06 November 2018

Killer B2B Messaging: what’s war gotta do with it?

Making your messaging stand out in an ocean of other messages is a huge part of our work at OneChocolate.

Tools of the trade include snappy analogies, killer facts, man-bites-dog angles and how well we have cultivated good media relationships to give us a fair hearing.

But, a column by Suzanne Moore in the Guardian made me ponder how sometimes we and others with a message to sell can over-step the mark.

Her column called out the Tory MPs who spiced up their pitches against PM Theresa May with some literally killer quotes about stabbing her and suggesting she came to meet them with a noose.  Moore called out both the casual misogyny and sadism behind this and other attempts to say something startling to get column inches and headlines in the papers.

How do you cut through the noise in B2B PR?

Aside from my obvious repulsion against the nature of these verbal attacks, it brought to mind how often B2B technology PR can use dark imagery to attempt cut through.

Several years of doing PR for cybersecurity firms have made it a casual turn of phrase to describe my clients fighting a cyber war, combatting the hackers with their own arms race etc.

What’s war gotta do with it?

The use of the “war on” line is older than me. One of my political heroes Lyndon B Johnson coined the phrase War on Poverty in his State of the Union speech in 1964. While the legislation was impressive, the phraseology helped LBJ capitalise on how he had become president after Kennedy’s assassination. He needed to create his own political agenda and narrative. A War on Poverty also may have shored up liberal Democrats support as LBJ cranked up the real blood and guts war in Vietnam started by Kennedy.

Since then we have had many “wars on” campaigns and themes. While I am sure sometimes the intent is good, I do think the impact of the term is getting less and when you consider what modern warfare entails from barrel bombs to nerve agents to millions dying from famine, the term is tasteless as well as tired. And of course, as LBJ found his War on Poverty did little to gild his reputation which is sullied by how badly the real war on communism went.

Interestingly I have at least one client who avoids the term on purpose. Perhaps that means we appear in less lurid articles about cyber-attacks, but it is consistent with their core messages of prevention and education.