The Evolution of the Corporate Narrative

Corporate Narrative by Jodi Ireland

The corporate narrative no longer focuses solely on the CEO, category and product talk tracks. It’s broadened in topic and scope to act as another influencer on today’s generation of talent and buyers valuing purpose and connection. 

And really, every company needs a narrative. We’re not talking about self-contained stories with a set beginning, middle and end, but rather an ongoing, open-ended tale focused on the customer — not the company. 

Far too many companies struggle with crafting a compelling, inspiring corporate narrative that’s customer-focused. Successful companies have included Nike, with its “Just Do It” slogan, Google’s “Telling our Story” initiative, Zendesk’s “Let get real” story or Apple’s “Think different.” 

In this post, we’ll talk about the merit of corporate narratives and how companies can expand their storytelling to reach more audiences, create customer loyalty, build resiliency and more.

A brief history

In the early 20th century, most large companies focused narrowly on selling products and services, and corporate messaging centered on product features, quality and customer service. By the mid-1900s, companies expanded their narratives to include related topics such as their history, relationships with communities, social responsibility efforts and value — a significant shift from the original product focus to building a broader identity and reputation.

More recently, companies have extended their narratives to include cultural branding, purpose-driven messaging, social causes and weightier topics like inequality and climate change.

Now, organizations seek to convey compelling stories across multiple channels — advertising, PR, social media, etc. — infusing those stories with personality, emotion and pillars that go beyond profits.

Benefits of telling more stories

So, why do stories matter? Have stories always been important, and we’ve only just taken notice over the past few years? Or have the audiences themselves changed?

There isn’t one single reason why stories have become more important. Still, the numbers show that Gen Y and millennials — who value purpose and meaning when choosing vendors — comprise most of today’s decision-makers. 

Millennials expect something beyond the typical, traditional sales pitch. They crave meaning when selecting a vendor, and since millennials are involved in 73% of all B2B buying decisions, companies need to step it up to sate this craving. Brands must employ any strategy to attract those buyers, including creating a strong narrative beyond products and:

  • Building an emotional connection.
  • Inspiring evangelists.
  • Driving culture.
  • Guiding decisions.
  • Cultivating trust.
  • Sparking movement.
  • Differentiating the brand from its competition.

Drive authenticity by involving the C-suite in narrative development and leveraging more “internal” SMEs — think CHROs, DEIB and ESG leaders — externally to add layers to the corporate narrative and its importance.

Sure, marketing can distribute the message, but leadership must immerse itself in customers’ needs and expectations. By understanding the full scope of potential opportunities, your leadership can author a narrative that truly resonates. 

Once the C-suite is invested, invite employees to embrace and buy into it. Help them grasp the narrative’s significance, connecting it to their roles in enabling customer success. An inspired, unified workforce multiplies the narratives’ power. When each employee lives out a meaningful story, customers feel the impact.

Looking beyond products fuels inspiration. Delve into your customers’ needs, aspirations and ambitions. When their purpose resonates with your own, passion ignites. Let that intrinsic excitement guide you toward other paths for shared growth.

Then, empower meaningful action. Outline achievable steps to engage customers’ potential. The path to action should challenge — not overwhelm. Progress takes commitment; with care and courage, customers can act on the narrative to drive change.

Best practices for creating a corporate narrative

Corporate narratives have grown increasingly multidimensional and sophisticated, focusing on invoking something beyond a transactional relationship with target audiences. These expanded narratives help attract talent, connect with customers on a deeper level and portray the company as more than just a business. 

But the narratives also invite more scrutiny if actions don’t fully match messaging or aren’t backed by meaningful policies and practices. Avoid serious missteps with these best practices.

  • Articulate a clear purpose and values driving your organization beyond profits to build a solid and consistent foundation.
  • Align the narrative with business goals and strategies to ensure you’re not simply sharing fluff.
  • Get to know and understand your audiences so you can tailor your messaging and channels to resonate with target customers, stakeholders and communities.
  • Showcase company culture authentically, with transparent glimpses into what’s really happening versus portraying more idealistic interpretations of the culture.
  • Make corporate social responsibility (CSR) integral to your company, incorporating it into practices rather than treating it as merely an add-on or afterthought.
  • Evolve and grow the narrative as your company and social expectations change.
  • Substantiate the narrative and claims with action via concrete policies and measurable progress.

