For decades, PR – or public relations to use its full title – has been a core tool used by organizations the world over. It has helped B2Bs, and B2Cs alike, to raise awareness, manage reputation, secure market positioning and reach target audiences with key company messages.
But does traditional PR still have a valid place in today’s digital world and alongside modern online lead generation techniques? The short answer is ‘yes’, which may be surprising to some, especially in light of just how far communications channels and marketing approaches have evolved in recent years.
So, if you’re a B2B aiming to generate more leads, land more sales and achieve sustained growth, what PR should you be doing? And where should it fit within your broader marketing plans?
It all starts with a clear understanding of what PR actually is. If you head to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations you’ll find it described as: “Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support, and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
Traditionally, PR over the last 10 to 20 years was the only way a company could spread information outside of conventional marketing tactics and advertising. In simple terms, it was about the spread of information, which was done through building relationships with key journalists and feeding them relevant stories.
Depending on the size of the company, PR may have been delivered by an in-house team or outsourced to a specialist agency, often being a mix of the two. And without it, reaching a broad audience was just not possible, unless you advertised.
But, the arrival of the internet changed everything and corporate communication was suddenly no longer a one-way street.
More than 3 billion people now use the internet, according to the United Nations, and with advancements in smartphones and connectivity, people now have the power to talk back in their hand. A PR ‘crisis’ can no longer be contained in a local area and dealt with on a local level. It’s out there and accessible by anyone, anywhere in the country, or even across the world.
On the other side of the coin, what this also means is that many new opportunities have been opened up. It is now possible to reach a huge, global audience with comparatively little effort – and without the need to charm any journalists! The question of what that may mean for the future of newspapers and magazines remains to be seen.
From blogging to social media, content marketing to inbound marketing, there’s a real buzz around modern communication techniques and how best to combine them with more traditional methods. One popular model exploring this issue being the PESO model, which suggests you need a mix of all four types – Paid Earned Shared Owned – if marketing is to achieve its full potential (with PR falling into the earned media category).
While B2C companies quickly started to capitalise on these new opportunities, the B2B world has lagged behind. Equally, PR professionals are also needing to feel their way into this new communication landscape.
Some early adopters have forged ahead and quickly started using new methods to reach their audiences. They’ve shared their experiences and learnings and many of today’s B2B organisations are now employing the same techniques to get ahead. From developing content marketing strategies to working on their social media marketing.
One of the major pulls of these new techniques is that they offer a way to target a very precise audience (potential leads and clients). So, why do we still need journalists, newspapers, and magazines?
While traditional PR has changed to some degree, overall it still offers the same thing – a way for companies to get the word out about themselves and their products. Key to success is finding a way for traditional and modern methods to work alongside each other.
Getting your digital marketing team and PR team to work together to reach an audience can work wonders. Problems are more likely to arise when teams are working in isolation, which can be incredibly counterproductive. Instead, by getting them to pool their knowledge you can figure out the best ways and means by which to build campaigns.
Also, think about the tools that are now available. It’s up to you to keep up to speed on the best ones and to start using them. Knowing which journalists to contact, when, about what and by which means, is also important to understand, as is keeping track of publishing cycles.
What to do if you’re a PR newbie
If you know nothing about PR, then the first question to ask yourself is whether it is going to be worthwhile for your company to be mentioned in particular publications? You need to know whether your intended audience can be reached in that way.
If it can, then begin by making a list of publications, including who the relevant journalists are, their contact details and what the publication dates are (i.e. when it comes out and when they may ask for content to be sent over by).
If you plan on running a PR campaign then it is advisable to have a separate ‘press’ area on your website, to make it easy for journalists to find the information they need. In that section have your press releases, as well as high-resolution images that are available for them to download and use.
When preparing a press release remember that it isn’t a sales pitch. Always avoid using any marketing jargon or sales language as that will never be published, and may put them off completely. Instead, concentrate on getting across the news angle of your story and the facts (the who, what, where, when, how), as well as any backstories, as these are always interesting to journalists. There’s a real art to writing effective press releases, so at the very least read up on the basics of how to do it, or ideally call on the services of a professional.
Content marketing and PR go hand in hand as they both focus on storytelling and the reader. Where they differ is in what they are aiming to achieve. With content marketing, you want to convert a reader into a lead by encouraging them to visit a landing page with some sort of interesting offer (such as a download that will be given in exchange for their email address). With PR, you are getting your name out there and increasing brand awareness in a way that encourages people to check you out further.
Historically, newspapers and magazines had large audiences and so could sell advertising to companies in order to help them get in front of those audiences. In the digital era, new influencers have emerged who also have large audiences, but often exclusively on a social media platform.
You will find such influencers in many niche markets and across all industries. It is worth investigating them and if they reach an audience you wish to engage with then, by all means, it’s time to reach out. There are dos and don’ts when it comes to approaching them, so it’s always best to read up on it first to make sure you go about it in the best possible way. You don’t want to give a bad first impression and risk scuppering your chances of a relationship.
With this blog, we’ve really just scratched the surface of how traditional methods can be effectively combined with modern techniques. For a detailed read, we recommend checking out this article ‘How to integrate traditional & digital marketing over on MOZ’. Another excellent resource on all things traditional PR and new digital marketing is David Meermann Scots’ book ‘The new rules of Marketing & PR’.
And if you take nothing else from this blog, take this – it’s not time to write PR off just yet! Just take some time to think about how you can effectively combine it with your modern lead generation tactics, to maximise your impact.