I think, by definition, if you are reading this blog you are an inbound marketer or you are trying to better understand inbound. I write as a 20-year PR-man who has found Inbound Marketing as part of a quest to find better and more effective ways to measure PR and in the process I have found synergies between the two disciplines that I had not expected.
Although many PR people will be concerned about reputation management, or brand development or, perhaps, market positioning prior to a trade sale or an IPO, it is still as true today as it was 20 years ago that the major motivation for most organizations in undertaking PR for the first time is to help them to sell more and sell more easily. Does that strategy sound familiar to the Inbound Marketer?
Without further ado, let's investigate the ways you can rethink the relationship between Inbound and PR.
1. A Content Creation Connection
PR often gets a rough ride from Chief Execs whose perception of it (usually built up over many years of poor execution) is that it is just press release production. Write a story and throw it out there. Then see who will pick it up.
And good PRs are still seen by many as the ones who know some journalists: when they throw material out there, more of their connections read it, write about it and publish it.
Some of us PR folk consider that the ability to write a compelling story and (most importantly) to come up with an interesting or different ‘angle.’ This approach is still one of the key arts of good PR. Sounds a lot like content creation to the typical Inbound Marketer, right?
Couple this ability with the true skill in the PR world of creating clear thought leadership pieces on behalf of your client (even when there is no clear thought leader in the business) and even for the uninitiated, the world of PR starts to align more clearly with the world of ‘content.’ Similar to the world of Inbound Marketing, PR cannot survive without a rich and continuous supply of high quality content.
While seemingly different, both PR and Inbound Marketing rely heavily on quality content creation. It's essentially what separates the mediorce PRs and Inbound Marketers from the great ones.
2. Campaign Development
The production of well-targeted, web-optimized content across online channels forms the backbone to any successful Inbound Marketing campaign.
So where should you be looking for content for your campaigns?
To me, the answer is simple: the PRs. Think about it-- Who better to produce content for your website than the PR people who are already helping you to create compelling content for your PR campaigns?
Taking your PR-generated thought leadership material and editing it, rather than starting the creation from scratch, will save time and effort and sets the foundation for the creation of equally compelling e-Books and other gated-collateral that will draw people into dialogue with you.
PR tactics and expertise are then deployed as we take thought leadership content (such as opinions and commentary) and deploy them as sound-bite comments and blogs, in places where they will point back to our website and drive interested visitors to follow these links.
Inbound Marketing relies on the careful construction of well thought-out campaigns, and PR's framework of content development from a structured perspective provides a great opportunity to marry the two practices.
3. Interchangeable Skills
If you are an Inbound Marketer you better get some PR skills. And likewise, if you are in PR, better start learning about Inbound if you want to improve your value.
You see, PR became content marketing (which is considered an element of Inbound Marketing) at the point that the intermediary journalist was no longer part of the process. Technically, I cease to be a PR man at the point that I no longer have to persuade an editor or journalist that my article is worthy of publication.
I become a content marketer and publisher at the point that I place my own article on the web and look to Google or, more broadly, ‘search’ for my audience, rather than using the audience or readership that the publication has built up as a way of getting my views read. So the fundamental distinction comes at the publishing level.
That raises the question: Do I publish my own content on the web or do I persuade someone to publish it for me? I would suggest that irrespective of which route you go, the fundamental principles of good PR practice apply in the curation of content for use with all those media – whether they be social, online or traditional.
Both methods have their pros and cons, and only someone with PR and Inbound knowledge can really determine the most beneficial approach. If you're an Inbound Marketer, it might be time to brush up your PR skills. Likewise, it's now a fine time for PR folks to learn the ways of Inbound Marketing.
4. Inbound Reporting for PR Success
Much has been written about the need for accurate measurement of PR activity. Whilst there is no way to measure the direct effect that PR exposure can have on a company’s bottom line, Inbound Marketing metrics to do with site traffic and gated downloadable content can shed light on how much traffic is being generated directly from PR coverage and how many visitors are downloading content as a result.
However, viewing PR activity as a component of a wider content strategy, and the consideration that all channels of content production complement each other in generating exposure and driving readers to and through the website may be more realistic. In so doing it allows for a more integrated set of analytics to be created and a clearer set of reports to be created.
Businesses should consider analysing metrics such as site traffic, social following, SEO ranking and lead conversion rates in order to monitor and prove the value of an integrated PR and Inbound Marketing campaign. There is no doubt in my mind, they have converged and the upheaval that this will create within PR agencies and in-house PR and marketing teams as they grapple up-skill and re-skill to create hybrid execs is just starting to roll-out into the market!
Bob Dearsley is the founder the ITPR Group www.itpr.co.uk, a technology PR and inbound marketing agency based in London, UK. Bob is a tech marketer at heart and a +20 year PR man. He has advised and launched, re-positioned and driven PR campaigns and marketing programs that help start-ups, mid-size and large corporates to grow, sell more and raise funding. He is a writer and advisor on effective PR and Inbound Marketing strategies. He is most proud of the very recent award from PR Week where ITPR was voted the “Most rated Tech PR agency in the UK” in a national survey of UK technology journalists.