify the initiative? 

And, like a developer does, it’s time to move forward and improve. 
Want to know how BLASTmedia can help you determine your product-led growth PR strategy? Contact Lindsey Groepper for more details!

What Is Product-Led Growth Marketing and What Does It Mean for SaaS PR?

If you’re in the SaaS world, you’ve probably heard the term “product-led growth” or “PLG” thrown around. So, what exactly is product-led growth marketing and what does it mean for SaaS PR?

A quick refresh on PLG…

A term coined by OpenView Partners, product-led growth marketing focuses on the end user (the average Joes of the company) over the traditional buyer (like the company executives). With PLG, a business lets individual user adoption of the platform organically transform into paying customers.

The entire point of PLG is to deliver a user-friendly experience that solves pain points up front before requiring users to invest heavily in the product. PLG is built on three core principles: design for the end user, deliver value before capturing value and invest in the product with go-to-market intent. It’s simple: make a product that quickly proves its worth to free users — so much so that they want to pay to unlock even more value.

Take Calendly for example — chances are you’ve probably used a free version of the platform to help with scheduling. All you had to do was fill out a free signup form. There’s also a chance you loved the ease of scheduling with Calendly so much that you upgraded to a paid version of the tool to unlock additional capabilities, like allowing your entire team to coordinate scheduling through the platform. That’s a PLG strategy working its magic as you organically moved down the funnel into a paying customer.

So, what does a product-led growth PR strategy look like?

While product-led growth marketing isn’t necessarily rocket science, it does take a special focus on PLG’s core principles to create a successful product-led growth PR strategy. At the heart of it, the principles of PLG all tie back to making a product that creates true value for the everyday human — so that’s exactly where your PR strategy should focus.

Because you’re trying to capture the attention of the end users themselves, your PR strategy should prioritize their needs and desires over anything else. Sure, the average employee wants the business they work for to succeed — but more than that, they want to personally succeed at their job (without losing their mind). If you can show how your product helps them do this through your media coverage, you’ve mastered a product-led growth PR strategy.
A few ways to relay this message are through vendor neutral commentary in the form of contributed articles or media interviews, press releases about your product and customer stories.

Vendor neutral commentary

Commentary around your industry itself — whether that be trends or best practices — without explicitly mentioning your product is a great way to initially introduce your focus to prospects. As you delve into best practices that will streamline a part of their job or knowledge gaps that will help them become more informed, they’ll quickly associate your name with industry expertise that makes their life easier.

Press releases

It’s all too easy to focus on the business benefits of your product when you’re selling a B2B solution. But for companies following a PLG strategy, press releases must always zero in on the end user. Again, call out the personal benefits those individual users may experience with your new product update so they can clearly see the value potential.

Customer stories

Last but not least, one of the best ways to show your potential value is through someone who has personally felt it. Leverage those very customer end users to spread your value story far and wide. As they share their personal experiences with the platform, prospects and customers moving through the funnel will visualize the value your solution could provide as they relate to the daily struggles it solved for someone else.

If you’re delving into the world of product-led growth marketing to grow your business, it’s important you don’t overlook a targeted PR strategy. With a refocus on the end user and a little special attention to how you tell your value story, you’ll see prospects realizing the potential of your solution in no time.
Want to know how BLASTmedia can help you determine your product-led growth PR strategy? Contact Lindsey Groepper for more details!

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! 

Preparing For an IPO: PR Milestones

Going public is a momentous occasion for a SaaS company — and equally so in the world of SaaS PR. But before you can celebrate, there’s a lot that goes into preparing for an IPO. 

Whether you’re IPOing via SPAC or a more traditional route, this is a critical time to align your team on all fronts and build the momentum you need to make the move successfully. And when it comes to an IPO communications strategy, you can never start too soon.

Here are a few key IPO comms milestones to note:

Pre-IPO

It’s never too early to lay out an IPO communication strategy when you’re thinking about going public. At least six months before you file your S1, your PR team should focus heavily on garnering a well-rounded coverage mix inclusive of company news, industry thought leadership, feature articles and more. Public relations can support the factors that contribute to the perception of IPO readiness and this mix will add credibility when you officially IPO and people start Googling your SaaS company’s name more often.

