Inbound PR is not just about the media, it's about you doing your own PR with your own content on your own channels. Chapter 27 is all about practising what we preach.
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PRACTISING INBOUND PR: HOW COMMS TEAMS CAN PRACTISE WHAT THEY PREACH Iliyana Stareva
• Why public relations practitioners need to invest in their own marketing and can improve practice by doing so
• How to identify your target audiences and create a buyer persona
• Ways to better promote your content and evaluate this to see what works best
As a PR agency or communications team, how much time do you spend building your own organisation’s profile with your own content? Many would say “none” or “barely any” but in the digital age, this is unacceptable. Consumers have changed. Clients have changed. We have changed. We don’t want to be chased, we want to find things on our own and make decisions based on our research.
And how do we do that? By consuming content. We have a problem – we search on Google. Then we read blogs, follow social media recommendations and engage with our online communities.
Today, 80% of the purchasing decision is made before speaking to a sales person. If you are not out there, you are not going to be found. In the digital era, not being found means non-existent.
This is why PR people need inbound PR. By using the inbound marketing methodology they can attract visitors to their site, convert them into leads, nurture them to close them as customers and retain them by delighting them with more remarkable content.
Inbound uses blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, videos, SEO, webinars, social media, landing pages and client-centric emails whereas old-school outbound methods focus on cold calling, TV and print ads, direct mail and trade shows. The key difference is that outbound interrupts, inbound attracts. And it attracts with content.
Yes, this requires time, effort and commitment, but it works. And because PR people are storytellers and content creators at heart, practicing inbound PR for their own organisations quickly becomes natural as they are doing it for clients already.
Why you need to become your best client
Next to building your organisation’s online brand with your own content on your own channels helping customers find you, preaching what you teach allows you to experiment and try new things out on yourselves rather than on clients, ensuring that your new, innovative methods have a proven track record of success. And if not, then at least you’re not messing it up with a client.
What’s more, you get to become a thought leader in your field and strengthen your positioning. People know who you are, what your business is about and how much value you can offer them. They trust you. And trust is the best relationship-builder.
There are six essential steps to follow to start practicing inbound PR.
1. Nail your buyer persona
A clearly defined buyer persona is at the centre of inbound. It’s who you are creating content for and without it none of the following steps will drive results. You don’t want to be found by anyone, you want to be found by the right people.
To define your buyer persona, research your current customer base, analyse your site visitors, talk to your sales people or conduct interviews with existing customers. The following questions are key:
10 Essential Buyer Persona Questions
1. Who is going to be interested in our content?
2. Are these people really the people we want to be doing business with?
3. Who are they and what are they like (demographic information, job role, hobbies)?
4. What does their day look like?
5. What questions are they asking?
6. What are their goals?
7. What are their pain points?
8. What are their challenges?
9. What are they looking for when making buying decisions?
10. Where do they go for information?
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to develop a clear picture of your ideal customer. This is important because to reach them, your buyer persona should drive each and every piece of content you create.
2. Define the buyer’s journey
After developing your buyer persona, you need to define the buyer’s journey to ensure that you are creating content that answers all of her questions during the decision-making process.
The purchasing journey is the active process your buyer persona goes through from being a stranger to becoming a customer. There are three stages: Awareness (of a problem), Consideration (of potential solutions) and Decision (to buy from you).
For each of those, you need different types of content because your buyer persona asks different questions at each stage. The idea is that you provide relevant answers that build up in a logical way and gradually become more product or service focused.
Mapping out the buyer’s journey is crucial in order to create content that is relevant both to your buyer persona as well as your business and gently guides them towards choosing you.
3. Create a content plan
The further someone goes through the buyer’s journey, the more personalised and targeted the content and the touch points should become.
When developing your content plan, it’s not just about blog posts. It’s about creating different types of content that suit the respective buyer’s journey stage and that you can put on a landing page and ask the person’s contact details for in order to get this offer.
This is how you generate leads. It’s an exchange of value – you offer your visitors useful content, they recognise its value and are willing to fill out the form to give you their email, name and other information in exchange for it.
Ideally, you want to have a content offer for each of the stages of the buyer’s journey to create a holistic campaign that answers all of your buyer persona’s questions. For each content offer, plan at least two blog posts with Calls-To-Action to promote it, multiple social media posts as well as several nurturing emails.
4. Promote your content
Even with the best SEO, just publishing the content and expecting people to come doesn’t work. You need to heavily promote it to drive traffic and engage with people.
Don’t stop at simply sharing your content once after you publish it. Your content starts performing and ranking a month after publication. Schedule some social media posts for the future and make sure you leverage your evergreen pieces. Why not even try native advertising?
And don’t make the mistake of just sharing your blog posts. Promote your landing pages too.
5. Nurture your leads
The beauty of developing content offers for each of the stages of the buyer’s journey is that you can use them to create personalised emails to engage further with your leads.
For example, someone stumbles upon an Awareness stage blog post on your site, they click on the Calls-To-Action to your landing page, fill out the form and become a lead in your contacts database.
You wouldn’t want to stop here. This person is clearly interested so you should nurture them further with personalised emails, giving them more valuable content such as Consideration stage blog posts or offers until you get them to Decision. After that, you continue to delight them with more advanced and educational content.
With such a personalised approach, you can effectively track what works and what doesn’t.
6. Measure results
Measuring results has always been PR’s biggest challenge. Inbound PR allows you to not only drive tangible results but also track them.
With a good software in place, you can see what sources bring you the most traffic, how your landing pages are converting, what your email open and click rates are and how many customers you are generating from their first touchpoint with you till the last.
Being able to measure the effectiveness of your activities allows you to continuously improve and justify the time and effort spent doing your own inbound PR.
Using the inbound marketing methodology to turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business is a powerful way of practising what you preach and creating highly targeted content that drives real results. Are you ready to become your own best client?
Iliyana Stareva is a Channel Consultant at HubSpot, helping partner agencies grow their businesses with inbound marketing and position themselves as thought leaders in their fields. She spends her free time dancing salsa or writing about PR, social media, communications and sustainability, expertise gathered from years of agency experience working for PR and social media consultancies in Germany and in the UK.