Increasing ROI by Aligning PR and Marketing

With COVID variants lingering and uncertainty about future variants, some industry events will either be virtual, hybrid or have low attendance. Marketing departments need new ways to connect and educate prospects and build a qualified pipeline. Creating strategic alignment between your PR and content marketing goals can increase ROI from both while filling the gap in-person events have left.

Sonia Awan, principal, Outbloom PR

The Webinar is Webi-no

A quick look at your favorite search engine for webinar fatigue lists stories of people Zoomed OutTM and suggestions for combating webinar fatigue.

Although you might not find statistics to support this, anecdotal evidence and conversations among marketers indicate that some people are tired of webinars.

Research from April 2021 focused the idea of webinar fatigue less around marketing and more about meetings. Despite this, several key takeaways still apply to corporate marketing webinars:

  • No best practices for interactions exist
  • Promoting group interactions
  • Breaking longer content into shorter chunks
Karen Walsh, Founder/CEO, Allegro Solutions

Although many marketers are using interactive polls or engaging in shorter webinars, they still find people aren’t registering for webinars as they did pre-pandemic.

Often, a well-crafted PR strategy can include online interviews or podcasts where your internal people are viewed as experts on a topic that maps to your product or services. They already have a built-in viewer or listenership.

The Main Event is… Virtually Non-existent

Even with vaccines, lingering fallout from Covid presents problems for in-person events. Looking ahead, if your marketing strategy revolves around events, you’re going to need to find a suitable replacement.

That fancy booth and swag strategy may no longer be relevant. A perk of events was the foot traffic, people meandering and accidentally discovering your booth.

From a digital marketing perspective, you need to replace foot traffic with eye traffic. A successful PR strategy can get you eyes. With people wandering around the internet the way they used to meander around an event, getting your company’s leadership team in trade and general news publications fills in that gap.

Don’t Find the Influencer; Be The Influencer

Everyone knows that third-party validation is the way to grab prospects’ hearts and minds. Case studies are the go-to for digital marketing strategies, particularly during the pandemic. Few believe what you say about yourself, for obvious reasons. So, doubling down on case studies and customer success stories now is a way to bolster word-of-mouth visibility.

Unfortunately, getting that all-important logo posted to your site becomes a hassle when you start working with customer legal departments. Even though the representative you work with loves you and your product, the attorneys can squash all hopes of getting a verified story on your site.

An effective PR strategy can give you a way to become the influencer rather than making you seek influencers. With your senior leadership team recognized by non-branded outlets, you get third-party verification of their expertise in the space. Your senior leadership acts as the personification of the product. If they’re experts and bring that expertise to the product, prospects will consider your product top-of-the line.

Aligning PR and Content

One of the things most PR people struggle with the most is getting the content necessary to make their clients shine. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C, you can only create a presence if you have information to give to publications.

In fact, if you’re a PR person, you probably have had one of the following (if not all!) problems:

  • You find a placement for content, but you have no content to give.
  • You have content to provide, but the client didn’t make it vendor-agnostic so you can’t place it.
  • You needed timely content for a quote or article, but you didn’t get a timely response.

None of these problems are unique to you as a PR person or your brand. The problem lies in the general disconnect that most marketing organizations have between the people writing their digital marketing copy and the people working the PR side of the house.

Start with Messaging

Your content team knows the company's narrative. If your content and PR teams collaborate, you can align the overarching storylines. For example, if your story is that you make it easier for companies to adopt cloud technologies, every message sent or comment made to the media needs to include why cloud adoption was a problem.

From the PR side, make sure you’re looking for the right opportunities. From the content side, you need to be able to spin a reporter's question to address your company’s story.

Get the Right Content

One of the challenges that content and PR people face is getting vendor-agnostic content. What a lot of marketing departments forget is that content writers are creative. Their entire job is to tell a story that discusses a prospect’s pain points, then align that narrative to their company’s products or services. Marketing departments sometimes think that PR content needs to cover how products solve a newsworthy problem, and that’s where marketing fails its PR team.

Every piece of content on your website tells the story of why your product is best. PR is about telling an industry that the people behind your product are experts. The key to good PR content is talking about pain points and generic solutions to problems that also point at your differentiators.

Going back to the cloud technology scenario above, a PR piece should discuss that “companies need a way to rapidly integrate multiple cloud-based applications and see all metrics in one location.” That’s a vendor-agnostic comment, but it would certainly hint at or suggest that your company’s differentiator is something a reader needs, without the added-on “and X Company gives you a single dashboard for measuring all activities to cut down on operational cost.” You want to heavily suggest that a value-add your company provides is what the reader needs, without mentioning that it’s your “plus one.”

Build Out Quotes in Advance

Think about quotes in news articles as if they are product placement in a movie or TV series. We know that Coca-Cola, Apple and Lexus pay to have their products prominently placed. The same is true for having industry or general news publications quote your senior leadership. Unfortunately, most PR strategies struggle because the appropriate writers can’t meet super short deadlines.

You can’t plan for every contingency, but you’re going to know if a newsworthy event impacting your vertical occurs. Why? Because your market will be buzzing about it, and your content team may be looking to create content responding to search about.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example. In March and April 2020, nearly every organization put content on their website discussing their COVID response. Many tech companies also created content around how their products supported remote work. Your people already write content that can help respond to questions. Reporters tend to ask similar questions because their stories often answer reader concerns.

Successful PR and content teams can craft generic responses to FAQs. Often, reporters are going to know things like what will the long-term effect be or how should people respond. They want those little snippets of advice.

You can draft out a series of generic responses around your subject matter expert’s persona, map them to your company’s +1s, and then fill in the particulars when the query arrives. By doing this, your company can stay on brand while getting more eye traffic.

Increased ROI Means Increased Cross-Functional Value

We’re all entering a brave new world of digital marketing. As companies look to increase revenue while cutting budgets, you need to make your marketing team the superheroes of your organization’s story.

If you’re effectively getting your PR and content teams to work together, you can increase the value of both. Not only can you get more eye traffic, but you can also rework content for your own corporate blog.

If your writers give your PR team content that aligns with your corporate messaging, you can cut parts or add more to change the essay, preventing duplication. Then, you can add your product or service specific call to action.

In other words, create a strategic partnership between content and PR. This gets more eye traffic for increased brand awareness, creates senior leadership expertise that translates to the products or services, and extra content for your editorial calendar for a little extra breathing room.

Sonia Awan, principal, Outbloom PR, Karen Walsh, founder and CEO, Allegro Solutions