S1 Filing

Your S1 filing marks the start of your quiet period. The quiet period ranges from your S1 filing date until 40 days after your IPO and is designed to avoid any positive press or commentary that could influence your company’s stock price. During this time, you’ll also be conducting your roadshow where you court investors in hopes of getting them to buy your stock. Because maintaining a normal course of business and communication is possible during a quiet period — more on that next week — this is the perfect time for the foundation you built pre-quiet period to shine.

Post-IPO

Once your quiet period ends, it’s time to leverage your IPO to your advantage. It’s fresh and exciting so people will likely want to talk about it. One great way to get the most out of your post-IPO media coverage is to tie your IPO to an industry trend to give reporters something bigger to latch onto. For example, have there been other IPOs in your space recently that could point to new market growth? Attach yourself to show you’re a market leader.

Outside of the many administrative activities you’ll partake in as you’re preparing for an IPO, your communications strategy could be one of the most critical preparations you make. Want to know more about PR and your IPO? Keep an eye out for new blogs on the topic every week! 

Want to further discuss how to prepare a PR strategy to support your SaaS company’s IPO? Contact our SaaS PR team to learn more.

SaaS PR and Your IPO: 3 Factors to Support IPO Readiness

A successful initial public offering (IPO) involves planning and effort. For SaaS marketing and PR professionals, that planning starts long before the pre-marketing phase initiated by investment banks. Keep in mind, leveraging PR to support a desirable financial exit isn’t just about having an IPO communications strategy. Public relations can support the factors that contribute to the perception of IPO readiness, including:

  • Category creation
  • Brand awareness 
  • Positioning

And we’re not the only ones who think so. Marketing leaders with experience scaling companies like Datadog and Snowflake from early stages through IPO recently explored these factors — and how they relate to IPO readiness — in a discussion moderated by ICONIQ Growth general partner Doug Pepper.

“The journey to an IPO is as unique as the company embarking upon it,” said Doug in a recap of the session written with ICONIQ Growth’s Brad Delaplane. “But no matter the path, every organization must ensure that investors are receptive to the company’s story. Through category creation, positioning, and brand awareness, the marketing function plays a vital role in how a company’s public readiness is perceived by the market.”

As a SaaS PR agency working with companies at all growth stages — from startup to publicly traded — we’ve seen time and again how PR can impact category creation, brand awareness and positioning for any SaaS company, not just those looking to IPO. 

So, if you’re a marketing or communications professional working for an organization eyeing an IPO, or just someone looking to influence a target audience, here’s a look at three factors that play into perception — and how PR impacts each.

Category Creation

There are several ways to leverage PR when creating a new brand category. We often advise clients looking to establish a new category to consider a combination of thought leadership and product-based announcements. 

While product-based announcements — and the traditional assets like press releases that go with them — might seem obvious, pairing these announcements with thought leadership develops a regular cadence of media coverage. It also provides a vehicle for the company to introduce important keyword phrases and tell a larger story about industry needs. 

When it comes to category creation, successful thought leadership campaigns include consistent messaging and bold statements. Saying something bold sets thought leaders apart from other spokespeople by offering something new to the media, which, in turn, helps to secure media coverage.

As BLASTmedia PR Director Kate Johnson shared in a recent article about PR for category creation, “‘It’s time to abandon business intelligence tools.’ [is] a pretty bold statement to make, especially when you’re technically calling out major BI brands.” But it was the kind of comment BLASTmedia client Logi Analytics needed to land an article in Extra Crunch and continue building the story around its new brand category of embedded analytics. 

Kate goes on to point out how brands can leverage company news or data, in addition to bold statements to support category creation efforts.

“Analysts often provide a sense of third-party validation when creating a new brand category because they offer insight and data points from other industry players. Pushing relevant company news or owned data as a PR campaign alongside thought leadership is another way to build credibility.”

PR efforts to support category creation don’t just impact perception; they can also help with the IPO process later on. As the team at ICONIQ explains, “if the company establishes itself in a distinct category many years in advance of the IPO, then the process of writing the S-1 will be much more fluid.”

