Why You Need An Adaptive B2B PR Strategy

TL;DR for adaptive B2B PR strategy

Successful B2B PR strategy is about evolutionary refinement. Established businesses rarely overhaul their strategies entirely; they adapt through iterative adjustments triggered by emerging challenges.

The journey of strategic evolution involves identifying and navigating challenges with foresight, facilitated by tools like horizon scanning and structures which can be instrumental in categorising challenges, ensuring strategies remain responsive and robust against the backdrop of a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) market environment.

B2B PR success leans on a diverse array of intelligence sources, from customer feedback to market analysts, while internal factors like financial health and operational decisions play a critical role. 

Embracing the complexity and unpredictability of market challenges with a strategic mindset that values adaptation and foresight over reactive decision-making ensures B2B PR efforts are not just reactive but strategically positioned for sustainable growth, innovation, and differentiation in the marketplace.

The illusion of permanence in B2B PR strategy

A melting pink icecream in a cornet. Pieces are exploding in the background. The image represents the illusion of permanence in B2B PR strategy

There is a pervasive myth that crafting a B2B PR strategy is a journey with a clear destination, marked by deadlines tied to operational planning, budget allocations and high-level briefings to boards and market analysts. 

While this approach is commonplace, it belies the reality that, for many organisations, strategising should be more of an evolution and refinement of an existing blueprint. The exception, naturally, is a start-up embarking on this journey for the first time. More often, even the introduction of new products and brand extensions and new acquisitions signal iterative adjustments rather than a wholesale strategic pivot.

While it’s rare for established brands to need to overhaul their B2B PR strategy completely, any B2B market is ever-changing and will constantly challenge your plans. The stark reality is that the B2B PR strategy you meticulously craft is unlikely to endure in a pristine form. 

Your strategy transcends the static slides of a presentation; it is defined by the actions you execute and the decisions you make in response to the ever-changing market landscape. These encounters with reality require a dynamic approach to B2B PR strategy. One that embraces evolution and adapts to it with directed agility

In this perpetual state of flux, its essential to have mechanisms for identifying and classifying challenges and equipping your marketing team with the insight needed to navigate these obstacles effectively. 

Understanding how to categorise these challenges provides a foundation for responsive strategy adjustments, ensuring that your marketing efforts remain aligned with shifting markets. 

Identifying challenges to your B2B PR strategy

An AI generated image of a mans hand holding a sense up to a mountain scene. The image depicts the importance of identifying challenges to your B2B PR strategy

Challenges often catch us off guard, lurking unnoticed until they suddenly loom up as significant obstacles. The ability to anticipate and identify emerging challenges well in advance, can safeguard your brand from potential disruptions.

Techniques and tools exist to aid in this critical task. Horizon scanning, for instance, allows you to detect emerging challenges to your B2B PR strategy that may impact your brand, giving you time to develop informed hypotheses, innovate solutions, and validate them through experimentation. However, to leverage this approach effectively, you need to know what to look out for.

Compiling a comprehensive inventory of factors that could challenge your PR strategy is the best starting point.  With this list you can thoroughly examine your products and market landscape and collaborate with colleagues to ensure you build a comprehensive list.

The resulting list will be disorganised, prompting the next crucial step: categorisation. While some marketers dismiss frameworks like PESTLE and SWOT, they offer valuable structures for scanning horizons, aiding in the categorisation of challenges to your B2B PR strategy and insights.

You’ll next want to assess how often the potential challenges you identify are likely to occur within your market. This analysis is inherently bespoke to your marketplace and brand, so the compiled list should remain dynamic; subject to refinement and augmentation as circumstances change.

Navigating the information maze: sources of B2B PR intelligence

A bright yellow plastic maze with windows and with doors leading off at various points. The image represents the complexity of sources needed to build B2B PR intelligence

Your first port of call for any B2B PR intelligence should invariably be your customers and distributors. As the focal point for much B2B marketing strategy and tactics, they possess invaluable insights. Similarly, listen to the whispers from your sales channels. However, exercise caution, as the information will be tainted by the unique point of view of each customer, distributor and sales campaign. Don’t take the word of one source: cross reference and validate.

Market analysts and trade press constitute another vital source of intelligence. Though predominantly retrospective in nature, they can provide an aggregated insight into the thoughts of customers, competitors and influencers. They can also illuminate prevailing sentiments and trends. Consider also the challenges that may encumber your supply chain, distribution channels, and your ability to fulfil customer expectations.

Social channels can deliver insights. However, tread cautiously. Unless large parts of your market congregate frequently on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram you are likely to be listening to just a small unrepresentative sample. Forums and bulletin boards may yield more pertinent revelations. But again, remember that these will be just the opinion of one or two very engaged customers, which may not represent the views of the majority.

While competitor actions are important, fixating solely on their manoeuvres surrenders a large part of your strategic autonomy. Maintain a vigilant watch but resist the temptation to react too quickly to competitive actions before you fully understand circumstances. True strategic prowess lies in charting your own trajectory.

