Something is going on out there that us B2B PR people need to take note of. Big brands, some of the biggest, are getting page upon page of media coverage and social media exposure without producing any real news.

‘What’s new there?’ you may ask, ‘Big brands have always achieved ample coverage – they’ve got big budgets’ Ah but there’s the rub, we’re not talking major PR stunts here. We’re talking about reaching thousands, if not millions online by tapping into ‘crowd cultures’.

Nike it or not?

You will be familiar with the name ‘YouTuber’. It describes people that have their own channel on YouTube to which they post videos, usually on a particular topic, such as video games, beauty techniques or popular music reviews. There are countless numbers of YouTubers and the most successful have millions of followers. Some focus on leading brands and use phrases such as ‘hack’ to express that they have a unique way to help you improve the product or help get more for your money. The example here is a video made by a couple in a Nike Outlet – their message is ‘Here’s how to save money on Nike products’ and they’ve had over 2,000,000 views.

There is no evidence to suggest that Nike is behind these videos, but I can’t imagine they’re complaining. Brand advocates preaching to their crowd of engaged followers about how to get the most from their spend with Nike, is worth a fortune– and all that exposure costs Nike nothing.

The Big McHack

Here’s another example of a ‘brand hack’. It uses question posting site – Quora – and it involves avid fast food consumers sharing their secrets about how to hack McDonalds. Someone (was it McDonalds?) asks, ‘What are some favourite McDonald’s hacks?’ Reply after reply, espouses ideas such as how to get freshly cooked meat, how to get free drinks and how to combine ingredients to make bespoke burgers. This is the nirvana of consumer engagement. The replies come from all over the world, have gained McDonalds coverage in mainstream media and most likely cost the fast food giant less than a Big Mac.

Crafty successes

The success of marketing to online crowd cultures can also be seen in the soaring rise of new product genres, such as craft/cottage-industry styled food and drink products – the meteoric growth in popularity of craft beer is an excellent example. These products appeal to subcultures who care deeply about food provenance, sustainability, quality – and most importantly, being identified as a connoisseur or expert in their chosen passion.

Subcultures generally identify with an ideology and they have always existed, but now, their buying power is galvanised by social media groups. Products and brands target the ideology with images and messages that speak to their concerns and indulge their passions. They reach large numbers of engaged buyers, who enthuse and share their content freely (as in, at no cost), because it helps them build their kudos within the group.

Isn’t it time the venues and events industry looked at these techniques and considered how we can replicate them in a way that works for our market?

Reaching the business events crowd culture

The world of MICE PR and promotion is different – it’s B2B, but if the crowd culture approach could be made to work, it would be a vast opportunity. I consider it folly to sit back and say, ‘that won’t work for us’. Because, what if it could? We already have a crowd culture, every venue team and event planner on the planet is a member. Does our group have an ideology? Does it feed on kudos? Not strictly, but there are values that we all share, there are qualities we all seek to achieve, that are not far from being ideologies, and most members do want to demonstrate that they know their stuff, so that’s kudos covered (sort of).

I’d say we have the components of a crowd-culture campaign.  So surely the next challenge is engagement. How do we get these people talking about our brand? You have video, you have question asking sites, you have podcasts, webinars and you have the potential to surprise and impress – to help. You can be creative and different. But, do you have credibility?

Understand the power of content freedom

Remember brand hack content is consumed, believed and shared, because it’s real people looking at the product in a new way. We see them turn the brand upside down and take it apart at the seams. They’re independent and have the freedom to reveal the truth, so their audience trusts them. If the brand and product are strong, this is not a reason for fear.

Delivering content in this way is the key to successful online engagement in the B2B market. Any business can create compelling content by following these three steps:

1) Identify your crowd – be as specific as you can be

2) Create content that aligns with your crowd’s ideology and values

3) Give your content creators the freedom to be creative and credible without fear of reprimand (though you mustn’t lose sight of quality control). If mistakes are made, learn and move on.

Let’s talk

So that’s how you can achieve crowd engagement with a B2B slant. If you have any questions, please get in touch, davies tanner is the leading public relations, content marketing and business communications specialist for the corporate events, tourism and hospitality sectors. Talk to us, we’re real people, with credibility who are here to help.