PR and Inbound Marketing - Like two tectonic plates moving inexorably together!
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 organisations in undertaking PR for the first time is to help them to sell more and sell more easily.
Does that sound familiar to the Inbound Marketer?
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 chums 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, come up with an interesting or different ‘angle’, is still one of the key arts of good PR. Isn’t that exactly what content curation is about though?
Couple this with the true skill in the PR world of creating clear Thought Leadership 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’ and thus it converges with Inbound Marketing which cannot survive without a rich and continuous supply of high quality content.
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. 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 – 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.
Why isn’t this PR any longer?
Well arguably, PR became content marketing at the point that the intermediary journalist was no longer part of the process. To explain. 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.
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.
Get used to it. 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.
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!