29/09/2014

By Bob Dearsley, Chief Executive, itpr and The B2B Marketing Lab


Growing numbers of businesses are attracted by the real time nature of Inbound Marketing activity combined with unprecedented access to metrics, analytics and accurate, detailed measurement of ROI.

But there is one major, recurring problem in setting up your Inbound marketing programme – creating the right content. So where should the marketer turn for innovative, engaging and relevant content to drive customer and prospect engagement? How can the business control messaging across multiple traditional and social media, as well as balance the need for rapid response to new opportunities with the need to continually reinforce brand messaging and values?

Building the right campaign content

Over the past decade the interest in Inbound Marketing has surged as organisations have looked to exploit an increasingly online business model to gain faster access to new customers and markets – and gain a better understanding of the value of marketing spend. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, Inbound Marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people towards a company and its products. By aligning published content with customers’ interests a company rapidly attracts inbound traffic that has the potential to be converted, closed and transformed into a long term relationship.

Yet many organisations are deterred from embarking on an Inbound Marketing programme simply due to the volume of good quality content required. Who is going to generate the content? What is the most relevant content? How can messaging be consistent and still timely? Is there any way of controlling social media updates whilst still encouraging skilled employees to build up the company’s expert reputation? Given the critical value of content in today’s marketing model - does the business actually require a dedicated Content Manager to oversee the process and ensure consistency of message across all media?

Why not ask the PR team?

But who better to produce content for the company website than the PR people who are already helping to create compelling material for the PR campaigns? Taking PR-generated thought leadership material and editing it, rather than starting the creation from scratch, saves time and effort. It sets the foundation for the creation of compelling eBooks and provides a range of other gated downloadable content that encourages people to impart their contact details in exchange for interesting, useful material. Critically, it ensures consistency of both messaging and style.

In fact the input of the PR team extends beyond great content creation skills. PR tactics and expertise are then deployed to take thought leadership content – opinions and commentary – and repurpose it as sound-bite comments and blogs, carefully placed and targeted to point back to the company website and drive interested visitors to follow ‘Call to Action’ links.

Changing PR role

Embedding PR skills and expertise within the marketing team changes the traditional PR role and extends it far beyond its traditional media relations heartland. While there is no denying that strong media relations remain a core part of the PR job, the ability to write a compelling story and, most importantly, come up with a different angle is still one of the key skills of a good PR. Couple this with expertise in creating clear thought leadership on behalf of clients and the world of PR starts to align more clearly with the world of content.

Indeed it can be argued that PR becomes content marketing at the point that an intermediary journalist is no longer part of the process. Technically, the role of the PR professional changes at the point that persuading an editor or journalist that an article is worthy of publication is no longer essential. The PR professional becomes a content marketer and publisher at the point of placing an article on the web and looking to Google or, more broadly, ‘search’ for an audience - rather than using the audience or readership that the publication has built up as a way of getting a client’s views read.

The fundamental distinction comes at the publishing level; and the key question then becomes whether content should be published on the company’s own website or should the organisation be persuading someone to publish it on its behalf?

Irrespective of which route an organisation goes, the fundamental principles of good PR practice apply in the curation of content for use across all those media – whether social, online or traditional.

Accurate measurement will clearly show ROI

The benefit of this evolving PR role in content curation extends beyond Inbound Marketing back towards the still essential traditional media relations – not least in the delivery of the 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 showing 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, it is far more compelling to view PR activity as a component of a wider content strategy. Acknowledging that all channels of content production complement each other in generating exposure and driving readers to and through the website creates a new measure of PR value.

This allows the creation of a more integrated set of analytics and a clearer set of reports. Businesses should consider analysing metrics such as site traffic, page views, social following, blog readership, SEO ranking and lead conversion rates in order to monitor and prove the value of an integrated PR and Inbound Marketing campaign.

Conclusion

The fundamental skill of any good PR team is to help create clear thought leadership on behalf of its clients - even when there is no clear thought leader in the business. There is now a huge onus on marketers to generate not just content but innovative, engaging and compelling content that draws customers and prospects to the business, and those PR content creation skills suddenly gain huge additional business value. As PR and Inbound Marketing converge, what becomes clear is that both cannot survive without a rich and continuous supply of high quality content.