Can PR Firms Lead the Inbound Marketing Revolution?

Pete Caputa
Pete Caputa



PR-Is-Not-Dead-PR-Needs-To-Change A few weeks back, HubSpot's CEO, Brian Halligan, asked the question, " Is PR Dead ?" 

It's a provocative question for a blog title. But, the blog post and the ensuing responses started a great conversation about how inbound marketing is changing PR. New PR guru, Todd Defren writes

Brian wrote a follow-up post today that despite its provocative title is thoughtful and largely spot-on.  

Todd goes on to write :

While I applaud Brian's focus on expanding the size of the funnel (lead dev), there are more nuanced activities that go on: positioning, messaging, crisis communications, relationship-building, training, etc. Such activities might only offer a tangential or indirect impact on lead development, but, they are still critically important to companies of all sizes.

We could probably spend a lot of time debating what's more or less important in a PR mix, but we might miss the big point that PR and marketing are changing in a seismic way.

The Convergance of All Marketing Disciplines

Based on my recent conversations with many different types of agencies, there is general agreement that now is an unprecedented time of convergence between all of the marketing disciplines. 

Unless you are Rand-Fishkin-good at SEO or a Chris-Brogan-big in social media, you need to be an expert at all things inbound marketing in order to serve clients effectively.

There are few SEO firms that are signing up clients at $10k/month for SEO alone anymore. PR firms are having a difficult time getting the retainers they're used to getting without knowing how to help clients attract traffic through social media and search. Ad agency budgets are shrinking and PR agents are being asked to help clients move online. Web developers are struggling to sign up new clients for $50k website development work without a clear plan that demonstrates a 3 month ROI on that expenditure.

The lines between ad agencies, PR firms, marketing consultants, SEO firms, web designers and developers, are blurring. Firms can no longer pretend that their industry isn't changing.

None of this is new this year, but the problem with PR has become more acute.  

PR is NOT dead. But, PR needs to change. With the highest retainers out of most types of agencies and often the least accountability to direct measurement of ROI,  PR firms seem to have the most to lose. 

PR Firms Will Probably Lead the Inbound Marketing Revolution

If I were asked Brian's question, I'd answer, "PR is not dead. PR firms will probably lead the way."

Based on my experience working with all kinds of agencies as HubSpot's partner program manager, I believe that PR firms are the best positioned to offer inbound marketing services. Here's why: 

  1. PR firms are excellent content creators. Creative content creation is the most time consuming and difficult and most critical part of inbound marketing. SEO and lead generation can not be done without effective and creative content creation. 
  2. PR firms are naturals at leveraging social media and the blogosphere because of their relationship building skills. I'm not saying that they can do what they did in the past, but if they follow Marshall Kirkpatrick's guidelines for pitching bloggers they may be able to use Social Media to help evolve their industry. 
  3. Inbound marketing training and marketing software are becoming more and more available and affordable. The knowledge of your average SEO consultant or lead generation expert is now being codified and made available. Even though the knowledge base is changing at a rapid rate and will continue to change at a rapid rate, it's maturing like all knowledge industries do. So, PR firms that are equipped with in-house analytical people can now do SEO, PPC and lead generation without a huge staff of technical resources and quants.
  4. PR firms have tight ongoing high retainer relationships with their clients. PR firms are brought on as advisors and stewards of a company's brand. From that perch, it's much easier to influence the most important people in a company and start providing direction for the many activities required for an inter-disciplinary inbound marketing strategy. 
Who do you think is best equipped to lead the inbound marketing revolution? Who has the most to gain? The most to lose? Who will lead the way?

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