Not “The End” but rather a continuation

Investing in your brand is the most powerful intangible asset on your balance sheet. When you invest in expanding your corporate narrative to tell stories that your audience wants to hear, you foster customer loyalty, influence perceptions, drive advocacy, establish credibility, differentiate yourself from the competition, build a solid foundation in a changing world — and perhaps most important of all — create resilience. 

A Retrospective on Four Years of SaaS Predictions

Predictions season has been a large part of our SaaS clients’ Q4 and Q1 plans for five years. Having tracked the numbers over those years, I thought it’d be prudent to review our results ahead of 2024’s predictions season.

The first thing I learned? It’s getting harder to secure predictions coverage. We peaked in 2020 at about five pieces of coverage per client, after which our results started to decline. While this could look discouraging, our clients still receive about three pieces of coverage each season. 

As we gear up for the 2024 predictions season — no, I’m not crazy for thinking ahead, considering we ramp up for predictions as early as August — here are the learnings we’ll use to inform our approach.

Learning #1: Ratio of PRs to journalists has increased. So…

(*Muckrack estimates there are 6.2 PR people for every journalist)

A. your predictions have to be punchier than ever to stand out

Bland, vanilla, mild…no, I’m not talking about food. I’m talking about uninteresting quotes that never garner coverage. It’s common for subject matter experts (SMEs) to be wary of taking a strong stance for fear of being wrong. But that’s the beauty of predictions: they’re just that — an informed guess about the future! I’m not saying SMEs should make wild statements just for coverage’s sake. But, I am saying SMEs should get more comfortable taking a stance that may be unheard of or unpopular. 

Here’s an example I love from Authenticx CEO Amy Brown. It’s bold, punchy, and calls out a prevalent issue in the healthcare industry. 

“We don’t have a lack of data in healthcare. We have a value-realization problem with the data we already have. I foresee a greater investment in solutions that digest unstructured data in ways that give you much better eyes and ears into the state of your business and the state of your patient experience.”

B. there are fewer opportunities in general

This is an unfortunate truth, but it’s par for the course as more companies wise up to the importance of thought leadership. Media outlets have also fallen victim to our current economic situation, with outlets like Adweek, Insider and NBC letting go of significant portions of their newsrooms. Meanwhile, other outlets like Protocol and Buzzfeed News have folded completely. 

Long story short, there are fewer opportunities and more competition.

Learning #2: Get buy-in for participation from a wide bench of spokespeople

As media continues to prioritize commentary from first-hand practitioners, C-suite executives and other director-level spokespeople become prime resources to tap for media opportunities. These SMEs have boots on the ground and can accurately assess what’s next in their respective fields.

Check out this hot take from someone outside the C-suite, Scott Register, vice president of security solutions at Keysight Technologies.

“Deepfake technology to date has resulted in political confusion, internet chatter, and some amusing mashup videos, but expect this to change in the near term. Security experts have warned for years about the possibility of social engineering attacks with deepfakes, and the technology has matured enough for 2023 to see hackers successfully leverage it. We will see an increase in image generation, generated audio, and conversations that appear realistic, designed to trick recipients into sharing personal data or other sensitive information. The deepfake threat isn’t relegated solely to consumers; we’ll likely see threat actors spoof a Fortune 100 CEO in an attempt to defraud or otherwise damage the organization.

Learning #3: Content continues to be a great way to secure predictions coverage

More than half –– 60 percent –– of our SaaS PR predictions coverage was contributed content. Another observation: most of our content coverage ran during the latter half of the predictions season, with quotes and interviews predominantly running in Q4 2022.

Although a balance of predictions coverage is ideal (from quotes to features and beyond), content is a fantastic way to control messaging and tell a story. Plus, it extends the life of a predictions campaign. The more content created and placed, the greater the extension of the campaign. One final thought: the greater incidence of content could be related to Learning #1 –– smaller newsrooms and more PRs for every journalist, which translates to quicker wins from contributed content.

Our plan forward

To optimize our efforts during prediction season, it’d be beneficial to use the same approach for pitching quotes and features when pitching contributed content: secure a request before building out the prediction. Additionally, in 2024, we’ll aim to secure at least one contributed content prediction piece per client. By taking these steps, we can optimize our time and effort dedicated to predictions campaigns.

