S2 E8: B2B Thought Leadership with Natalie Ghidotti
For B2B companies, clearly expressing your complex sales message or service offerings can be difficult. Oftentimes, the industry speak can be quite generic, which means finding the right content framework that will make your business stand out is all the more important for driving home conversions.
Finding it hard to come up with the right message? Exhausted by the time and resources it takes to get a week’s worth of social posts crafted? You’re not alone.
In this episode, Natalie Ghidotti talks about the challenges of content marketing and thought leadership for B2B executives and brands.
She shares tips on how to build relationships, create content that is relevant to other businesses, and demonstrate your value. She also explains how to craft effective messages that will resonate with your target audience.
About the Guest
Natalie Ghidotti, APR, is principal of Ghidotti, which she founded in 2007 and has since grown to serve a wide range of clients, including some of the region’s best-known brands. She is a past president of the Arkansas Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and serves on the Executive Committee for PRSA National’s Counselors Academy.
About the Host
Abbie Fink is vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of PRGN. Her marketing communications background includes skills in media relations, digital communications, social media strategies, special event management, crisis communications, community relations, issues management, and marketing promotions for both the private and public sectors, including such industries as healthcare, financial services, professional services, government affairs and tribal affairs, as well as not-for-profit organizations.
PRGN Presents is brought to you by Public Relations Global Network, the world’s local public relations agency. Our executive producer is Adrian McIntyre.
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From the Public Relations Global Network, this is PRGN Presents. I'm Adrian McIntyre.Abbie Fink:
And I'm Abbie Fink, vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of PRGN. With public relations leaders embedded into the fabric of the communities we serve, clients hire our agencies for the local knowledge, expertise, and connections in markets spanning six continents across the world.Adrian McIntyre:
Our guests on this biweekly podcast series are all members of the Public Relations Global Network. They discuss such topics as the importance of sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance programs, crisis communications, content marketing, reputation management, and outside of the box thinking for growing your business.Abbie Fink:
For more information about PRGN and our members, please visit prgn.com. And now, let's meet our guest for this episode.Natalie Ghidotti:
Hi, I'm Natalie Ghidotti with Ghidotti here in Little Rock, Arkansas.Abbie Fink:
It's obvious, I think, for most of us when we open up a magazine or newspaper and we see an ad that that company is trying to get us to engage, purchase, make a donation, do something. Might not be so obvious if we are a business trying to attract another business. So Natalie, you and I are going to chat a little bit about what business-to-business communications is really all about. It has an entirely different approach than taking out an ad and really has to address that opportunity that one business can provide to another business. And I think for communicators, this is one of our most interesting challenges: how do we connect the clients that we represent with the clients that they want to work with?Natalie Ghidotti:
Yeah, absolutely. And just what you said, Abbie, B2B is a very different play than B2C. And the reason is, in all marketing or PR, it's all about trust, right? But in B2B, it's even more so. You definitely have to build a trust factor with those potential clients. And it's really through that thought leadership platform. I mean, are you coming across as an expert that this other business wants to work with? It's all about that trust factor. It's very hard to go and place a bunch of ads to create that in the B2B space. So we in PR do a lot of work in B2B. And I think as PR practitioners, we’re often called to help B2B companies establish that thought leadership.Abbie Fink:
Let's expand a little bit on this idea of thought leadership. It's a phrase I think we throw out there quite often. I mean, part of the reason a client might come to us is they want to be a leader in their particular space, whether that's a law firm, an accounting firm, a medical practice. They want to be seen as an expert, that their knowledge and expertise is elevated in some way, so they are a thought leader. But it's more than just saying you are. You have to demonstrate that you are. What are some of the things we can do to position our clients as thought leaders. What does that really mean?Natalie Ghidotti:
Yeah, that's a great question. For me, it's about a lot of different strategies in thought leadership. It's telling your story of why you're an expert in that area and sharing real examples of your work that speak to, you know, maybe a potential client. That could be everything from a podcast like this or a blog series that you're doing. LinkedIn is huge right now. I mean, LinkedIn has been growing and growing, and it's for a reason. There's a lot of B2B activity on LinkedIn. And so how do you use LinkedIn in your strategy to connect with people and showcase that thought leadership? It can be a lot of different things. We do a lot of work—and I know a lot of members of our PRGN group do a lot of work—helping clients with speaking engagements and being thought leaders at different associations and conferences. So that's a whole strategy in itself. But really, Abbie, it gets down to what is a potential client's pain point and what is your solution to that? And how are you showcasing that solution to really focus in on their pain point? Because we also know there is so much content out there. There is content everywhere we look. So how are you positioning yourself to stand out in the crowd? And I love to tell clients, let's get down to how are we addressing somebody's pain points? That's where the value is going to come into play.Adrian McIntyre:
