PR has evolved. It’s no longer just press releases, thought leadership and speaking opportunities at events. It has morphed into an integrated service offering where agencies are now expected to deliver marketing combined with PR which includes social media, content and influencer marketing all cohesively working together. This stems from creating your buyer personas with your agency and working toward reaching your targeted audience at the right time, with the right content, on the right channel.
The world of PR has come a long way, and while it’s allowed us to provide a myriad of added value to our clients, it’s also resulted in a number of challenges. As we continue to move forward, PR pros need to adapt along with the changing landscape.
The role of PR practitioners has changed. With these new challenges, practitioners have managed to continue providing strategic insight to clients about earned, owned and paid media by navigating the balance of how PR generates sales leads. However, PR practitioners have been remiss in clearly articulating their ever-changing role with clients as well as top management in organizations.
Measuring ROI on PR campaigns is now a standard best practice. There is an industry need to better define standards for measuring and evaluating PR. Whether it’s referral clicks from a contributed article garnered or a boost in Twitter followers due to a social media campaign, you’ll want a consistent approach to demonstrate how your PR strategy works. After all, the proof is in the numbers.
Find out more about our approach to measurement and analytics here.
Source: pexels.com under CC license.
Read below for the full guide to your next communications strategy or jump below to a desired chapter:
Leveraging your brand’s social media channels can help increase traffic to your press releases, driving brand awareness and lead generation. Make sure that your press release is social media friendly by having shareable buttons, embedded pull-quotes, associated blog posts and images. Go the extra mile by sharing social links to influencer advocates, employees, media channels, press, analysts and stakeholders.
The goal of any marketing, PR or social media campaign is to expand your reach, promote your brand and continue to lead your buyer personas down the path to purchase. Marketing, PR and social media can’t evolve without an integrated growth strategy.
PR has always been dependent upon building strong relationships with media outlets and influencers. By developing these relationships, co-creation can begin and discussions can revolve around the pain points of your customer and how to solve them — effectively building trust along this journey.
PR, by its nature, has been known for effectively fostering relationships with the media, which is why it only makes sense for influencer and media relations to evolve and co-exist. The integration of PR and social media will become even more critical as influencer marketing increases in importance.
In 2019, it is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the globe, up from 2.46 billion in 2017.
In case a crisis occurs, it’s best to create a plan of action that includes social media. Crisis management isn’t just about media responses – it’s also about social media responses. Decide who you will dedicate this responsibility to or if it’s worth getting an entire team on board. From there, determine the tone of your responses, leverage monitoring tools and discuss how to remain timely but consistent with these responses.
In almost every potential crisis or brewing problem situation, the best advice is this: get ahead of the message. Customers will likely learn from a third-party source if the response is not timely. Competitors get wind and often turn to the media – adding their own two cents to the story. Add in the element of social media and the fires get out of control in a matter of minutes.
Product issues or delays, service cycle time, executive departures or large personnel changes will occur from time to time. Have a proper and current plan in place to combat any communication problem that arises. While you cannot always predict what will happen, you can outline the team, process, response channels (including social) and supporting collateral needed when an untimely event occurs.
Pre-defining roles and responsibilities will make sure everyone involved knows what steps to take and when to take them. Going through this exercise during the time of a crisis adds an unnecessary burden on both you and your senior and communication teams.
Employees can be a huge asset when it comes to brand awareness. Social media is the driving force behind this growth. Take advantage of this trend by incentivizing employees to provide quotes, write blog content, pitch bylines and attend media briefings.
“Employee advocacy results in a 5x increase in web traffic and 25% more leads” (Source: Inc.)
Employee advocacy is just another form of marketing. Your employees have the ability to market your brand on social media and increase brand awareness. Integrated firms can get your program off the ground and allow it to run smoothly, but first you need to learn the basics. Understanding the importance and potential of a program, learning how to create and implement it, and getting everyone on board are three roadblocks that often hinder brands from developing an employee advocacy program.
If you empower your employees, they’ll empower your brand. There are so many valuable ways to do it. The biggest challenge can be deciding who’s going to be in charge of it. There’s usually a discussion between HR, communications and marketing. They all want to own it. Ideally it should fall to marketing.
