Is B2B PR for you?

Posted on: 2012-05-24 in How To   |   Tagged: b2b pr pr agency pr jobs pr work experience working in pr

By Heather Baker, @TopLineFounder

It takes a special kind of person to be successful in business-to-business (B2B) public relations. They need to be ambitious, excited at the prospect of understanding how companies operate, detail-oriented, creative and (in agencies at least) highly organised and efficient.

And they are few and far between. I have my own theory on why this is the case. And that is that as an industry (speaking B2B PR specifically here), we have done a poor job at raising our own profile. When people think of PR, B2C (business-to-consumer) gets all the glory, thanks to brands with famous PR stories such as Coca Cola, Apple, The Body Shop and The Sex Pistols. The result is that when people are making their career choices, the ones that consider PR tend to be attracted by the perceived glamour and the excitement of working with the celebs and brands that everyone is talking about. B2B PR doesn’t even make the long list, because most people don’t know it exists, and even if they did, the type of person who gets excited by the prospect of a career in consumer PR simply wouldn’t be interested.

At TopLine, we used to hire good grads who were interested in consumer PR in the hopes that once they had spent some time working on B2B campaigns they would decide that it was the career for them. Sadly, this seldom happened. Instead, these grads would spend a year with us, gain the excellent PR grounding that our agency offers (if I do say so myself!), and use that to find a consumer role.              

I used to find this exasperating, until it dawned on me that I was simply hiring the wrong type of person and that someone whose ideal job is to manage Cheryl Cole’s diary and prep her for interviews with Grazia is never going to be excited by software, financial management or changes to visa legislation.

Instead, I needed to start looking for candidates who could truly be smashing at B2B PR, and who would find it as interesting, challenging and stimulating a career choice as I do.

So, if you are trying to establish whether B2B PR offers the right career for you, then maybe this post can help - if the following piques your interest, then the answer is probably yes:

  • The innovative element of a career in PR appeals to you, but the ‘fluffy stuff’ doesn’t. You’re a creative person, you love to write and you want a career that stimulates your imagination. But you also want your work to be taken seriously and you don’t want your friends to think you spend your life attending parties and putting ribbons on give-aways! If you thrive on creativity, B2B can be a much more rewarding outlet than B2C, as developing campaigns to market software or financial products requires real lateral thinking (see some great examples in our case studies section).
  • You want to be challenged by your job. In B2B PR, you will be helping companies communicate with business decision makers. That means you have to understand the complex pressures facing people in a range of job functions across a cross section of industries. And you really can’t do your job properly without truly getting to grips with the issues they are dealing with. This can be anything from understanding the working capital challenges facing SMEs, to getting a feel for how data centre managers need to reduce their carbon emissions without increasing spending, or how medical secretaries cope with technological innovation.
  • You are interested in business, and you want to learn how it’s done. Maybe you even want to be an entrepreneur yourself. Working with businesses that sell to other businesses (particularly in an agency environment where you will be exposed to a wide range of organisations), you will gain unprecedented knowledge into what makes them succeed and fail. And as a PR consultant, you tend to get unparalleled face time with CEOs, presenting opportunities to build an enviable network and to boost your understanding of how successful businesses are made – I can confidently say that I have learned more from my clients than I did in my entire MBA.
  • You want to earn more. Perhaps because B2B PR is tough, or perhaps because it’s inadvertently maintained a low profile, there is a real skills shortage in the industry. This is bad news for employers, but great news for you, as undersupply has driven salaries up, way past those in B2C roles.

In conclusion, B2B PR is not for everyone and the people who tend to excel at it are those that actively choose it as a career – not those that fall into it as a way of getting a foot in the industry door. However, for those that choose it and work hard at it, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice – if you think you’re up to it, get in touch as I’m always looking for good CVs.  

Browse our other posts on working in PR

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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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