The New Public Relations – Inbound Digital PR

Story by Jon Burgess, MBA

The public relations and press release game has changed drastically in the last decade.The first, most obvious change is that the Internet has taken over, causing the second, a crisis in the local and regional newspaper business. In short, what has happened is that marketing and digital Internet companies have given clients access to target markets like never before.

Traditional PR outlets such as print were late to notice the Internet as the driving force of how news is gathered and reported. As the rift in the print market increased, so did the firing of journalists, leaving local paper a shell of what they had been in the early 90’s.

The modern public relations game has changed, so what should you look for in an Inbound Digital Public Relations agency?

Six Things NEW Public Relations Agencies Need

  • Data. Pure and Simple. Marketers have a hard time working without data. Conversly, most professional PR types come out of communications, writing or journalism, so they are more comfortable telling a story. Too often, they don’t emphasize or track data and struggle to connect to what data does to build and drive business. We now go beyond “Reach” and report on actions taken as a result of the message.

  • DigitalPR Firms are innately NOT digitally focused. There is a gap in understanding the new tools they could be using online, or what tools they don’t even know about. So, look for agencies that love and embrace digital to tell stories, becuase crafting your message to each digital channel is essential.

  • Multi-Purposing: Creating content is the most expensive thing that most marketing companies do on behalf of clients. Building one good story and sending it to media outlets is not longer acceptable. A digital marketing company will see the story as a tool to create and leverage more content, creating multiple versions of the story to be reused and re-targeted in the various media outlets online. Content is king, and it should never be used one time, because it is the context of the content you need to constantly work to achieve.

  • Evergreen: Being “Evergreen” means that you write content that doesn’t expire; you create content that makes you expert across your niche, not just for one point in time.  “Evergreen” is a huge tool in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) battle, web page creation, and telling Google you are expert.

  • One to One Relationships: Public Relations in its own definition is “Public,” or mass media driven. It is about effecting change on the public’s perception, and generally that means it is about reaching the broader market, not a tight niche market. Modern Public Relations should change its name to “Personal Relations,” and that is what One to One relationships are. So, don’t look for mass marketing, but personal marketing.

  • Inbound Marketing: “Pushing” the message out to the public is the classic advertising and public relations tactic. New media, blogs, press releases, social media should all be used to “PULL” people to your message. Inbound marketing tells a different side of the story, using content that attracts people to you. Inbound marketing is hard because it takes the first five things I mentioned; Data, Digital, Multi-purposing, Evergreen, and One to One Relationships.

Start Telling a New Story

We all know that the media, especially local outlets have downsized, so your handy journalist is no longer there to pitch your story. So, the story now falls on you to tell, which is actually more effective. Why? Well, you can tell your own story without any outside pressure to change it, or better yet, miss-quote you.

So what does that new story look like?

  1. You can now tell a targeted story with expert content, which “Pulls” people to more of your message on your website or social media outlets.

  2. Once people come to you, you begin a conversation to nurture the new prospect.

  3. You reuse your content, repurposed for different outlets.

  4. You also track everything website visitors do from their IP address and email.

  5. You are notified, individually every time a prospect comes back.

  6. You continue to chat while increasing the volume of expert content.

  7. You build an increasing relationship, trading your asset like ”white papers” for the person’s content, like their address or phone number.

  8. You begin to move the person through your sales funnel, from prospect, to lead, to qualified lead, to customer.

  9. At each level, you change the conversation to fit the relationship level.

  10. You nurture all your levels of target market, tightening your relationship.

  11. Again, you look at data and access where your tactics worked.

How does the new PR resemble the old PR?

There are still some tasks that the old PR practices carry into the new practices. Writing content like press releases is still essential, keeping up-to-date lists for press contacts are still valuable, and shaking hands is always important.

So, the old PR is really now just being augmented by new PR. Here are some things you need to consider:

  • Writing press releases now has the added task of understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Keyword Mapping.

  • Press releases now need to be released specifically to target media outlets.  You can’t just blast out the press release, you need to send them to “hilltop” outlets first, then to the large groups.

  • Understanding the “ASK” is really a sales idea, but you need to give the reader a reason to visit your site, so you can collect data.

  • Relationships are totally essential. You need to know who is reading and posting your story.  Creating a media database where you know which outlet read your story and used your resources is essential.

  • You own your media contacts, not the public relations agency. As the owner, you need to control how to properly use and target your contacts.

  • Press releases are only a fraction of your overall public relations campaigns.

  • Shaking hands. That may be the most important task. Now, with data and tracking, you actually know which hands you need to shake. You don’t just go to the mixer hoping to meet contacts, you go knowing your contact will be willing to listen.

Boy, seems easy, and I just told you how to do it. Why even hire my marketing team?

Well, it sounds easy, but it is actually very hard, because it takes a whole team of people to accomplish these news tactics effectively. It takes the traditional pieces of a PR firm, namely writers. It takes strategy from the top down to understand the ins-and-outs of the media outlets and your target market. It takes developers and webmasters to help navigate and execute the plans, track the data, and build digital content. It takes editors to review and re-purpose content, changing it for each media outlet. It takes systems to give you executable data, not just tons of data, but the kind of data that helps you win the battle.

In this new public relations world, you need to look at your team. Do you have webmasters, writers, designers, and strategy people on staff? Do you have the right digital tools?  Are you using an old school PR team, who knows how to tell the story, but you can’t get the mileage out of your content investment?

Do you even know the budget to have all these people on your team? Well, the budget to have them on your staff is probably $12,000 to $30,000 a month, not including all the costly benefits you have to pay them. It is another $1,000 to $5,000 in online digital assets to scratch the surface of the power. Which means you will probably pay another $2,500 to $10,000 in consultants to make it work.

So, that means, for you to build this campaign in-house, I would think it is a $180,000/year commitment, on the LOW end.

How do you get around that huge price and run a better campaign?

Well, you can outsource it to a digital marketing company; One that has the team already built with the tools and knowledge it takes to execute the campaigns. They also work on inbound campaigns all the time, so you know they are not novices, but experts.

The big bonus, they have a lot of clients, so when you were looking to find funding for $180,000, they only need 20-40 hours a month to work on your account, and your bills look more like $35,000 to $50,000 per year.\

Story by Jon Burgess, MBA

Marketing for more than a decade and a half, Jon focuses on helping companies find value, tell their story, and building positive relationships between companies and customers.  Jon sits on the American Advertising Federation National Board as the District 15 Governor (Southern California and Southern Nevada). Jon is an instructor at the University of Redlands and he also speakes regularly on integrated marketing, advertising and social media.

Find Jon at TwitterGoogle+Linked In.