I understand why business development people don’t always see PR as an excellent way to drive business development.
In the old days (and even now) PR has been a bit fluffy and pretty unmeasurable.
Often there is a disconnect between PR and sales.
Because your PR people or agency often can’t show the effect of PR on your bottom line. Or, your PR people can’t create a correlation between what they’re doing and your job in sales.
The great news is things have changed.
That’s right! You don’t have to suffer from crappy, fluffy, unaccountable PR any longer in your B2B efforts. Here’s why:
Defining inbound PR
Inbound PR is about measurement, attribution and generating leads.
It’s all about getting the right people to come to your site and start engaging with your content.
If you’re a business development person reading this, then the ‘inbound PR’ approach is all about the things you like – driving quality prospects, tracking leads, measuring campaigns and even connecting the PR efforts to the bottom line.
Before I progress, here’s what ‘Inbound PR’ actually is.
I won’t lie. We didn’t make up the term ‘Inbound PR’. The phrase comes from super-smart Ilyana Stareva who wrote the book of the same name.
Inbound PR is the marriage of PR with inbound marketing.
In her own words, Ilyana says:
“Inbound PR refers to a new way of thinking about modern Public Relations. Inbound PR combines the best of two worlds – PR’s core strength in content and writing and inbound marketing’s ability to plan with numbers in mind and measure throughout the way.”
This means moving away from a cold calling ‘push’ approach to a ‘pull approach.’
After all, wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to call people and they came to you instead?
That’s the ‘pull’ approach where Inbound PR will drive prospects to your site and NOT the other way round.
If you want to find out more, watch our interview with Ilyana on our Heroes of B2B PR series.
If you’re looking for ways to use Inbound PR to drive quality leads to your site, then here are five effective ways to do it.
1. Use Inbound PR to earn trust
This could fall under the ‘horribly obvious’ column, but hear me out for a moment.
In the old days, PR and sales were all about smacking your prospects over the head and telling them how great you are.
That won’t wash anymore. It, 100%, does not work. If you’re working like that, then you need to stop. Now. It’s terrible!
Instead, if you want to drive prospects to your site, then it has to be through a sustained effort to get them to trust your company.
Trust isn’t that hard to earn. It takes time and effort and patience.
For example, if I spoke to you and told you to hire me to do your PR and told you that you could trust me, it wouldn’t work.
I have to earn your trust.
The only way that I’m going to earn your trust is if I speak to you honestly, I help you and offer you proof that I’ve done this for other people.
This is the same way you have to approach your prospects.
B2B PR is pretty simple. It can be broken down into three parts:
- Identify your prospects (we usually term this as creating ‘buyer personas’).
- Understand your prospects’ challenges/problems/pain points.
- Help your prospects by showing them ways to solve these problems. You do this by creating high-quality, unique content and then getting it in front of them.
The good news is that a business development person is the number-one person to understand customers’ pain points.
When we work with a client, we ask the business development people to help us identify their prospects’ problems.
Chances are, you’ll have a load of questions you always get asked. Those are the ones that your content is going to try and answer.
It’s a bit like us writing this post because we get asked by business development people how Inbound PR can help them.
If you’re struggling to identify these problems then either:
a) Interview some prospects or current customers for 10 minutes and ask them.
b) Post a poll or simply ask a question on LinkedIn inviting people to express their problems or challenges. People are always happy to complain!
The main challenge comes in part three – actually creating the content. This is where an excellent B2B PR agency comes into its own.
A good B2B PR agency works with its clients to develop a content roadmap. The agency will often help create this content, package it up and then get it in front of the right people.
You ‘likely’ think this is media relations, and the PR bit of it all can be confusing.
Media is just a distribution channel for your content—a vital channel, but only a channel nonetheless.
Through a programme of high-quality content creation and target dissemination via email, the media, newsletters and more, Inbound PR is an incredible tool to build trust over time.
2. Drive prospects to your site with fantastic content
As we’ve said, excellent content lies at the heart of all Inbound PR. By this, we mean content that helps you to solve your prospects’ problems and earn trust.
Unique content tends to be data and insight-driven. Data and insight usually come from three places:
Proprietary platform data
If you’re a B2B service, then there is a strong chance that you’ll have a platform or systems that contain data.