Brand Awareness

When our team asks new clients for PR goals, they usually start with “increasing brand awareness.” And while PR isn’t the only way to generate brand awareness, it is often one of the most cost-effective. PR, and the media coverage generated as a result of PR efforts, provides third-party validation, while also allowing the brand to retain a level of control over messaging (more on that in a bit). Some even argue that more earned media mentions signal more brand awareness.

Generating brand awareness involves getting your brand in front of the right people. For B2B SaaS brands, that audience often includes one — or more — of the four pillars of B2B SaaS PR: investors, employees, partners and customers. One of the best ways to get your brand in front of these audiences is through media coverage.

Brand awareness can be challenging to quantify, so consider this example of the relationship between media coverage and brand awareness: BLASTmedia supported Veritone (NASDAQ: VERI) during a product launch. PR efforts around the launch resulted in more than 20 media briefings and 15 articles in business and technology outlets — including two pieces in Barron’s. The initial article in Barron’s was credited with a boost in the company’s stock price which traded $3.29 higher the Monday after the piece ran.

Positioning

Unlike brand awareness, positioning considers what the customer thinks about a brand and how the brand is distinguished from competitor offerings in the minds of a target audience. 

As with other factors playing into the perception of IPO readiness, thought leadership is also helpful for positioning. A SaaS company looking to influence how its target audience sees the brand could seek out opportunities to comment on industry events, contribute a quote about an industry trend, or draft and submit an article educating others in the industry. These all are examples of thought leadership. 

Other media relations efforts also contribute to positioning, especially those leveraging the media and other industry influencers to build credibility. For example, customer stories — like a recent story about our client Phenom and customer Southwest Airlines placed in The Wall Street Journal — provides third-party validation of Phenom from both the media outlet and the customer. 

PR is an effective and important way to support category creation, brand awareness and positioning for any SaaS company — including those not yet preparing for an IPO. For those looking to ensure that investors are receptive to the company’s story, PR isn’t just effective in developing the perception of IPO readiness; it’s vital. 

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SaaS PR: Agency Insights on What’s Working in 2021

As a SaaS PR agency, we’re always seeking to understand what PR strategies work when it comes to securing media coverage and driving value for B2B SaaS brands. By comparing different strategies implemented across the agency, we’re able to generate insights most internal and agency teams aren’t privy to — after all, our team works with over 60 B2B SaaS brands! 

Curious what we’ve learned so far this year? Take a look at a few of the insights gleaned by members of our SaaS PR agency team in the first few months of 2021:

Pairing announcements with data and thought leadership helps SaaS companies stand out from the noise.

Coming off a year where M&A deals totaled $634 billion, a 91.8% year-over-year increase, the first quarter of 2021 also marked an all-time high for global funding. It’s an exciting time — but all that excitement also leads to a great deal of noise. 

To rise above the chatter, it’s not enough for a SaaS company to simply distribute a press release about funding or a new acquisition.

“Our most successful announcements in Q1 were paired with one of three things:  company metrics like YRR, customer number, valuation; data — earned data, like surveys, owned data like platform metrics or industry like TAM; and access to third-party spokespeople supporting our messaging, such as investors or notable customers,” said BLASTmedia Director of Success Meghan Matheny.

For SaaS companies without company metrics, data or outside spokespeople, making the announcement one piece of a larger campaign can also increase visibility.

“We’ve augmented the success of announcements with thought leadership that enforces the key message surrounding the news,” explained BLASTmedia Director of Success Lydia Beechler. “For example, we highlighted how traditional business intelligence has failed enterprises alongside a data report on the benefits of embedded analytics (a new subset of BI).”

Reacting to competitor IPO news provides a way for SaaS brands to join industry-wide conversations.

Nearly 20 B2B SaaS companies IPOed in 2020, and with companies like Qualtrics and DigitalOcean taking their place on the exchange this year, expect SaaS IPOs to make more headlines in 2021. 

For companies not aiming or ready to go public, news of IPOs within a given industry presents opportunities for building thought leadership.

