Two common misunderstandings keep popping up about effective brand marketing in the digital age.
First is the idea that content marketing is somehow a new concept. Second is the notion that, with brands telling their own stories, there’s no need for public relations.
Idea Grove President Scott Baradell couldn’t disagree more, as he explained recently to attendees of the Brand+Aid Conference, a two-day event aimed at helping organizations establish their brands.
Baradell has built Idea Grove around the idea that companies should tell their own stories in compelling ways – a practice now commonly known as content marketing – but he also believes strongly that public relations is a necessary front end for any inbound marketing effort.
What’s ‘Inbound PR?’
He uses the phrase “inbound PR” to describe Idea Grove’s PR-driven inbound marketing approach, which not only tells compelling stories but also integrates them in every component of the marketing process – starting with public relations.
"Today, successful marketing is about having great story ideas that connect clients to their customers,” he said. “Story ideas, long the driving force behind public relations programs, are now what drive the inbound marketing engine.”
In the inbound PR approach he described, public relations remains central to any company’s repertoire – as it has been for decades. However, the PR needs of brands have evolved beyond merely establishing relationships with media partners. It’s not whom you know, but what you know.
Sure, relationships are still important and always will be. But the power of stories is key, and that is where today’s PR efforts must focus, Baradell said. Today, companies must invest in efforts to focus and develop messages – through a PR lens – that appeal to the natural interests and needs of prospective customers.
Then, they must tell those stories in a number of ways: directly to customers through blogging, ebooks and whitepapers; to digital outlets that may share stories with large online audiences; and with traditional media.
A New Approach as Old as PR Itself
What Baradell was describing might sound new, but it’s as old as the hills, or at least as old as PR. In his talk, Baradell demonstrated how earning exposure with good stories rather than paying for it with advertising has been the driving force behind public relations for decades.
PR, uniquely, has always had the job of connecting corporate objectives to audiences. That’s all content marketing is: PR taking a more active role in the storytelling process.
Among those also speaking at this year’s conference were John Keehler, a group director at The Richards Group; Greg Hickman of Mobile Mixed; and Tiffany Monhollon from Social Media Club of Dallas.
The annual Brand+Aid Conference, organized by the recreation departments in Arlington and Grand Prairie, is the only gathering of its kind for public park and recreation organizations. Most attendees come from municipalities, but the information is applicable to any organization that needs to improve its brand through better marketing and social media practices.