If you’re a journalist, join the conversation. What do you think about prediction pieces? And if you’re a client, ask us how we can maximize this campaign for you.

The Power of Storytelling in SaaS Leadership

When we think about the art of storytelling, we might remember a favorite novel and how its author wove a tale of wonder, skillfully drawing us in and creating characters we loved (or hated). And on rare occasions, we may find ourselves enchanted by a lush tale that leaves us wanting more when we close the cover.

Storytelling isn’t reserved for a good book or movie, though. SaaS marketers use storytelling regularly to drive home key messages, capture and keep customer loyalty and differentiate their brand from the competition. 

But have you thought about storytelling’s impact on SaaS leadership? It plays a massive role in driving employee buy-in and engagement. Storytelling also connects to branding, change management, strategy development, values, vision work and more.

Adding storytelling to your SaaS leadership toolbox

Some SaaS leaders may think of themselves as devoid of storytelling abilities, but I believe it’s a skill they can learn. It’s a skill every leader should hone because when they tell a good story, they become more effective at:

  • Introducing new ideas.
  • Communicating their vision.
  • Shifting employee mindsets.
  • Winning over clients, teams and other stakeholders.
  • Inspiring audiences — and so much more.

Tap into emotions

Sharing narratives evoking emotions like empathy, excitement and humor allows you to establish personal connections and build trust with your audience. People who feel emotionally connected to their leaders are more likely to feel motivated, loyal and willing to follow their vision.

Explain and clarify

Want your people to remember your message? Tell a story. It’s much more memorable than statistics, facts or abstract concepts. A story offers the perfect vehicle to explain and clarify abstract concepts! Presenting information in a narrative format provides a context for people to understand and retain your message’s key points. You enhance your communication’s effectiveness and ensure your message resonates with listeners over time.

Champion your vision

Sharing personal anecdotes or illustrating real-life examples empowers you to paint a vivid picture of the core values and beliefs guiding your decision-making. Helping your employees understand and align with your vision fosters a sense of shared purpose and enhances collaboration and commitment to common goals.

Inspire and drive transformation

Leaders often face the challenge of driving transformation or overcoming resistance to change. By sharing stories highlighting the benefits of change — or positive, achievable outcomes — we can create a sense of urgency and motivate our teams or employees to embrace new ideas and approaches. Stories inspire during challenging times, reminding people of past successes or illustrating the resilience and determination required to overcome obstacles.

Define culture and identity

Storytelling also plays a vital role in shaping an organization’s culture and identity. You can use stories to establish a shared narrative defining the organization’s traditions, history and values. 

Sharing stories celebrating past achievements, lessons learned and defining moments reinforces a sense of identity and fosters a culture that values innovation, collaboration — or other traits you deem essential. With these stories, you will communicate your organization’s mission and brand — internally and externally — to create a sense of shared purpose and attract like-minded people.

Characteristics of effective storytelling

  1. Know your audience

You might share the same story across your organization, but delivering an identical message to your managers, teams and individual contributors, new hires and veteran employees won’t land as well as tailoring one to each audience. 

Start by talking to people informally because it’s much easier to learn what worries or motivates them or what piques their curiosity. When you know your audience, you can more easily infuse your story with examples and specific language, speaking directly to their concerns and questions. 

  1. Ground your story in context

Imagine rolling out a new initiative but not explaining the reasoning behind it. Your employees might see it as a random initiative from the top — but if you show how it fits into your company’s broader vision, you’ll likely get more buy-in. Why? Because people will see the genesis of the changes, their necessity and how they contribute to future strategy. 

  1. Humanize your story

We’re all drawn to stories — especially personal anecdotes, which humanize abstract notions, help you reframe objective claims or drive home a point. And you don’t have to be your story’s hero, either. Sometimes showing your fallibility is more effective. After all, being great is… great, but it’s not always relatable. As Tyra Banks wrote, “Perfect is boring.” 

  1. Make your story action-oriented

If you want people to understand your story — and empower them to take action from it — focus on what you want your audience to do after they hear it. Offer practical advice and clear direction because specifics reduce anxiety. When you help people understand a change in company direction, for example, and how those changes relate to them, it’s much easier for them to set and work toward their goals.

