Digital transformation creates challenges and opportunities for B2G marketing leaders seeking to sell to government agencies. The appetite for digitization of citizen services accelerated during the pandemic as agencies recognized a more intense need to transform communications and engage with citizens. At the same time, the DoD moved forward with a digital-forward strategy to guide the industry on how to best deliver transformative technologies.
B2G brands competitively positioning themselves to pursue and capture digital transformation-driven contract opportunities benefit from a smart, holistic public relations program aligned with the pace at which agencies are evaluating, adopting, and deploying new technologies.
So much of Bluetext’s PR and marketing work with government contractors and IT providers involves a keen understanding of how government buyers evaluate, procure and deploy technologies and services – and the messages that resonate most with them. For B2G marketers creating PR programs that tap into public sector digital transformation, there are a few key considerations:
Agencies Don’t Transform Overnight
Less than one in ten (7%) government leader respondents in an EY 2022 report said they believe their organization has achieved its digital transformation goals. This doesn’t mean that digital transformation isn’t moving forward but serves as a gut check that B2G brands must stay attuned to the pace of change.
The tricky balance for B2G CMOs is to effectively communicate how their products, technologies, and services can future-proof agencies while acknowledging that legacy technology investments cannot be unwound overnight. In other words, media coverage and thought leadership cannot ignore where agencies are today.
Similarly, there are nuances to digital transformation messaging, for example when it comes to workforce automation. PR may be required to address the fact that, among government workforces, transformation can create uncertainty. Artificial Intelligence and automation can equate to fears of employees being replaced. If B2G brands leave it up to the agency customer to overcome workforce resistance to new technologies, adoption can be slowed and contract opportunities will dwindle.
Match Thought Leadership To Right Hype Cycle
There are perils to spinning wheels on Gartner Hype Cycle™ “Innovation Trigger” technologies that may be garnering media coverage but are years away from commercial viability. The “Innovation Trigger” hype cycle phase refers to when “A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.”
In the 2022 Gartner Digital Government Services Hype Cycle, the research firm identifies technologies such as Metaverse, immersive meetings, and influence engineering and machine customers that are years if not decades away from reaching a plateau.
In the same way that CIOs need to keep their eyes on potentially transformative technologies and practices that are years from widespread adoption – and start developing positions on these trends – marketers must think about how best to associate their brands with these emerging technologies. Thought leadership programs are a good place to start.
We work with B2G brands that face diverse challenges on the sales side. For some, they may be an established, credible brand seeking to sell a product or technology their brand isn’t traditionally associated with. This could be a result of mergers and acquisitions that have unlocked new product portfolios and capabilities. In other cases, behemoth brands are being challenged by nimble, upstarts perceived to have more cutting-edge solutions. Hundreds of challenger brands have turned to Bluetext for PR services to help provide air cover for the sales team – so that they aren’t spending half the meeting establishing credibility and can just sell based on merits.
Finally, disruptor technologies can create sufficient confusion to paralyze the buying process. Thought leadership can educate target markets to prevent this from occurring. Case in point: ChatGPT, which is spinning the heads of marketers and communications professionals across all industries. If you provide automation technologies to the public sector, agency decision-makers may wonder if a costly solution will be rendered obsolete by ChatGPT in 12-18 months and decide to wait it out. More likely, ChatGPT can be used to augment a solution, but buyers will never know that without effective earned and paid content campaigns.
Thought leadership programs are an effective way for B2G marketers to:
- Start associating your brand with trends and technologies that you will be offering in the near future without creating headaches for the sales team by sending traffic to a source with no product
- Educate the market on pain points that your solution will address, so that when you do launch the value proposition has been established
- Build up a Subject Matter Expert (SME) program with experts who can become sources on these technologies for journalists or generate interest from conference organizers
Data-Driven PR Can Make Or Break The Transformation Case
B2G brands often sit on access to PR-valuable data that is untapped for various reasons. Are state and local government leaders tapping AI to deliver citizen services? Will federal healthcare leaders increase their spending on data analytics in the upcoming fiscal year? There are external entities that track some of this data, and there is always the option to drop $25,000 on a research firm to create a survey vehicle. But most firms have built valuable mechanisms to reach customers and prospects via email and other channels, and there are seamless, non-intrusive approaches to acquiring market data that can be used to anchor PR initiatives (media pitches, bylines, social media posts, etc.).
The value of the data is to gain a stronger foothold on where your customers and prospects are as it relates to digital transformation. Leveraging that data for media pitches, byline articles and social media strengthens the business case that there is a need and appetite for your technologies.
Get Creative Telling Customer Stories
From a PR and marketing perspective, it isn’t the word of the B2G brand that will have the greatest impact on an agency prospect – it is the voice of the customer. Because agencies moving forward with digital transformation want to see that what they want to do has been done before. That digital transformation is possible, that ROI is quantifiable and that investments are justifiable.
The problem? It can be extremely difficult to secure approval to publicize government customer stories through press releases, media coverage, website case stories or via social media. This is a common frustration our clients and prospects often mention right off the bat. Traditional methods of securing agency approval rarely work, which is why Bluetext deploys creative approaches to tell a customer story through award programs, events and other mechanisms.
If you would like to learn more about how to effectively create a B2G PR program that taps into public sector digital transformation, reach out to Bluetext at https://bluetext.com/contact-us/.