“We’ve leveraged IPOs — specifically those that saw significant increases in stock prices after their stock market debut — to highlight the relevance of an industry that a client fits into,” said Lydia. “This not only shows the significance of the IPOing company but tips a hat to the potential others in the market have for growth.”

According to BLASTmedia Director of Success Kelsey Sowder, reacting to IPO news “works especially well when our clients have bold stances on companies IPOing. For example, if a client thinks an IPO is happening just for the company to raise capital or if it won’t actually advance the industry, these stances tend to garner more media interest.”

G2 and other review sites provide a jumping-off point for customer quotes and stories.

Known as the world’s leading B2B software-and-services review platform, G2 is a trusted resource many prospects use to vet software solutions. But it’s also a great SaaS PR tool.

Our team has been harnessing the power of G2’s platform for years as a way to build thought leadership by securing coverage on G2’s Learning, as well as to showcase brand momentum and credibility by leveraging Grid Reports and other G2 rankings.

In 2021, the team has found new ways to leverage the review platform by identifying customer quotes to include in marketing materials like press releases and award submissions.

Beyond pulling quotes, the team also used G2 as a jumping-off point for identifying possible customer advocates willing to speak to the media and customer stories — an essential SaaS PR tool (more on that in point #4).

“We leveraged G2 reviews as a starting point to identify customers that might be willing to speak to media on behalf of a client,” said Lydia. “If they’re willing to say it on G2, they may be willing to say it to The Wall Street Journal!” 

Incorporating customer stories into press releases and contributed content provides a new avenue for leveraging an essential SaaS PR tool.

We know that customer stories are an essential tool for SaaS marketers. After all, as PR Director Kayleigh Jones recently shared, “as a B2B SaaS company, your customers are your biggest champions. No one is better positioned to advocate for your solution than the organizations using it every day.” 

Meghan agrees. “Customer stories are a key tactic to garner top-tier interest. When beginning work with a new supply chain client, we offered a customer story to Forbes, resulting in coverage (their first piece). Besides giving us the foot in the door with top tier, incorporating use cases (anonymized or not) into quotes and contributed content is a useful way to demonstrate practical application.”

Though some of our clients have customers eager to speak with the press, that isn’t the case for all SaaS brands.

For those new to generating customer stories or dealing with customers who might be hesitant to speak to the press, PR director, Katie Cessna recommends focusing on customer commentary that allows for more touchpoints with the customer to start. “We’ve seen success taking a step-by-step approach with our client’s customers,” explained Katie. “Instead of immediately leveraging them in an interview, we first quoted the customer in a release, scheduled a call to discuss their experience with our client and then used that information to pitch out their story to reporters.”

Kelsey points out integrating a customer story into a piece of contributed content, also known as a byline, is also an option — especially when the customer is concerned with messaging or doesn’t have time to commit to press interviews. “This approach works well because, typically, the information we’re leveraging has already been approved by the customer for use by our clients. And, with bylines, we’re better able to control the message and paint a full picture of the customer’s use case.”

Securing the right coverage to connect with a highly engaged audience might require pursuing opportunities behind a paywall.

More and more, paywalls are becoming part of the typical media landscape. While paywalls can make sharing media coverage challenging and constrict the size of the audience, Meghan says the trade-off is the ability to get in front of a highly engaged audience.

“Many of our clients are embracing the quality of the coverage over the limited eyeballs because it means there is a greater chance of engagement and bringing a prospect into the sales funnel,” said Meghan.

According to BLASTmedia VP Grace Williams, that highly engaged audience can lead to benefits beyond brand awareness: “We’ve seen plenty of clients benefit from coverage behind paywalls. A quick example: After a single contributed piece on Extra Crunch, TechCrunch’s subscription product, our clients are seeing 200-300 referral visits and even a few conversions.” 

This is the year to shop around and pursue newswire alternatives.

As part of her year-end SaaS PR predictions, Grace commented that 2021 would be the year “audiences wise up to newswires — kind of.”

“In 2021, marketing and comms leads will start considering the broad spectrum of places outside of a wire we can place releases,” explained Grace. “A company blog or, if you have some extra budget, a paid posting in a trade publication are valid options to consider and can often have the same impact as a newswire posting (minus the syndications).”