  1. Stay authentic and humble

Anchor your story with personal experiences, emotions and values. Embracing authenticity connects you to your audience and helps them relate to and trust your message. Speaking with humility demonstrates your capacity for learning and growth, showing you don’t claim to have all the answers, have made mistakes and have corrected course as necessary. 

When you admit you’re not perfect and own your mistakes, your audience relates to you more easily. After all, some of the best stories involve failures, disasters and mistakes. They give your story tension, add emotion and become the pivot points that makes your story memorable.

  1. Have a clear outcome

Your story should leave your audience with some takeaway — a lesson or thought-provoking message. What should people have learned, or what should they do after they hear your story? Perhaps you’ve provided actionable points that propel action. Or you’ve shown your audience where you’ve come from — and where you’re going. A clear outcome generates trust and confidence in your values, mission and purpose. 

We remember those storytellers who have great presence and tell great stories. From actors and teachers to mentors and leaders, we associate these people with the stories they’ve told. Why? Because stories empower us to create connections, foster engagement and share meaning. And as leaders, they matter to our identity and roles, our priorities and our aspirations.

Elevate Day 2023

I planned Our First Half-Day Training Event and Here’s What I Learned

BLASTmedia recently hosted our very first Elevate Day — a half-day training event that gave our employees the opportunity to learn about new strategies in the world of PR and content development, tap into their creative side, and learn about the SaaS investing landscape from VCs themselves.

Think somewhere between Dreamforce and a The Office-style whiteboard presentation.

We used Elevate Day to hone in on topics that we identified a need for extended training around due to market changes and evolving best practices, as well as trends we saw in a recent training benchmark survey that asked employees to self-report on their confidence level around certain skills. Each employee could choose their Elevate Day track from a number of session options in each training category to personalize the day to their individual interests.

Here are the top three things I learned (outside of making plans for unexpected weather!) at our very first Elevate Day training event:

The media landscape is changing more rapidly than we could have imagined even five years ago.

Who and how I pitched last quarter could completely differ from who and how someone else at the agency is pitching this quarter. That’s why it’s so important to knowledge share across your agency — and Elevate Day made that glaringly clear. As I listened to various sessions, I saw so many people sharing tips and tricks about new approaches they’re taking due to shifts in how reporters like to be pitched or shrinking newsroom staff. Let’s just say…Elevate Day motivated me to keep this knowledge-sharing alive and well in our agency.

The need for SaaS PR ain’t goin’ anywhere

It could be easy to think that the turbulent SaaS market means the demise of SaaS PR. But we think quite the opposite…and so do some of our favorite VC friends. In our fireside chat with Allos Ventures Managing Director David Kerr and Elevate Ventures Principal Sara Omohundro, CFA, we talked about the value of SaaS PR when it comes to a founder’s brand, building trust when times get tough, and more. Long live SaaS PR!

This conversation also reinforced the importance of tapping outside experts for their perspectives and advice. Outside of the investment landscape, we also talked about why PR sometimes gets a bad rap and ideas on how to position what we do to potentially skeptical execs or VCs (from VCs themselves!) — a conversation we face head-on regularly.

It pays to make time to learn

It’s easy to say that you want to make time to learn, but hard to actually set that time aside. Elevate Day showed me firsthand how important it is to not only create an environment of continual learning, but also to design opportunities for individuals to step outside of their norm to learn. That’s why we strategically planned the day during our regularly scheduled “No Meetings Week.”

Clearing our schedules and walking through the doors with our minds focused on soaking in everything the day had to offer made it so much easier to absorb new information and ask probing questions. I also noticed that stepping outside of our norm for a half day of learning helped boost the energy at the office and encouraged more creative thinking across the board!

Have a favorite learning event you’ve participated in that you’d like to share ideas from or want to speak at BLAST? Shoot me an email at!

How to Identify and Prepare Thought Leaders for Your SaaS PR Strategy

How to Identify and Prepare Thought Leaders for Your SaaS PR Strategy graphic

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.


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

Depending on your SaaS brand’s target 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 content.

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 content efforts as industry-specific SMEs.

For example, 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 cover 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 key opinion 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 content 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.