Thought leadership is one of the most important pillars of any PR program. It establishes your brand as a go-to expert that’s credible within your given industry. The key to a successful thought leadership program is staying on top of industry trends and having a unique perspective on those trends. One way to voice this perspective is through your social media channels. Listen, engage and build your reputation as an authoritative brand. This combination of thought leadership and social media will separate your brand from its competitors. Utilize social media listening tools to stay up to speed with industry trends and this will speed up the process of social media engagement.
To capture all the benefits of thought leadership content marketing, your brand needs to be thought provoking. That designation in this context means several things. First, it means that your content has to be timely. You can’t wait six weeks to talk about a pressing issue in your industry. By then it could be resolved, or another problem may have supplanted it.
Being a leader also means delivering plenty of facts and data so that the audience can make the decision. It means not copying what everyone else in the industry is saying or doing. You need your own point of view – one that is customer-centric and looks at changes, problems and solutions from their perspective.
Social media marketing may seem like a more natural fit for B2C companies, but connecting with people is just as important for B2B companies. Thought leadership is a great example of this. Once you have started building relationships and making connections, you can begin thinking about turning those connections into leads.
Engagement sparks conversation. Conversation builds trust. Trust gets you sales.
Publications rely on editorial calendars to help guide their focus areas for the year. Not only is this process used by PR professionals to pitch bylines and briefings, but it can also be used from a content marketing perspective. For example, if you know that you’ll be pitching Inc. in September on ‘The Rise of Artificial Intelligence’ then coincide this effort with a blog post, a case study, an eBook or – even better – a survey/study. Not only will you have your content marketing aligned with your PR efforts, but you’ll have a go-to resource, stat or infographic to go along with your media pitch.
Prior to a branded event or trade show it’s critical to have a synced message on both your PR and content marketing fronts. This is a great opportunity to integrate efforts across these channels to ensure a cohesive theme. The benefits of this type of integration can lead to increased attendees, increased leads and peak ROI. Prioritize the messaging, visuals and the structure of your integrated plan to ensure success.
“Many trade show exhibitors are already embracing integrated campaigns, with research finding that 89 percent plan to increase integrated efforts in the future.”
Your primary goal is to have your brand’s message remain consistent across the campaign while providing compelling reasons for attendees to visit your booth or installation. Coordinating and delivering an integrated plan requires participation from all internal stakeholders. A collaborative approach will deliver the best results.
One of the key benefits of utilizing a thought leadership program is that it increases trust with your targeted audience. Before choosing your internal team to take on this role make sure that you have a structured framework that discusses your brand’s language, the type of content you are looking for and the key messaging. Choose employees that are knowledgeable in their respective wheelhouses and preferably have high volumes of followers and traffic on their social media channels.
“Only 20% of CMOs have a successful content marketing program in place. Yet over 60% reported content marketing as a budget priority for this year.”
Thought leaders can be pre-existing in your organization in the form of executives, managers, customer service reps, board members or sales people. What they have in common is that they are informed opinion leaders and trusted sources who can help move ideas. Align your thought leadership programs to specific content needs by each influencer type and ensure your content strategy speaks to each.
PR combined with content marketing can create better customer relationships and drive loyalty, retention and advocacy in the process. Your customers can be great assets that should be brought into your PR and content marketing campaigns – this is what’s called a “Voice of the Customer” program.
“Customer advocacy programs have grown 570% year over year among B2B vendors.”
If you have a big customer coming into your roster, consider applauding this new relationship with a press release and ask that customer to provide you with a quote. If you’ve been with a customer for a while, acknowledge this in the form of a case study. Create great content for your customers and deliver that content to them in their preferred channel.
Truly valuable content occurs when companies are willing to step outside of their own four walls and tell engaging stories about their relationships with their own customers. These stories are going to evoke emotion that will appeal to future prospects.
By harnessing these brand advocates, organizations can actively involve them in the marketing and sales process to drive business growth and prove bottom-line results throughout the customer journey. As such, customer advocacy programs are crucial for long-term success. Connected customers of your brand can directly influence purchasing decisions of prospects.
Leverage your earned media and content marketing efforts even further by launching an influencer relations program. Building organic influencer relations – and sometimes even paid – can be a challenge. However, with the help of white papers or eBooks that offer insight and ideas from industry figures (i.e., analysts and bloggers) you will increase your chances of building the same relationships with your targeted influencers. Once you’ve captured the attention of your sought-after influencers, your brand will find heightened credibility that’s necessary for generating earned media mentions.
