Q&A with Alex Saric, Chief Marketing Officer, Ivalua - Part 2

Tom By Tom

In the second part of our two-part client Q&A, Alex Saric, Chief Marketing Officer at Ivalua, outlines what he looks for in a PR agency and provides advice on how organisations can get the most from their PR.

The first part of our interview with Alex can be found here.

What role does headline-driven research play in your broader content strategy? I’ve found research alongside customer success as the best way to get your message out. Media and experts are always looking for data, so quantitative research in particular gets significant pick-up, including by tier 1 media channels. By far the best response to campaigns has been when content has featured either customer stories or data. There is too much fluff out there, but people love to read about a real, relevant success story and they are hungry for data, especially benchmarks. We always try to build our campaign strategy from the top down, with a couple of central thought leadership themes we reinforce throughout the year. Each of these flows into an anchor asset each month that is based on research and/or customer stories. We then scale those assets by promoting across many channels and building sub assets, such as webinars and podcasts, etc.

How important is PR-driven thought leadership in helping Ivalua stand out from its competitors? It is definitely one of the key tactics. Many of our traditional content programmes are very targeted, but our PR efforts are able to reach a broader audience, and one that otherwise may not engage with us through other marketing channels.

What do you look for in a PR agency? First and foremost, I want an agency that is going to be proactive. Sure, I provide guidance and ideas I want executed, but the reality is that my time is my most scarce resource. So, an agency that will proactively look for opportunities to get our message out is one that delivers real value. This includes looking for breaking news stories to hijack to get a mention in a Tier 1 article, opportunities to complement what we are doing globally with local research, or anything else they can proactively come up with. I also want an agency that quickly learns our messaging, our customer stories and any constraints we face. All of this is what distinguishes a good agency from a great one in my opinion.

What do you think PR agencies often get wrong? I think too often they end up focusing too much on doing what you tell them. Not that I want an agency going rogue, but I don’t want someone just sitting around waiting for me to send them a press release to issue and pitch to a few contacts. Too many agencies seem to do that. They wait for news to come from the client and then pitch to the same few media contacts they have. It’s easy and can get decent coverage, but not enough. And you tend to reach the same audience each time with that approach.

How does Spark differ from other agencies you have worked with? Spark pushes me, rather than me having to push them. With Spark, I feel I am holding them back. That’s exactly what I want from an agency. They also deliver both quantity and quality of coverage.

What would your advice be to other PR and marketing professionals to help them get the most from PR? First, a certain amount of focus is important. Focus your efforts on key focus markets, not everywhere you may operate. Otherwise, you spread yourself too thin and end up with limited coverage everywhere, which doesn’t have any real impact. Second, I believe quantity and quality are both important. One good story in a Tier 1 media outlet is worth dozens of lesser stories in 3rd rate channels. So, aim for improving your share of voice at the same time as targeting greater reach media. Lastly, before you bring on agencies make sure you can support them. A great agency is going to identify opportunities for you, but will also need more time from you. More content to review, more ideas to vet, etc. If you don’t have time, you won’t get the full value of the agency, frustrating everyone. Along with that, make sure expectations are aligned before you bring on an agency. How much time can you spare? Do you have local customers that are media friendly? Do you have budget for research? Everyone needs to be aligned on such questions.