Paula ConwayPaula Conway

Many startups focused on B2B sales apparently don’t understand why it’s critical to simultaneously carry their message over to a consumer-facing audience through media efforts.

Working in a vacuum of exclusive B2B media may seem logical when selling a product or service directly to vendors and partners, and the trade publications are an excellent way to get the message out. However, it’s important to understand that the breadth and depth of brand efforts are much farther reaching.

Let’s take the example of a company that creates software for health insurance programs. Their clients are insurance companies or exchanges that will buy the software and white-label it with their own skin to reach a consumer, educating them on the various types of insurance they can purchase, with rates based on algorithmic questions. On the face of it, this is a B2B product. So why — and how — would we take this client to consumer media?

Trade media looks to consumer media for story ideas, for validation and legitimacy of products, services and expertise and to prove a company’s market for business. The funnel moves both ways: consumer press look to the trades for the same ideas and validation of concept.

Start by positioning the CEO as an expert with strategic placements in consumer media. By doing so, the CEO becomes a go-to for consumer press looking for comments on the current state of health insurance. This not only puts the CEO in a position of expertise, but also illustrates to trade media that this CEO is the reliable go-to source for wide-circulation publications (Fox News Health, Inc., Forbes, USA Today). The exposure and trust this brings the brand is irreplaceable.

A trade publication that writes about insurance platforms, such as Broker Innovation Lab, understands that the CEO of the healthcare software startup is a widely-received expert and is therefore likely to consider her or him more immediately as a trusted expert in the field. This is PR 101, because that third-party endorsement is what validates the product. If USA Today says it’s a good product and trusts this CEO, why wouldn’t we?

On an even more micro level, let’s assume the healthcare insurance platform is focused specifically on products for insurance brokers. All the more reason why this consumer-facing media can be effective; it shows that the company has proven a market for their goods or services. Proving a marketplace is the lynchpin. Without it, no goodwill exists for either consumer or trade audiences. It further builds confidence among B2B partners and vendors that they don’t have to create a marketplace, a validation companies are seeking to buy into the product or service.

The critical component is the startup’s ability to leverage the media in question. A savvy startup will take consumer media to the table during investor negotiations, play it against trade media, and make the case that they have not only proven a marketplace, but created consumer goodwill with their brand. Legitimizing expertise in both consumer and trade media makes a solid case for funding. We’ve seen this as a successful maneuver many times with our own clients. However, if the startup doesn’t understand how to play these cards, the efforts are a waste of everyone’s time.

Agency efforts on pitching trade and consumer press shouldn’t entail complex billing. If your fees are a whole pie and 80 percent of the time is trade, a solid 20 percent is allocated to consumer media. This 20 percent will consist of a target list of 5-10 publications for strategic placements. With the healthcare software company, publications might include: CNN Health, Forbes, Inc. Technology, USA Today, AP, WSJ Health blog, Shots: Health News from NPR and The Atlantic Health. Broader efforts might include websites like Buzzfeed and Popsugar, if the demographic is there.

Before advising your client to share the media pie, vet their ability to utilize it. Do they have a strategy, and if so, what exactly does that look like? This will help both parties understand if the time is best spent playing in one sandbox or expanding to support more strategic efforts.


Paula Conway is president and founder Astonish Media Group in New York. An award-winning author and writer, she has contributed to In Style, the New York Times, Robb Report, Good Housekeeping, New York Post, and New York Daily News among others.