Internal factors, too, demand your unwavering attention. Financial issues such as profitability, cash flow and credit ratings are important considerations. Likewise, internal operational decisions relating to production, distribution, and service can precipitate unforeseen challenges, necessitating agile responses.

Classifying challenges to your B2B PR strategy

Blonde business woman looking contemplatively at a wall covered in Post-It notes. The notes represent the many challenges a B2B Pr strategy can encounter.

Once you have identified the sources of challenges most likely to impact your B2B PR strategy you will need a tool to categorise these challenges and their potential impact on it.

Enter the VUCA framework. Originally an invention of the US army to identify help classify threats after the Cold War it has proven very useful as a tool for identifying challenges to business strategy. By offering a structured framework through which to view challenges, VUCA enables the categorisation of threats to your B2B PR strategy and helps you to decide how you are going to respond.

Identifying and classifying the challenges that you see emerging, puts you in a better position to navigate them. However, bear in mind that simple reaction is insufficient; your goal is to improve your strategic position. The opportunity embedded within these challenges will allow you to identify ways to use B2B PR to innovate and differentiate your brand in the marketplace—thereby helping to outmanoeuvre your competitors.

Decoding VOLATILITY in the B2B market landscape

Volatility signifies the rapidity and unpredictability with which changes unfold. To fully grasp its essence, we need to consider three pivotal characteristics. Firstly, volatility never emerges in a vacuum—it’s invariably a response to precipitating events. Secondly, the origin of volatility often lies beyond mainstream market influences. Lastly, despite its seemingly abrupt appearance, true volatility is not born overnight; it’s the culmination of developments brewing over time. Identifying emerging volatility is essential in managing your B2B PR strategy.

Consider, for instance, a business specialising in the manufacture of components for high-tech devices, a sector heavily dependent on rare earth minerals. The procurement and refinement of these minerals not only pose environmental concerns but are also geographically constrained, 97% are mined and refined in China.

This scenario presents a trifecta of potential challenges: environmental implications, reliance on a single supply source plus current and potential ethical dilemmas. While these issues may appear stable in the short term, something outside mainstream market influences, say the advent of research into synthetic alternatives for these minerals, may introduce a new variable.

This development may prompt a strategic reassessment, affecting various facets of your B2B marketing strategy—from pricing and positioning to distribution and targeting, not to mention the unfolding of new B2B PR opportunities and challenges.

Unlocking the enigma of UNCERTAINTY in B2B PR

Uncertainty, often confused with ambiguity, describes a state where the information necessary for decision-making is either lacking, unreliable, or shrouded in doubt. In contrast, ambiguity describes situations with multiple potential outcomes or interpretations.

For B2B marketers, a common source of uncertainty lies in the integrity of data in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. The inherent inaccuracies and incompleteness of CRM data undermine confidence in the data.

We can, of course, correct uncertainty by increasing the amount of data or information that we have. While this may give us more confidence in our data, what results is a usually simply a more complete understanding of the status quo. What strong a B2B PR strategy needs to cope with uncertainty is a way to use data to shape outcomes. 

An AI generated image of a rainy night time oriental street market selling mostly fruit. It represents the VUCA often found in B2B PR

Navigating the maze of B2B COMPLEXITY

We describe challenges as having complexity when they comprise many interconnected parts. The result is often that unintended consequences happen. The best way to deal with these is to understand that they will happen and decide if they are beneficial or disadvantageous over the long or short-term. From there you can decide if they can be managed within your B2B PR strategy (directed agility) or if they require a policy change (strategic decision).

Consider a strategic decision to enter the French market, a decision that naturally leads to using French in your marketing communications. An unexpected twist might occur when you begin to attract interest from French-speaking regions in Central and East Africa. The question then becomes: do you seize these unforeseen PR opportunities or steer clear?

One of the key jobs of PR is to understand the impact that our decisions have on the rest of the organisation and to plan accordingly with other departments. 

If your product or service requires minimal support post-purchase, a nimble, agile PR response might suffice after coordination with finance and logistics to facilitate billing and shipping to these new African clients. However, if your offering necessitates extensive post-sale engagement, the scenario demands a broader, strategic dialogue. Engaging with sales, implementation, customer success, and service teams becomes important. Such discussions might culminate in a strategic decision to either embrace this unexpected market or to withdraw, prioritising organisational readiness and strategic coherence.

Resolving AMBIGUITY in B2B PR strategy

Ambiguity, as indicated earlier, often arises from a lack of clarity regarding the interplay of various variables. When confronted with ambiguity, PR leaders frequently resort to benchmarking—observing competitors’ actions. While this practice may aid in setting targets and KPIs, it should not dictate your B2B PR strategy. Mimicking relinquishes control to external influences and stops you from creating your own PR strategy.

Directly mirroring competitors’ moves or reacting impulsively to their actions increases ambiguity. Their strategy, insights, and internal contexts differ from yours. Understanding their actions without understanding their motivations can mislead you.

Remember if your horizon scanning is farsighted enough you should never be in a situation where you are forced to react immediately. However, acknowledging shifts in market dynamics is essential. Assessing the implications for your B2B marketing strategy enables strategic recalibration, ensuring adaptability and resilience in navigating ambiguity.

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