Natalie, you really hit the nail on the head with this. The core problem from a communications point of view is that there's so much content out there. I mean, every single second of every single day, there has been more new information added to the internet than ever in human history or something like that, right? I don't know what the actual statistic is, but it's ridiculous. And even on platforms that work really well, like LinkedIn, they're also incredibly noisy. A minute ago, you referenced two things, and I wonder if they're not in a kind of tension with each other. I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. You said it's important to connect with people and showcase your thought leadership. And of course, sometimes if you're showcasing your thought leadership, you might not be connecting with people. You might just be being an expert, speaking your expertise. And if you're connecting with people in the kind of old-school way that a lot of professionals still think about, you're making small talk at a function, you're serving on a charity board together, you're actually forming real connections, real relationships. That still drives a lot of business. But how do you connect the two? How do you get a real human connection and thought leadership happening at the same time? This is not a simple task.Natalie Ghidotti:
No, and it's a long term task too. Very long term. I always tell people, “This is not the short game of Monopoly. This is the long game of Monopoly.” I don't think there is a short game of Monopoly, right?Abbie Fink:
I've never been able to play one, that’s for sure.Natalie Ghidotti:
I haven't either. But to answer your question, to me it's about having an authentic voice. Are you authentic in your thought leadership? And that's where I think you can bridge between connecting with somebody and doing that networking and building that relationship, but also having thought leadership. If you're authentic in your position on something, that is going to come across. And so even in my own thought leadership on how I use LinkedIn and things like that, I'm putting content out there and thoughts out there and articles out there that I know to be true. It is very authentic. It's how I run my business. It's how I think. That does come across. And then I think if you are in person having the discussion, maybe you're sitting down having that initial meeting to try to sell somebody on whatever you're selling, it comes across and there is a connection because you're not a different person online than you are sitting in front of them. That's a big one. I mean, gosh, we've seen a million examples of this in any industry you can think of. We've seen examples of a total disconnect in terms of a person sitting in front of you building a relationship versus what their online persona is.Abbie Fink:
I was just having this conversation not too long ago about that concept of authenticity, transparency, and I said exactly that. You can't present one way in your social media posts and another way in your one-on-one communication. We see through that. The consumer is smart. We can recognize that. The long-term play is really such an important part of this. One article in a well-placed magazine is not going to get you where you need to be. You have to look at it as part of an overall strategy. And I think the other part for me on this conversation is really about that targeting of who you're trying to reach and why. Because it may be such a micro involvement, right? Yes, the large daily newspaper in your community might be appropriate for an opinion piece, but there may be more impact and more opportunity for an engagement in a smaller community publication or a trade journal or as you said, speaking at a conference. Sometimes it's making that shift that I can be guiding you to be the big fish in the small pond instead of the other way around.Natalie Ghidotti:
Oh gosh, I totally agree. You know, I love a good consumer persona. And there's a reason, because you can paint a picture of the person that is your real target audience. An example is if you are an engineering and architecture firm, let's say you're a large engineering architecture firm, you've probably got two clients that you really have to focus in on and understand their pain points. It's usually the CEO or the big decision maker of, let's say it's a health system, CEO of the health system. And then there's the facility manager—the guy who’s actually doing the day-to-day stuff in that facility and has to answer to that CEO. So you, as the architecture and engineering firm, you have two different players here that you're trying to sell your services to. And they have very different pain points. To your point, Abbie, that is a very specific strategy, right? How you talk to a CEO of a healthcare system and how you talk to the facility manager is very different. And so if you have the op-ed in the big paper, the statewide paper, that may not reach those two people. It's not going to reach them with the very specific words that they need to hear.So there's a lot of work. That gets to the