If you work in the world of public relations or marketing, you’ve heard it 100 times before—integrate, integrate, integrate. But why? This question has come up countless times during my career as a PR professional. I’ve found many companies are either believers in the street cred of earned media—not to mention the thrill of seeing their company’s name in boldface type—or partial to the hard metrics associated with marketing and analytics. Others implement both but fall into the trap of siloed campaigns, resulting in inefficiencies and, at times, conflicting messages. However, thanks to marketing technology and analytics, the benefits of integration have never been so clear—or necessary.
No doubt, prospective customers are becoming more digitally savvy and have increasingly complex online habits. To keep up, the most effective B2B marketing and communications professionals continuously adapt their practices accordingly. Inevitably, though, they encounter roadblocks.
Here are three specific challenges you can address by more tightly integrating PR and marketing efforts:
1. You suspect that no one is actually seeing your media coverage. Have you ever landed a media interview and then waited on pins and needles for it to be posted online? You do your due diligence by setting up Google Alerts and use a media coverage tracker tool like TrendKite or Meltwater, but there’s no sign of the article. Impatient, you follow up with the writer, who responds with the link—that was posted yesterday.
How is it possible that an article you are actually looking for is so difficult to locate and often doesn’t even show up in Google News? Even worse, if you are having trouble finding the link, what are the chances your prospective customers are reading it? A couple decades ago, there were a finite number of publications that catered to each industry, meaning any placement had a pretty good chance of reaching the right audience.
We’d like to think that’s still the case, especially when we report circulation and unique monthly visitor numbers to stakeholders, but the truth is the amount of content out there is almost overwhelming, and unless you’re a large company turning out a huge volume of content, few of your prospective customers may actually come across it.
So, what’s the solution? Digital advertising and social media. A few relatively cost-efficient digital tactics can leverage contact details such as location, company and role. From there you target your advertising and boosted social posts to get your media coverage in front of the right people, ensuring that all of the time, energy and resources you spent generating those articles – and the accompanying authority – is worthwhile.
2. Your budget is at risk, because your company attributes all customer wins to sales efforts. So, you crafted a compelling media pitch that aligns your company’s messaging and industry trends, got the story placed and used your marketing acumen to make sure the right people saw your earned media coverage. Now, how do you get credit for leads that translate into customer wins?
If you use your prospect list as the basis for an advertising program to promote your media coverage and the third-party validation it provides, it’s easy enough to track those visitors when they come to your website, and to follow them all the way through the funnel. You can also add a tracking module or custom URL to your press releases and contributed articles to clearly connect media coverage with website visits.
Many B2B technology companies have prolonged sales cycle and depend on PR and marketing efforts to initiate sales. Nathan Binford, our vice president of digital, uses a very Idea Grove-appropriate analogy to describe the synergistic relationship between PR and marketing in attracting and nurturing leads: if prospective customers are seeds, PR is the rain that causes them to sprout and marketing is the nutrients they need to grow.
Although there is no foolproof way to measure the impact of public relations in every instance, one way to assess whether your PR “rain” is a sprinkle or a downpour is to examine your company’s share of voice relative to its competitors. You can also look for an increase in branded searches, an overall lift in website traffic surrounding PR engagements, an increase in revenue across the lifetime of the PR campaign (taking the length of the sales cycle into account), and the volume of social mentions.
3. Your website isn’t performing as well as it used to—or competitors are getting more attention. This is an all-too-familiar tale. Perhaps you rebranded your website, or there’s more noise in your space as new competitors enter the market. The next thing you know, your keyword rankings are slipping. Or worse, they’re in a full-on avalanche. The good news is you can improve your search engine optimization (SEO) by using PR tactics to create inbound links.
When crawling a website, Google pays attention to the quantity and quality of links from third-party sources to your site to signify authority. Because earned media is seen as particularly credible, you can make great strides in improving your SEO by writing and securing bylined articles to be posted on the websites of relevant media publications. Although contributed articles are typically brand neutral, they often include a link to the company website in the author or bio section, meaning that intrigued readers can click through to your website to learn more.
To further boost your SEO, sprinkle at least one or two keywords into your bylined article. When choosing keywords, prioritize those that are most relevant to the topic, as they must be naturally incorporated. Also, keep in mind competition, search volume and area for improvement for each keyword. HubSpot recommends choosing long-tailed keywords, as specificity is more likely to attract the attention of prospective customers.
The good news is that the relationship between marketing and PR is symbiotic and ever-evolving. Industry-leading companies employ an integrated strategy and are also agile in execution, always looking for ways to amplify content and optimize results.