Inbound marketing and public relations are sisters in business
The inbound marketing approach has a lot in common with public relations, writes Craig Pearce.
Establishing credibility and engaging target audiences are what both inbound marketing and public relations are designed to achieve. Inbound marketing is an ideal manifestation of public relations and marketing as its content is predicated on having identified what target audiences are interested in and value, then satisfying those needs.
Of course, there need to be benefits to the organisation if it is going to the trouble of providing content for inbound marketing. The first of these is enhanced credibility leading, in turn, to enhanced reputation. Enhanced credibility/reputation comes from a perception the organisation is making an investment into the target audience, without looking for any blatant return from the target audience.
‘Blatant return’ is a relative term, however.
Reputation leading to return on marketing investment
Take Jeff Bullas’ blog, for instance. It provides regular content that Jeff hopes is of value to readers (an inbound marketing approach). By the same token, a main reason he does this is so that potential customers believe he knows what he’s talking about and offer him work.
Another reason is that the content is on a blog and it is relevant to the services he provides, so when people do their Google thing, his online real estate is more likely to come up when they enter terms such as social media expert or digital marketing consultant.
Inbound marketing is a sales tool
So that’s a second reason explained – the intention is for inbound marketing to lead to sales. Unless you or an organisation are totally dedicated to doing the world a favour and seeking nothing in return, this is the ultimate reason for undertaking inbound marketing.
(And the likelihood of the ‘seeking nothing in return’ approach being an honest one is very thin, too. Satisfying the ego/building the employee brand will plays a part in many inbound marketing gambits.)
Differentiation from marketing
A third reason for inbound marketing is differentiation. Of course, we are going to keep going back to reason two with all this, because differentiation is undertaken to help generate sales.
Differentiation makes your organisation stand out from the crowd. It also gives it a unique personality/brand that, ideally, coincides with what potential customers are looking for and feel an affinity with. One important characteristic of this differentiation through inbound marketing is that you are sharing something for free and of value to your target audience. Not many organisations do that – hence differentiation.
Thought leadership and curation
It’s not technically necessary to feature thought leadership as part of inbound marketing content, but in most cases you’ll find it an intrinsic element of successful approaches to inbound marketing.
Thought leadership assists in providing further differentiation and branding equity. This is because it provides new content and/or stimulating commentary that is of value to target audiences.
You don’t have to be a genius to do this, but you do have to be willing to hang yourself out to dry somewhat. Being a thought leader is not for the faint hearted. If you’re not willing to take a few risks and expose yourself (via your thoughts), then in my view you won’t ever achieve the thought leadership descriptor.
Public relations using inbound marketing
The inbound marketing approach has been used by PR professionals for many years through mechanisms such as placing op-eds in the media and gaining speaking engagements for organisations, but it’s yet to reach its optimum level in the online environment. Significant reasons for this are organisations’ lack of willingness to commit to the approach and the time it takes to create outstanding content.
There are many ways to leverage the investment in inbound marketing content, though. A single piece of outstanding content can be used in a plethora of ways:
- On a blog or website to attract customers and stakeholders and to build a database of prospects,
- as the basis for a speaking engagement, including an organisation running its own breakfast et al seminars,
- an email to existing customers to enhance the quality of relationships you have with them, cement their commitment to you and to grow the business, or
- sharing with organisational employees to help in their own development, commitment to the organisation and, as a result, increased discretionary effort.