Strengthen B2B Brand Awareness With Community Relations
Sometimes due to their more regional, national or global reach, an often-overlooked public relations tool for B2B brand awareness is to engage with the local community. B2B marketers are quick to think of tactics such as industry thought leadership, influencer relations, trade show support, speaking engagements and award opportunities when developing public relations programs. These tactics have merit and are important, but, if a company’s goal is to build brand awareness, don’t forget to explore how your company is active in the surrounding community and celebrate those efforts.
Are team members volunteering their time for a local nonprofit? Is your company sponsoring a community STEM scholarship program? Are you hosting a career shadowing experience or internship program at your facility? If there aren’t any efforts currently in place, explore how you can implement a community relations effort for your company. Starting from your “home base” can internally help build strong, engaged teams and externally help grow brand awareness exponentially.
So, how does community relations help B2B businesses?
According to Deloitte’s 2023 Global Human Capital Trends survey, where they surveyed 10,000 respondents, over half of the organizations surveyed aspire to create greater connections with the society they work in. Here are some of the benefits:
Creates goodwill. We should all care about our communities and work to build up the cities where we live and work. This creates goodwill with customers, other key stakeholders, the community and employees.
Makes business sense. A series of recent Godfrey blog posts — see “The ESG Standard: Why Doing Good Is Good for Business” — talks about how companies today face increasing pressure to meet higher standards in the way they care for the environment, engage with the community and manage their fiduciary responsibilities. Customers, partners and suppliers, employees, investors and lenders have an eye on community relations as part of the “Social” aspect of their Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) activities. Trends show ESG companies outperforming non-ESG competitors; investors and consumers are willing to reward businesses that put ESG priorities front and center.
Bolsters recruitment efforts. When the community sees a local company doing wonderful things in the area, they have a positive impression of that company. It can help attract talent and make people feel an affinity toward the company.
Boosts employee morale. A study conducted by Catalyst found that empathy produces significant positive benefits for employees, including innovation, engagement and retention. Being a part of a company that shows empathy and is making an impact in the community can help with employee productivity and strengthen their loyalty to the company. This can also result in greater employee advocacy. According to Hootsuite, employee advocacy is the promotion of an organization by its workforce, and is one of the most effective ways to boost your public image and employee engagement. Half of all employees share content from or about their employer on social media, and 33% of all employees do so without prompting.
Supports reputation management. If there’s ever a crisis, it’s always helpful to have a preexisting relationship with the community. By authentically cultivating these relationships, you can be in a better position should a crisis happen where you need community support.
Builds brand awareness. Being more active in the community will naturally raise your company’s profile in the area. It shows your organization as a good corporate citizen with an active interest in the community. It’s a win/win for both the company and the local community.
Where should you start?
Don’t have an existing community relations team or program at your organization but want to help your company get more involved in the local community? It might feel overwhelming to get started, but it doesn’t have to. Just like everything else in business, you need a strategy and a plan. Here are some tips on how to begin:
Determine your “why.” What is your objective with this initiative? Is it recruitment? If so, you may want to explore how to partner with local schools. Is it to promote a specific area of study or science? If so, you might want to look into scholarship programs. Is it to increase employee morale and retention? If so, you might want to consider a volunteer program for your team members. Determining a main objective will help lay the groundwork for how to best move forward.
Choose projects that align with your company values. Identify opportunities that make sense for your organization. For example, a lot of the B2B companies we work with at Godfrey are champions of STEM programs and sustainability efforts. We work with them to identify programs and opportunities that align with their values.
Recruit a solid internal team. Find co-workers who are as passionate about community involvement as you are and can help move the initiative forward. Public relations professionals can help tremendously with reaching out to community organizations and building partnerships. In addition, having a strong human resources team member who is able to interact with members of the community is extremely important. If you don’t have an engaged internal team, this program will fall flat.
Start small and champion your efforts. Once you’ve identified your goals and objectives, and have your team in place, start small to begin showing the value within your organization. Sharing your efforts both internally throughout your company and externally within the community will help your business grow as you get more traction and build momentum.
Keep in mind that community relations is not a once-and-done project that you can check off a list. It takes commitment. You need a strong team in place to keep it active and people who understand the importance of having a regular cadence of activations and touch points. But, done right, not only will it help with brand awareness, but it can be very rewarding for the team involved in the efforts. And certainly an avenue worth remembering and considering, for not just B2C but B2B companies, too.
Melissa Einfrank - Director of Public Relations
With around 15 years of combined B2B and B2C public relations experience, Melissa has walked both red carpets and factory floors and worn both sunglasses and safety glasses in pursuit of excellence for her clients.