As a marketer with an engineering and analytic background I have always been very critic about the capability of the Public Relation function to provide proper support to business operations and demonstrate its impact with relevant metrics.
I was clearly wrong with the first argument – PR does provide a huge push to businesses if properly run. Think at Influencer marketing, just to mention one basic example. On the other side, I still don’t think I was wrong with the second point: relevant measurement.
Until Content Marketing came.
Without generalizing too much Public Relations faces three main issues today in large B2B enterprises: 1) a content-related issue, 2) a functional integration issue and 3) a measurement issue. First, B2B companies still keep pushing products and features-focused news releases, in a continuous effort that is totally isolated and detached from the company’s content model and plans (assuming that a content plan is in place). The problem is that many PR firms and companies still haven’t adapted their approach to modern times and still rely on the same format and distribution techniques used years ago, which are far less effective today. Secondly, the PR function is typically separated from other marketing domains and definitely detached from the content marketing function and doesn’t benefit from the synergies that a combined PR, content and social media approach could generate. Finally, PR has gotten a bad reputation at times because PR professionals have historically relied on soft metrics (or not relied on metrics at all) such as placements and impressions to create the perception of value. They have failed to connect actions to outcomes, and demonstrate how PR activities impact key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to the business.
“The most innovative, forward-thinking companies have merged social, content and PR. By doing so, they can capitalize on the synergies between these three” (Jason Miller, LinkedIn)
Three years ago, before finalizing the content strategy for the IT Division of Schneider Electric, we started with the reorganization of our content team, merging social, PR and content and moving all functions under the same (organizational) roof. This decision was critical in term of facilitation of a common coordination among the three different domains but was not enough to properly integrate content, modernize techniques and change the measurement model.
Here is the thing: the old way of doing PR doesn’t make sense, anymore. It’s time to integrate Public Relations with the content strategy and stop releasing product-focused news totally isolated from all other content produced.
There is a final consideration. As Mr. Scott explained in “The New Rules of Marketing and PR“, “press releases are no longer just for the press anymore. By using the release services effectively, you can appeal directly to your buyers.” So the way companies write news releases has to change.
Let me go with some considerations, examples and best practices coming from my experience in Schneider.
New format, new content.
The first priority is to stop with the traditional product and feature-centric news releases and move to new social-friendly, SEO-enabled format, aligned with the existing content model. There is no reason why we have to send out the same old news releases anymore. News release have to be used to tell stories, and the stories have to be part of company’s major themes and strongly tied to company’s campaigns. Let me go with an example. We are planning to transform a (traditional) product announcement of an IT device focused on security for data centres in a full story about trends and challenges of security for data centers and IT infrastructure. Product will be mentioned at the very end, but the story is about a much broader technology challenge. The “new press release” is rich media format, enabled by SEO and fully incorporating media, videos, infographics, large pictures for a better readability, links and call/to/actions. We plan to publish the story on our blogs in addition to news rooms.
(above) A traditional product-focused news release.
(above) Mock-up of a new press release (pilot)
Audience will increase.
Content marketing focuses on creating articles, webinars and other content that your audience will love. With the help of PR acting as a vehicle to reach key industry influencers, content and brand are able to reach their target audience in a truly influential and effective way. The combination of PR and content marketing strategies will also help to get content to a new and perhaps broader audience.
It’s no longer about product launches.
We should not wait for big announcements; we should find reasons to send releases all the time. Customer testimonials, “big rock” content launches, anything that might attract the interest of press, influencers and potential customers.
Better orchestration among marketing functions.
Creating a hybrid press release is done by breaking down the silos of PR, Content and Social and rolling them into one cross-functional team. This might be facilitated by an internal organization designed to unify all functions under the same team or division (as it was in my case in Schneider Electric) or should be managed via coordination of all functions. The new press releases can be created by an external PR agency under the direction of the PR team, promoted by the social, SEO and eDM teams and launched by the content and the PR teams. The end result will very likely make a much bigger impact than anything one of these teams could achieve by going it alone. Not too mention all three will share the success as opposed to the tendency towards sibling rivalry in marketing;
(And finally…) Unified Reporting.
Integrating PR with content will bring different advantages – in addition to the obvious advantage of the integration. One of the advantages is reporting. A unified reporting and the usage of relevant metrics is now finally possible.
And so it is time to change and to integrate PR into your existing content strategy. Piloting one product launch in one/few markets is a good way to start, and might help to test plans and integration strategy before going live.