point of this takes a lot of work. You know, it's tough for B2B players out there, CEOs and leadership who are trying to sell their services, because it does take a lot of time. That kind of sometimes scares people off. But what I what I say to that is, there really is no fast and easy way to make this happen. There just isn't, you know, in B2B. Maybe in B2C, you could say, OK, I'm going to run a digital campaign and sell my French fries to everybody. That might be a fast and easy way. That’s just not the case in B2B. So I think people kind of need to get their head around, okay, this is going to take some time. It's going to take some resources from my end. And how do I open that up in my schedule and in my world to make that happen? That's a thing that I always tell clients. It's like, you've got to ask yourself, how am I going to carve out time in the day to make some of this stuff happen?Abbie Fink:
And really, how are you managing it across the entire, to use a sales term, that sales funnel, right? We as a communications team help guide the messaging. We determine what the strategies are going to be, whether it's thought leadership pieces, LinkedIn, wherever that goes. What's happening on the client side, the first B of the B2B that says what are we going to do with this information once it's out there in the marketplace? What are our next steps in making sure that now that we've brought the story forward, how are we going to use that then to grow our business? How are we going to continue to feed that so that it creates that long-term strategy for business growth and success? It can't just be a one and done. We need a long vision for what we're trying to accomplish.Natalie Ghidotti:
Definitely. So I like to explain it to people like this. I think a great way to tackle this and to help eliminate some of the fear of this is going to take a lot of time or this is going to, I'm going to be creating content, you know, eight hours a day instead of being an engineer or whatever it is, is if you can find your cornerstone strategy as far as content. That could be, I'm going to do a podcast, or I am going to do a newsletter that goes out weekly, or I am going to do a video series. And then you take that and you create cobblestone content from that. So that means that, let's say it's a video series, you can take the transcript from that video, you can make it into a blog, You can make it into a LinkedIn article. You can take three quotes from that video and put it in your e-newsletter. Or those can be your three tweets that you put out for the week. Different things like this. So it helps in a very tactical way, helps people get their head around creating a lot of different content and putting it in these various portals to reach the different people that they need to. If you can say, okay, what's gonna be my cornerstone content? What am I gonna get up and focus my energy on? And then I can take that and cobblestone it out to these different things. That's how I like to explain it.Abbie Fink:
Repurpose and reuse, right? You know, work smarter not harder. We've created this amazing content and looking for other ways for it to be useful for our organization as a is It's very smart. I like being able to work a lot smarter than a lot harder, that's for sure.Natalie Ghidotti:
It's also an interesting paradox, because in the world of digital communications, and especially if you look into any of the programs developed under Account-Based Marketing or things of that nature, specifically targeting a small number of accounts, it's still an incredible volume of work that needs to happen. Digital tools can help us, but we can also get too enamored of the tools and start creating a very complex communication apparatus, which is incredibly time consuming and requires a lot of good thoughts because thought leadership has to have good thoughts, not just words. And it strikes me that one of the key differences we ought to talk about before we wrap up is that the sales cycle for most B2B services or products leads to conversations rather than just to a checkout page and an e-commerce site or something. So the way you would approach consumers to sell sneakers or French fries or San Pellegrino is very different than the way you would approach somebody who is part of a team that is going to consider a complex service. It's not just that the sale is complex, it's that the service offering or the product offering is also complex. People are going to have to talk. How do you approach content marketing with a mind to getting people into real human conversations? Does that factor in here, and does that change the way you think about the content itself?Natalie Ghidotti:
I love that observation. Absolutely. We work with clients to figure out, again, to us, it really goes back to those pain points. Are you addressing those in, let's say, a LinkedIn article that will spur somebody to email or pick up the phone and say, “Hey, I have that exact problem. And I would really love to hear more thoughts about that.” That is what spurs the sale. You've got to have that conversation. So all this content is being developed to drive somebody to say, “Hey, I want to talk to you more about that. I want to hear your thoughts on that. You clearly know your stuff and I clearly have that exact problem and I need to hear how you can help me.” That is the goal of any content marketing is to be able to have that conversation and be able to sit face-to-face and have a great conversation about how can I help you?Adrian McIntyre:
Thanks for listening to this episode of PRGN Presents, brought to you by the Public Relations Global Network.Abbie Fink:
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