And the Award goes to... William Murray's triple award-winning recipe for success
Anita Murray, CEO of the triple award-winning William Murray Comms, discusses B2B PR and the power of celebrity endorsement
This article is part of a series of features exploring the highs and highs of 2016's B2B Marketing Awards, aimed at giving you a head start on your 2017 bid for glory.
William Murray scooped not just one, but three trophies at the B2B Marketing Awards 2016: how did you feel on the night?
It felt amazing. After all the hard work you put into campaigns and being the best you can, to have it recognised among 800 of your peers makes it all worth the effort. When your name gets announced there’s a split second where you just take it in, then once it’s sunk in and you see your agency’s name on the big screen you feel such pride. Then to win a second and a third – you pinch yourself! The whole room gets behind you, there’s a fantastic atmosphere and people are genuinely pleased to come up and congratulate you.
But what was really special was walking into the office the next day (with a slightly sore head); the team was so excited. We celebrated with a champagne breakfast.
What are the best and worst things about PR in B2B? Do you think it’s undervalued, and if so, why?
B2B PR might not have the glamorous reputation of consumer PR, but from an early age I’ve always been passionate about what B2B PR can deliver for clients and their businesses.
The best thing is that it puts you at the heart of a business and its challenges because, ultimately, PR needs to be integrated into the sales and marketing strategy to be successful.
And PR in B2B is more dynamic than ever. In our sector (food and drink), FMCG agencies now look to us for inspiration. That’s because we’re close to chefs and they’re the ones changing the way consumers eat. We used to be seen as the poor relation to consumer agencies, but not anymore.
On the downside, PR is misunderstood in B2B circles. It’s often dismissed as publicity, rather than an activity that has a specific purpose and that benefits the bottom line.
Your ‘Dishing up advice on gluten-free’ campaign for Knorr won both ‘Best use of thought leadership’ and our coveted ‘Grand prix campaign of the year’ awards – why do you think the campaign stood out so much?
It had a clear purpose and helped our industry tackle a complex issue by making it simple. At the same time, the campaign delivered growth for the client, addressed a real customer need, and was built on insight.
New allergens legislation was worrying the industry, as well as a number of operational challenges around training, rising ingredient costs, skills shortages and language barriers. Our chef research helped us create a strong business case for operators and give them the tools to help overcome the problem. The partnership with Coeliac UK and celebrity chef Phil Vickery also gave the campaign credibility.
Why do you think celebrity endorsement is such an effective marketing tactic? How did you get Phil on board?
Chef endorsement gave the campaign a face and a talking point, but it’s important not just to choose any celebrity; they need to be the right fit for the campaign and audience. Phil’s a gluten-free expert and seen as credible by professional chefs, especially those in our target market, which is heavily focused on cooks in schools and care homes.
To get Phil on board we needed his support, so we emphasised our plan to help chefs cater for the growing number of coeliacs. His agent thought it was a perfect fit and Phil has been engaged and enthusiastic ever since.
Celebrity endorsement is still a relatively underused technique in B2B. Why do you think this is the case?
Celebrity endorsement isn’t a natural ‘go-to’ technique in B2B. Customer testimonials are more common. Or businesses look to a trustworthy source such as an industry association for endorsements. Getting the right celebrity fit in B2B PR isn’t easy, because very often there’s a diverse target audience where one size doesn’t fit all.
Establishing a thought-leadership presence was a huge part of this campaign. How important is this tactic in the B2B space?
We’re seeing more and more businesses positioning themselves as thought leaders. In competitive markets they’re using it to own a specific space or issue – as we did with gluten-free. It’s also a great way to create educational, engaging and relevant content that can be published everywhere.
What challenges did you face in relation to this campaign? And how did you overcome them?
Speed was an initial problem; we had to be quick to market as other brands were snapping at our heels. The ‘gravy train’, where we offered 60 chefs free first-class travel on the opening day of Birmingham’s Hospitality Show, was a stunt to own the market space, firmly link Knorr with gluten-free and keep the brand top of mind. It allowed us the time to do our research and produce a set of credible tools before we launched.
Then, of course, there was inter-agency working and stakeholder management. We ran a tight ship in terms of project management and communication to keep everyone engaged and pushing in the same direction.
How did you find the judging process?
The key challenge is to keep the entry concise yet at the same time make it stand out. The award needs to tell an engaging story yet have a clear purpose and results. That’s not easy in the specified word count. For the judging day we decided to do away with a formal presentation and presented from mood boards.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to enter the 2017 B2B Marketing Awards?
Do it! Encourage your team to submit their suggestions and commit the time to doing it well. Study previous winning entries. Assign the awards to the right level of people within your team – don’t leave it to a junior.