Old School Communication or a Maltreated Discipline?

It’s still alive! When I first discovered the light of the marketing universe many years ago, the term B2B PR seemed bigger and brighter to me. To be sure, in our fast-moving marketing world, one trend chases the other down main street. You’ll remind me soon that marketing people are hardly embarrassed to create newly invented terms for things that are not really new; Actually, they are often just “a natural evolution”. However, a radical change in communications has occurred thanks to all kinds of digital channels. So do we still need experts for B2B PR today?

B2B vs. B2C vs. B2B2C

One should mention that apart from B2B and B2C, other terms describing business relations today can be expressed by:

  • B2B2C (Business-to-Business-to-Consumer) or
  • B2X (Business-to-X) or
  • B2E (Business-to-Everyone).

Certainly, these terms, even if the list isn’t complete, have a marketing right to exist and help us categorize our complex world.


For as long as there are companies that sell solutions, products, technologies and services to other companies, there will be the need to communicate their benefits and messages. When B2B companies are looking for reinforcement in the area of communications and marketing, whether new employees or full-blown agencies, then specific competence in the B2B sector is the absolute key criterion, isn’t it?

Given the role of the marketing department (especially in the way of content marketing) and the communications professional, it might be more worthwhile to focus on the “Public” in B2B Public Relations. Yet the “Public” and the “Relations” have changed and will continue to do so. In my opinion, coming to understand ongoing changes and aligning them with our work is a key challenge for communication professionals today.

On the one hand, the profession of a communications expert is becoming increasingly technical. It’s not only the variety of digital channels that are used. It includes evaluating and monitoring tools. And it’s certainly not a disadvantage for marketing specialists if they possess a basic knowledge of how to produce videos or podcasts or have an idea of how SEO works. I’m sure you can extend the list to graphics and more.

Obviously experience and knowledge (ideally data-based) of the target group’s communications behaviour is important, especially within the B2B sector. For example, how does a mechanical engineer get information about the things that are important for him or her? What distinguishes a young female software developer from someone who has been in the job for 30 years? What are the differences between various industries?


Industry experience is important

So you don’t have to be a sector specialist, but of course, it helps immensely to know the workings of an industry, its mechanisms, its players and above all its target groups. Without a doubt, the mechanisms in the fashion industry are more similar to those of the lifestyle industry than to those of the mechanical engineering industry or the requirements of corporate IT. Often the boundaries can blur, or at least become complicated. For example, what about a manufacturer that offers products for consumers and companies?


Leaving the territory

But it’s no secret – industry knowledge is of fundamental importance for successful communications. Just look at the respect reaped when experts and industry insiders recognize that you know something important about the respective industry. Industry understanding needs to be developed together with a solid foundation of technical communication skills. Communications competence and technical tools are essential but are not enough to successfully manage a company´s communications in a B2B environment.

So, here’s to an open mind, one willing to consider suggestions and learn new things. PR is part of its own communications industry too; keeping abreast of new developments that could be implemented in our own daily work environment is part of our game. You can leave your own territory, your present job, but if you do, it will help to recognize that it may involve learning the business rules of a new industry.


Contributed by Thomas Hahnel, Managing Director, Lucy Turpin Communications.

Lucy Turpin Communications is an official member of the GlobalCom PR Network.