Q1 showed us that these services still have their place — when asked, multiple members of our SaaS PR agency described newswires as “useful.” However, a press release on a newswire service isn’t the only (or even the best) way to show a steady cadence of news.

“For clients in niche industries, we’ve recommended using other avenues like Industry Dive’s press release form,” Katie shared. “The Industry Dive sites are improving their capabilities and looking to provide similar services to a wire service. By posting to specific publications, you have a better chance of reaching your target audience based on what that publication covers.”

For SaaS companies looking to stick with a traditional wire service, Katie says there are options. “We’ve started to see clients use other wire services (WebWire, NewswireNext) that are more affordable and get the news out there beyond their site.”

Looking for more SaaS PR insights? Contact Lindsey Groepper to learn more about partnering with our SaaS PR agency.

The Value of SaaS Coverage Behind a Paywall

Paywalls are the future. While the industry is still dabbling with the best formula — set amount of free articles versus full subscription — the paywall trend is on the rise as top publications fight against social media traffic, the collapse of ad revenue and the cannibalism of reporters’ beats along with industry layoffs. 

Furthermore, paywalls exist for a reason. Readers are interested in the quality of the reporting, brand equity, tier-1 stature of the outlet, and even the power of individual journalists who possess significant social media followings. 

Paywall Landscape 

In 2019, 76% of US newspapers published online had some form of paywall in place, up 60% compared to two years prior. In late 2019, Fortune reported Condé Nast publications joined the ranks of reputable brands like Wall Street Journal and Insider by pivoting to a full paywall model. 

However, the pandemic caused many organizations to cease their paywall structure to provide necessary information to a larger audience during a tumultuous time. Now, we’re seeing the re-emergence of the paywall initiative: In February 2021, Time announced plans to erect its paywall, and in April 2021, Reuters announced its decision to restrict all of its online publications.

Simply, paywalls help publications survive, so SaaS marketing and PR teams need to figure out how to work within this reality. You can share coverage behind a paywall to help amplify your earned media mentions, but, understandably, there is concern around more tangible benefits. 

Instead of investing in ways to bypass a paywall or using tricks like incognito browsers, embrace what it can mean for the industry. Besides earning coverage in front of a highly engaged audience actively seeking news shared by that specific publication, paywalls allow for dedicated reporters and a potential increase in quality. 

We’ve recently reported on paywall coverage in the past couple of quarters and have found the squeeze is worth the juice.

Coverage Behind a Paywall Results 

  • Logi Analytics’ piece of contributed content, “It’s time to abandon business intelligence tools” in TechCrunch, drove 270 users, including 260 new users, generating a total of 292 sessions from March 19 – March 31, 2021. 
  • In Q4 2020, BLAST secured placement for a byline by the CTO of Cheetah Digital on the downfall of adtech in TechCrunch. Thus far, the coverage has directly resulted in 131 users on the Cheetah site, holding 165 sessions. Despite running in November, it was the 11th highest referral source for the Cheetah website in the quarter. 
  • In Q1 2021, Phenom People received coverage for its funding announcement in gated publications such as Bloomberg and Insider. Between April 7-14, organic traffic was up 45% and referral traffic was up 291% compared to the same time last year.
  • 6sense earned coverage in top-tier and trade gated sites such as Fortune and Reuters for its Series D funding announcement. From March 30 – April 6, 2021, 6sense saw 22 sessions from referral traffic. Additionally, compared to the same time last year, 6sense saw a 260% increase in direct traffic and 133% increase in organic search.

We’ll continue to closely monitor the effect of paywalls on coverage as the trend continues, but don’t shy away from opportunities like submitting bylines to TechCrunch ExtraCrunch or offering embargoed news to Bloomberg.

This much is clear: coverage living behind a paywall does not mean the effort was wasted or the article will fall on blind eyes and deaf ears. It just means we need to measure coverage quality differently and assess its impact.
If you want to learn more about how SaaS PR agencies manage paywalls, see this Forbes article in defense of paywalls or contact BLASTmedia to chat.