If you can find a way to extract that data and package it up, then you could be onto a winner. Once again, your PR agency should guide you on all this.
These can be a great way to tap into industry sentiment and shine a light on common issues.
People love surveys if they are showing them something new or informing them.
You can carry out qualitative surveys and qualitative surveys.
Qualitative means that you focus on more detail from fewer people.
This could be a sample of ten people or more or even more. A great way to do this is an industry thought leader survey.
Take an issue, create a few questions around it and ask ten or more people you respect if they would take part.
The answers can then be packaged up into an ebook with the best answers shown for each question.
Quantitative means you focus on more answers and data from more people, often based on many sample groups.
The number of people you question can be as large as you like from 250 up to thousands.
Quantitative surveys can be a DIY job through a service like SurveyMonkey to keep costs down.
This budget approach only works if you have a sample of people to send to. Otherwise, you may need to engage with a research house or partner with another company that has the data.
Insight that’s sitting in your head (or maybe your colleagues head)
You likely have a lot of good advice and insight to impart to prospects.
Once again, a good PR agency should be able to extract that data using a good old fashioned interview.
If not, they can resort to mind lasers or futuristic thought-reading machines. (OK, we may have made that last bit up…)
Strong content based on unique data is often the best route to successful B2B PR. Journalists are always looking for something new and unique that will inform their readership.
Pitching in a report or piece of research will often lead to publication. This, in turn, can also lead to new visitors to your site.
Even better, if you publish a report on your site and it’s featured in an article, then you can gate the content and visitors will have to fill in their details to unlock the full content.
3. Package up the content in ways people will love and get it in front of the right people
Having great content is one thing, but then you need to package it up into different forms.
If you’re stuck with ways to get your content out there, then worry not. We’ve created a handy blog post and infographic of no less than 78 ways to package up the content.
There will be several factors at play when it comes to deciding how to present your content, such as:
Suitability for your audience’s knowledge level.
If you know who you’re talking to, then the content should match.
If you’re introducing someone to a topic, then it’ll be ‘An introduction to XXX’ or’ A beginners guide to XXX’.
This content assumes the reader is fresh and looking to you to educate them.
Content for a more knowledgeable audience will drill down into more subject-matter detail and assume the reader knows something about the subject already.
Suitability for your readers’ habits.
Consider how and when people are consuming the content.
For example, a podcast is great, but less commuting in the pandemic may mean less time for people to listen to it.
Short-form versus long-form
People are increasingly time-poor these days.
People may not have time to read long blog posts (ahem). Short videos (less than two minutes) are an excellent way to engage with people.
4. Identify some quick Inbound PR wins
Chances are, you want results sooner rather than later.
There’s no point in luxuriating over a multi-page, beautifully designed report that takes six months to produce.
Nor should you commission an infographic that could take weeks.
There’s also no sense in hiring professional videographers when you’re carrying an excellent video recording device in your pocket.
You get my drift.
But there is a lot that can be done to engage with your target audience quickly. These are a few things that don’t take a tremendous amount of time and money:
Run a quick webinar
Webinars that rely on you presenting for half an hour can take a considerable amount of preparation and rehearsal.
Instead, run a webinar with a Q&A (Question and Answer) where an expert in your company answers common client questions.
These can be ones you are most commonly asked, or you can invite people via LinkedIn (see above).
A ‘fireside chat’ webinar will usually involve a moderator interviewing someone in your company about a subject. Even better, make it a panel and bring in a client to add some third-party validity and evidence.
Webinars are great as people usually need to register for them and leave their details. LinkedIn Events can be an easy way to promote an event and have a reasonably frictionless registration process.
If you’re feeling a bit more spontaneous, then there is always LinkedIn Live.
Create a podcast.
Podcasts are super simple to run.
All you need is a good piece of software like ZenCastr, which even post-produces the podcast for you.
Add a decent quality condenser mic. We love the Yeti Snowball. You can even have a good intro, and outro jingle made using a service like Fiverr. You can then syndicate via BuzzSprout.
Find some PR angles – hopefully with data
If you have access to unique data in your company, it can be pretty quick and painless to extract it and share it out.
