As a 25-year veteran owner of a public relations firm in New York and Miami, Florence Quinn has certainly seen some changes in the various ways that brands promote their stories.
“In the early days it was all about quantity of clips,” she says. “Now it’s not just about producing content that the traditional media wants to write about, but also content that is search engine optimized, [content] that the bloggers would be interested in, and even other brands. They’re all becoming media that we’re interested in.”
Pitching stories to the traditional media is still a large part of Quinn PR’s business, but she also talks about the emergence of the brand as the media.
“I’ve always loved the content production side of what we do. Everyone still wants to get in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and Vogue both in print and online—and that’s awesome. But we also have so many more media outlets now to work with including the bloggers.”
Stories, not sweepstakes
From the beginning, Quinn PR has been producing content in the form of brand stories and creating experience for clients. “We didn’t call it [content] in those days, we just called it being creative. But we were creating programs that the media would actually want to write about.”
Whether a company is B2B or B2C, Quinn instructs that it first begins with knowing your brand story and then telling it over and over, while always maintaining high quality, and then pushing it out to the target audience in a variety of ways.
“My view of social media is a little bit different than others because I believe that very quickly and easily, social media like Facebook can become like the Yellow Pages, and I think it’s a kiss of death for a brand to be eroded in the social media space just because they want to engage.”
She uses an example of a sweepstakes offer on Facebook that many brands offer as lacking interest and engagement with prospective buyers.
“I believe that the true engagement that you want is at the cash register,” she says, “If the brand isn’t strong, and they lose their mojo, they won’t get me there even if I’ve clicked on the sweepstakes entry.”
Stories that get prospect engagement
Serving up interesting content told in a fresh, new way that enhances and highlights the brand is how Quinn suggests that companies get the engagements that they desire.
“We’re all people, and even if you’re B2B you’re still a person,” she says. “You have to have an interesting point of view, an interesting personality, and a story to tell that people want to hear.”
Quinn notes that creativity around brand storytelling can be more difficult in B2B companies, but she usually finds an answer through problem-solving. As an example, she brings up a hotel client that is trying to reach meeting planners “and they all do.”
“I actually apply the same process to B2B as in B2C, which is that sometimes creativity is about finding a true solution to a problem and thinking outside the box. In the meetings business, people are certainly in the box,” she smiles. “In fact, that’s what they think they’re selling—a big box with a big room.”
Think differently about what you’re selling
Persuading clients to think differently about what they’re really selling is the cornerstone to Quinn’s creative process.
“Have you actually asked meeting planners what it would take to have their next meeting with you? Let’s ask them and find out from them what’s going on here, because maybe it’s not a room at all. Maybe it’s the service of technology,” she says.
Ultimately, content creation is about finding the prospect’s pain point and offering a better solution. “What is it that aggravates us the most when we go to a hotel for a meeting?" Quinn asks. "The temperature is freezing. You call downstairs, and you hope they show up, and within 30 minutes they don’t, so you call again and then an hour’s gone by and everyone is still freezing."
“So maybe the meetings business is really about being technology providers and instead of making the situation painful, have these really cool geeky guys that know exactly what they’re doing with all the equipment, sitting right outside the door, so if you need anything, they’re right there and they’d be more than happy to help you—everybody’s happy and it’s a great experience. And what a difference would that be?”
Think like your industry’s inevitable disrupter
“We’re all people that are trying to run our businesses better regardless of what our titles are,” she continues. “We’re all people, and we’re not that different—we tend to have the same likes and dislikes and problems.
Quinn concludes that even though creative thinking in B2B can be more challenging, thinking like an industry disrupter can help.
“Sometimes I’ll challenge my hotel clients to imagine if a disrupter came along to the meetings business. What do you think they would focus on and what would they be doing? And when that happens, and it will happen, we’ll all be asking ‘Why didn’t we think of that?’”