87% of B2B buyers are giving more credence to industry influencer content.
Influencer marketing and media relations are separate but related strategies. Media relations focuses on developing, nurturing and expanding relationships with members of the media (whether that’s your local newspaper, industry magazines, top news station, preferred blog, etc.).
Influencer marketing, on the other hand, expands that smaller, niche community by encompassing more than just the media. In addition to the media, it includes analysts, client advocates, podcasters, bloggers, social media influencers and so much more.
There is some overlap with other media and analyst relations programs. And that’s what makes influencer marketing so successful. The most effective programs take in all aspects of marketing and communications – from media and analyst relations all the way to social media engagement – to fully round out your approach. There are so many different influencers out there, you don’t want to miss out on any of them.
Influencers are clued into numerous sectors of the industry and possess a wealth of knowledge to bring new ideas to fuel your PR and marketing content. Engaging an influencer in content development is a terrific way to promote their expertise and your organization’s value proposition. An influencer can contribute to your organization’s blog and highlight new industry trends while also stressing how your organization is remaining forward-thinking. Influencers can also co-author content for your organization on timely topics that are relevant to your key stakeholders and new customers. With this third-party expertise from influencers, potential customers may also view this content as more credible.
Media relations can often be a challenge for brands – especially when there’s no news. That’s why influencer marketing alongside earned media efforts is the perfect combination – it allows your brand to stay in the spotlight even when it’s a slow news period for the company. Using this cost-effective marketing strategy will help you continue to build relationships with third-party advocates. This will lead to a wider audience reach, increased leads and heightened ROI.
A 2018 study found Google searches for “influencer marketing” increased 325% last year.
One such use of influencers is tapping them for speaking engagements. Depending on the level of expertise your influencer has, he/she can be an incredible resource to utilize for speaking opportunities at conferences – especially if they use your product or service personally and can speak from a customer perspective. An influencer can co-present with a representative of your organization and share their experience. At trade shows, a notable influencer can also draw attention to your organization’s booth or table and bolster your profile at the show.
An influencer is an evangelist for your organization. By creating long-term value for them through ongoing promotion with the right audience, they can be a treasured asset.
PR is occasionally criticized as being unmeasurable, making it a challenge to tie back leads or any type of ROI. Influencer marketing, however, is completely trackable. This means that measuring the success of your next PR campaign will be a lot easier. Not only is measurement a key benefit, but influencer marketing is also known to increase brand awareness, a key driver when discussing a brand’s reputation. It also connects your brand with your audience on an emotional level.
Take these five steps to plan, implement and measure your influencer marketing program
1. Set your goals: Understand your objectives and how you’re going to experience success.
2. Discover your influencer network: Who are your potential brand influencers? Utilize search tactics and tools that are at your disposal.
3. Create a story and engage with your influencers: Remember that influencer marketing is a person-to-person exercise. You and your team must engage with them, talk to them, and add value to their efforts before asking for something in return.
4. Develop paid, earned and owned influencer strategies: A robust influencer marketing plan includes paid, earned and owned strategies. But they all start with a powerful idea. Make your idea as big as you can but take the time to figure out how to tell people about it in as few words as possible.
5. Measure the impact: Your influencer marketing plan should include early and ongoing measurement of key analytics to determine what is working and what is not, so you are able to make efforts more effective.
An integrated marketing and PR strategy can be powerful for your business. Gone are the days of single-channel marketing campaigns, traditional versus digital, earned versus paid, outbound versus inbound. Now the winning strategy integrates and harmonizes across all marketing channels. Coordinate between your social media, public relations, inbound marketing and creative efforts and you’ll overcome many of the challenges facing CMOs today.
CMOs are being held to high expectations for demonstrating ROI from programs that help fuel the pipeline and ultimately drive revenue. However, marketers are drowning in data and aren’t taking a holistic integrated view when it comes to measurement in the modern era of marketing (emotional connections with brands, influencer engagement, etc.). It’s time to start analyzing all of your marketing and PR efforts with a big picture view. This integrated measurement approach allows marketers to make more informed decisions about where to invest or reallocate their activity to ensure successful campaign performance.
Integrated marketing and PR agencies are the best fit for handling all communication channels – media publications, social media channels, email marketing, etc. This approach combined with relationship management – influencers, analysts and media – is ideal when targeting your customers. Tie back your integrated efforts with a 360 integrated marketing measurement strategy.