If you have a PR agency, then they should be able to help you. This is to guide you in what is newsworthy and then to get it in front of the journalists.
Make some short, snappy videos
There’s a top-quality video-capable camera in your pocket right now.
That’s right. Get your smartphone out and make some quick, snappy content.
Create a list of 20 client questions and then make short-form 90-second videos to answer them.
Check your settings as most decent modern smartphones will record in 60fps to give a smoother quality.
Don’t worry too much about editing, titles or any of that rubbish. The current vogue is for something a bit less rehearsed and a bit more rough and ready.
If you want to make things a bit more polished then, by all means, use a gimbal or a lapel mic.
Once you have the videos, then share them on LinkedIn to drive engagement. Maybe even invite your connections to ask more questions for your next video.
Write an informative ‘how-to’ or ‘top tips’ blog
This may not be the most creative idea, but blogs can be written in hours and shared very quickly.
It’s also a good idea to refresh old blog posts with new ideas and data and share them.
Create a newsletter
Newsletters are a great way to reconnect with your prospects. This is another quick win.
If you’ve not done newsletters, then a platform such as Mailchimp has a load of templates for you to choose.
The newsletter can then promote your new and refreshed blogs as well as any events such as webinars and other types of activity you’re doing.
Create and develop some case studies
If you haven’t revisited your case studies recently, then now is a great time.
Case studies are an effective way to prove what you do. They can be presented in many ways, from a simple web page to nicely designed PDFs and videos.
It can be a great idea also to include a customer of yours. The case studies can then be shared on Linkedin or even featured in your newsletter.
Up your game on Linkedin
For any B2B business, Linkedin will be your top destination. Many companies and individuals often don’t have the time, but it’s a great place to increase your company profile and drive engagement.
- Post videos on your profile.
- Promote content and events through your profile as well as your colleague and company pages.
- Use hashtags to boost the reach of posts.
- Use Linkedin tools like Events to capture leads signing up for events that you’re running.
- Post polls and ask questions to engage people.
- Use Linkedin to join relevant groups to help people and answer questions.
5. Capture and measure all your leads with Inbound PR
Once you’ve driven traffic back to your site, either to read a blog or access a piece of content, it’s imperative to capture these leads.
Well, there are a few ways you can do this, such as:
Gating your content
It’s common practice to ask people to fill in a form before accessing an ebook or other content pieces.
It’s a common thing to do, BUT we have a couple of other ways of doing it.
Why hide a great piece of thought leadership content behind a form when it can be used as a long-form post for tremendous SEO value?
Instead of gating an ebook, why not paste the content in the blog in its entirety?
Then (here’s the good bit) put a form at the top saying ‘Not got time to read this? download the ebook now.’
This way, you unlock the SEO value of the content. This makes it much more accessible and shareable. You’ll still leave people the option of downloading something.
Capture newsletter sign-ups
There are some great programmes out there to do this, usually via intelligent site pop-ups. We’re big fans of OptinMonster.
Drive event sign-ups on multiple platforms
Webinars are great for capturing new leads. We use two platforms for this:
- LinkedIn Events makes event promotion frictionless for people to register via LinkedIn.
- Eventbrite helps capture people who are searching for relevant events.
Once you’ve started capturing your leads, then you need to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Luckily, we’ve created a handy webinar on PR measurement, which you can watch here.
The best way for any business development person to measure PR campaigns’ effectiveness is to use a marketing automation system.
A marketing automation platform combines a CRM with email marketing, forms and more.
This closes the loop between Sales and PR/Marketing for true campaign attribution.
Marketing automation gives a score to all your leads, increasing the more they engage with your content.
The score will also decrease over time to help you define who your lapsed leads are. That means that it’s time to show them some love.
If you don’t have a marketing automation platform, then there are other ways to measure the link between PR and sales, such as via Google Analytics and other means.
There’s a whole host of ways for Inbound PR to be an incredibly effective tool to drive leads and help you in your sales process.
From trust-building and establishing thought leadership via content and PR to driving lead capture with event sign-ups, there’s a load of things that can be done quickly and cost-effectively to drive inbound leads.
So, what are you waiting for? Good luck!