Effective Story Mining with SMEs

It’s no secret that thought leadership is vital for SaaS companies. B2B marketers need to build credibility for their companies, establish trust with customers and potential leads, and create brand value. The inevitable question for many SaaS marketers though is how to get started. 

When it comes to thought leadership, marketers naturally turn to their founders and their chief executive officers. They are, after all, the traditional thought leaders at most companies and the background, context and vision they provide is particularly useful for developing SaaS thought leadership.

Marketers who rely on the top brass alone to ideate thought leadership are missing out. That’s because the subject matter experts (SMEs) who work in the nitty-gritty often have a better pulse on the day-to-day business. And SMEs with industry-specific expertise (e.g., chief marketing officers, chief compliance officers, chief security officers) are particular gold mines of information. Marketers can learn how to leverage the experience and insights of these SMEs through effective story mining.     

Uncovering Pitchable Topics

Story mining sessions are informal interviews designed to uncover pitchable topics that marketers can use to develop SaaS thought leadership. A story mining session should be a casual, free-flowing conversation but marketers should still prepare questions to ensure they uncover solid ideas. 

Story mining sessions at BLASTmedia typically run 30-45 minutes and cover 4-6 questions. Because their time is valuable, marketers should think through a handful of strategic, open-ended questions that help an industry-specific SME to open up. Consider the following questions to get you started: 

Question #1: What drew you to the company?

One of the best ways to get to know SMEs is to learn about their career journeys. For those who recently joined the team, questions might center around their current roles. If the SME is a longtime company employee, there’s likely a story there as well.

Question #2: How did you get into your job function? What intrigues you about it?

Marketers should also learn how an SME became an expert. An SME might be the vice president of product now but might have started their career as a trained engineer. With this knowledge, a marketer can more effectively mine for thought leadership ideas.

Question #3: What is the competition getting wrong?

Once a marketer has a feel for an SME’s background, it’s time to flesh out differentiators and unique or timely positions. Consider asking SMEs for their opinions or hot takes on their job functions, other industry players or the direction of the industry overall.

Question #4: What trends are you following?

Finally, don’t forget that work is just one aspect of any SME’s life. What does the SME like to do outside of work for fun? Any cool hobbies? What topics interest the SME personally and what trends are they following? A lot of evergreen topics are applicable to SaaS (e.g., innovation, future of work, entrepreneurship, leadership) but not the SME’s day-to-day work. If marketers can identify an SME’s areas of interest, they can pursue thought leadership on those topics. Marketers won’t know what they don’t ask.

Again, story minings should be conversations. Pick and choose questions from the buckets above but be prepared to pivot and follow up as the conversation evolves.

Need more help developing SMEs as thought leaders? Reach out to Lindsey Groepper to see how BLASTmedia can implement effective story mining and position your company for SaaS thought leadership. 

Developing Ideas for Thought Leadership: Questions to ask Your Founder

strategy+business magazine’s former EIC, Joel Kurtzman, defined the concept of thought leadership in 1994. He said, “A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate.” 

As thought leaders, company founders have an opportunity to cultivate trustworthy relationships with their current and potential customers and generate loyalty. A trusted thought leader can help to raise their company’s profiles by telling stories to craft bylines and messages that resonate with their audiences. 

Company founders are invaluable resources when developing a SaaS thought leadership campaign because they offer PR professionals a new perspective on what’s happening in the marketplace. Talking to founders allows us to differentiate brands and focus on issues important to the company’s customers. 

Thought leadership has evolved to become a powerful marketing tool by generating information in alignment with audience needs and wants. At BLASTmedia, we use story mining for a variety of reasons, such as uncovering information and ideas to inform our pitches, contributed content and other materials. This simple exercise — a conversation guided by well-designed questions — offers incredible value.

Developing SaaS thought leadership topics 

Asking good questions balances the art and science of uncovering pitchable topics and writing exceptional copy. PR agencies use content to relay ideas from brands rather than explicitly sell products or services. Here at BLAST, we use content to drive engagement by working with brands to help them tell effective, compelling stories of interest to their target audiences.  

Who better to tell those stories than the brands’ founders? Finding those stories may require some serious sleuthing — and the willingness to deviate from the planned conversation. 

That said, the conversation has to start somewhere. Here’s a list of questions that — while general — provide a good place to start:

Question #1: What about your background and career path led you to your current position/role as a founder?

