“When I was CMO at Expedia, I had a 300 million dollar marketing budget, and I told many people that if I had five dollars left, I would spend that on PR. It’s just that important,” said MacDonald.
Today’s CMOs have to think beyond tactical PR – crisis communications and company emails – and onto the internet, and the possibilities of online content.
It works like this: PR drives interest, interest becomes traffic, traffic creates leads, leads enter pipeline and pipeline converts to revenue.
PR is your marketing program’s online marquee. If you’re running a content marketing program, PR tactics such as blog posts, webinars, social media, news releases, matte article placements – all serve to draw potential customers to your gated content. PR therefore becomes essential to top-of-funnel engagement.
If the program is coordinated in such a way that marketing, advertising and PR are firing the on all channels at the same time, the combined disciplines will leverage each other for best overall results. For example, your blog post can include a download link to your white paper. Your webinar can share the same topic as your white paper. Your ads link to the whitepaper. Your news release can cite stats from the whitepaper, and so on.
MacDonald said success is the result of your entire mix, over time. “I believe it’s an ecosystem,” he says.
Earned media can bring credibility to your brand claims by involving the views of an objective third party, assuming the journalist backs you up. Favourable mention by a good journalist or blogger can be just the thing to tip a consumer into your sales funnel.
The truth is, earned media is hard to get – especially a positive, claims-backing assessment written by a respected reporter. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pursuing, as the very pursuit can have positive effects beyond editorial coverage: traditional PR tactics contribute keywords into the online world of search engines.
“In the online space, engaging with a big publisher or a blogger with interest in your offering has a direct and tangible impact on your business,” said MacDonald. “It’s not just the benefit of them saying good things or just generally talking about you, there’s also a very specific and tangible value in their inbound links.”
“How you get found in this day and age is to a great extent tied to how you perform within search engines like Google or Bing,” said MacDonald. “The credibility you get in search engines is determined in part by how many people are linking to you.”
Further, MacDonald explains that if someone like the New York Times or the Vancouver Sun says something about your brand in a story that contains a relevant, popular search term, the story – and your brand by association – is then viewed by search engines as highly credible, which in turn helps to improve your search ranking in unpaid search. That’s an extremely valuable benefit that helps people find you more easily, putting you at the top of their consideration list.
Most organizations understand the value of strong PR in a crisis, and appreciate the news coverage when it comes, yet many still don’t view PR as integral to revenue. So how does PR convince the CMO that they need to become a greater part of business strategy?
Measurement, says MacDonald. And part of that is seeing where inbound links are coming from. “You need to offer something tangible. Tracking in the online space is incredibly valuable because you can literally see and monitor it in real time, giving you a indisputable statistic that you can bring to the table.”
“For someone to get to know your brand and for you to build meaning from that engagement happens over a period of time as a result of multiple positive points of contact,” said MacDonald. “Measurement needs to be your guiding star.”
Data is the key to bridging the gap in perceptions between what you’re doing and your clients’ bottom line. To learn more about data and PR, download this white paper, PR and Demand Generation: PR’s Big Data Opportunity.
A version of this article originally appeared on the CNW blog and has been reposted with permission.