Starting with an open-ended, more general question helps put the leader at ease — and allows them to choose what they share. Plus it allows you to uncover nuggets worth following via more probing questions during the story mining session.

Question #2: What makes a good leader?

This question provides an opening to learn the founder’s opinion and gain insight into the company culture. From here, you might find the discussion naturally evolving to include talking about the value of mentoring, too.

Question #3: What motivated you to found this company? What problem(s) are you trying to solve? How does your approach separate your company from the competition?

Asking this question allows you to learn more about the founder’s thought processes. The follow-up questions also open doors to exploring possible topics or angles to pitch — especially important since one of your OKRs is likely to help elevate the company above others in its space.

Question #4: What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry now? And where do you see your company/industry in a year? Five years? Ten years?

A great opportunity to learn about where the founder hopes to take their company, this question also lets you identify potential trends or external factors influencing the company’s market or sector.

Look for interesting story angles by asking questions that delve into a brand’s uniqueness and personality. Craft your questions with an eye toward telling a story and positioning the thought leader as the storyteller — and always have an ear (or eye) out for trending conversations. 

Having your finger on the pulse of current topics offers a great resource for developing thought leadership talking points. A thoughtfully planned, well-executed story mining session pays dividends. Need help getting started with story mining? Contact us to learn more about building your SaaS brand’s thought leadership strategy.

Ideas for Thought Leadership Development: 4 Questions to Ask Your CEO

Thought leadership has grown in prevalence as B2B marketers recognize its value through the purchase funnel. Even to the extent that a 2020 study by SurveyMonkey found thought leadership is “top priority” for two-thirds of marketers. However, only 26% of marketers consider their current thought leadership program to be “very successful.”

Most marketers prioritize thought leadership. But why do such a small amount consider their strategy to be successful? 

Fortunately, developing ideas for thought leadership doesn’t require an entirely new strategy. Most B2B SaaS leaders have a wealth of untapped knowledge to make a great story. It all comes down to asking the right questions. 

The significance of story mining

BLASTmedia uses story mining to uncover insights from key executives — including CEOs — when developing robust thought leadership campaigns. While there’s value in exploring insights from all team members, CEOs act as a natural north star to guide growth and evolution — so they should likely be on the media front lines, gilding the messaging. 

CEOs are uniquely positioned to represent their business’s core values directly from the source. This is, in part, due to their integral role with an organization.

Story mining questions to ask your CEO

Below, we’ve laid out a few questions to get started for those who have not yet conducted a story mining session and why they’re important to ask.

Question #1: Tell us about your career path so far. What inspired you to enter the industry, and what led you to your current position?

It’s essential to keep your opening question as general as possible when looking to uncover new stories. Ask about a CEO’s background and what led them to their company. This lets them steer the conversation to a topic that resonates most. Once this topic is identified, it allows for more probing, in-depth questions throughout the session. 

Question #2: What are the biggest pain points/concerns your industry is facing right now? 

Challenges exist within every industry. And CEOs are always looking for the latest problem-solving tactic. Knowing what your CEO sees as top pain points in their industry can lead you to valuable insights on how to overcome them, thus the opportunity to position them as the subject matter expert.

Question #3: What are your short- and long-term growth plans for your business? 

Understanding a CEO’s goals and projections will help you explore potential story angles for company growth and business leadership. It also gives you a sense of where to set priorities in verticals and messaging

Question #4: Where do you see the industry heading in the next 5-10 years?

CEOs always think ahead about the direction of their company and the industry at large. This forward-thinking gives them a unique and sometimes surprising perspective on how their industry is evolving and why. And a hot take on any industry’s future is always relevant, regardless of the timeframe.

Developing ideas for thought leadership should be a strategic process. Questions for CEOs should remain as broad as possible, as the job requires them to focus on the bigger picture and an organization’s overall direction. 

Those conducting story mining sessions need to have a solid understanding of the B2B SaaS CEO role and the conversations happening within a specific industry. Then, the most relevant and timely information can be gained from an interview. After this, you’ll be armed with all the insights you need to develop a powerful CEO thought leadership strategy. 

Interested in learning more about how to leverage story mining? Contact Lindsey Gropper to learn how BLASTmedia can help.

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.