Gone are the days of picking up the phone and pitching your latest product launch or award to the biggest print publications in the city. Instead, the majority of media research is carried out online.
When someone has a problem they need solving, nine times out of ten, they’ll fire up Google and type in their search term - and journalists and media owners are no different.
If they’re looking for a story, stat, or an anecdote to accompany their latest piece, chances are they’ll start their search on the internet.
This is where inbound PR comes into play.
Rather than reaching out to journalists via the traditional outbound method of either picking up the phone or sending an email, inbound PR creates content that the right people are quickly able to find. Similarly, it can be a great way to attract potential buyers for your products.
What is Inbound PR?
Inbound PR uses similar principles to the inbound marketing model (particularly when it comes to content) to help amplify a brand.
The ultimate goal is to provide the right information at the right time to people who are looking for information about a brand and its story. This could be potential buyers or journalists and media professionals - basically, anyone you want to discover your brand.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of inbound PR compared to traditional PR is it’s far more measurable. Automation tools and analytics make it easy to track how many eyeballs a piece has had, how many downloads a piece of content gets, and how many end conversions a product generates.
The Inbound PR Methodology
Similarly to inbound marketing, there are three key stages in the inbound PR model:
- Attract: this stage is where people become aware of your brand in some way. It can be through a blog post, a mention in a news article, a social media pointer, or a simple Google search.
- Engage: during this stage, the goal is to engage the reader and encourage them to start a conversation with you. This might include creating downloads to get them on your email list or directing them to your contact form or press enquiries page to reach out.
- Delight: finally, you want to continue to delight your newfound audience. This is essentially the relationship-building stage, where you strengthen your connection with buyers and media professionals through ongoing content and regular updates.
Why is Inbound PR Important?
The internet has changed the PR world. It’s easier than ever to connect with journalists in different sectors and get your brand in front of the right people - but there’s also a wealth of new competition.
We now have three key platforms:
- Earned - the media publications you get your brand and products mentioned in, as well as influencers you secure partnerships with
- Owned - this refers to content on your own website and any other channels that belong to you, such as email marketing and social media
- Paid - this refers to sponsored posts and paid ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn
The combination of these three platforms means there’s a lot more to focus on. Securing mentions in external publications isn’t always enough. Instead, it helps to have a healthy mix of all three, and inbound PR plays a huge role in the owned portion of PR.
How to Do Inbound PR
Now you know what inbound PR is and why it’s important to a comprehensive PR strategy, let’s look at how you can action it in eight stages.
1. Set goals
Every PR campaign needs an end goal, otherwise, how will you know that it’s succeeded?
Setting goals helps you ensure the campaign stays on track and is getting the results you want.
Goals should be concrete, specific, and in your control.
For example, you might decide you want to “increase site visitors by 20% in three months” or “add 50 people to our email list every month”.
Once you have a goal in mind, you can determine what actions you need to take to get there. If your goal is to increase site visitors, you might create more content or post more consistently on social media. Numbers make it easier to track where you’re at, but you can always tweak your goals once you get started to make them more realistic.
2. Define stakeholder personas
Stakeholders can include both media professionals and potential buyers. Basically, we’re talking about people who might have a vested interest in your brand. For PR campaigns, you’re looking at two potential personas:
- Buyer personas
- Media personas
Both will carry out research in different ways, and both will be looking for different things from your brand and products.
When creating personas, you need to dig deeper than simple demographics. Knowing the age and location of your audience is important, but you should also understand their psychographic tendencies
This means having a good grasp on their biggest challenges, the solutions they need, and how they research those solutions.
Ask yourself these questions when creating a buyer persona:
- Where and how do they research products?
- What are they looking for when they make a purchase and what are their biggest concerns?
- What challenges do they face when making a purchase?
And ask yourself these questions when creating a media persona:
- How and where do they research a potential story?
- What are they looking for when writing a story?
- What concerns or challenges do they have when researching or writing a story?
Understand the answers to these, and you’ll be able to create useful content that helps your personas make a decision.
3. Understand stakeholder journeys
Understanding the challenges and concerns of your stakeholders is the first piece of the puzzle.
After that, you need to discover the journeys they take when researching a story or a purchase.
Look at the entire journey from start to finish, including what kind of content they read and how they consume it.
Dig into your analytics here to identify top-performing posts and the steps readers take after they’ve consumed them.
For journalists, consider whether they’re most interested in data and facts or stories and interviews. Your different stakeholders will have different paths on your site.
Buyer Persona Journey
- Attract: I have a problem
- Engage: I’m researching solutions
- Delight: I’ve chosen a brand to solve my problem
Media Persona Journey
- Attract: I need to write a story
- Engage: I’m researching ideas
- Delight: I’ve chosen my story and am selecting brands and influencers
Knowing the needs of your stakeholders at each step of the journey means you can provide them with the right information as soon as they need it.
This will keep them moving through the cycle and ultimately result in more sales or more media mentions.
4. Create a content plan
Content connects inbound marketing and inbound PR. Without content, you have no information to serve stakeholders and no way to attract potential buyers to your site.
Knowing the questions that these stakeholders have is helpful when it comes to creating the right content, which is why creating personas and discovering their unique journeys is critical in creating a good content plan
Think about the questions your personas ask throughout their journey on your site and build content around this.
Your content assets might include:
- Customer stories and interviews
- Blog posts explaining how your brand or product came to be
- Videos showcasing use cases for your product
- Downloadable ebooks that share stats and figures about your brand
- Landing pages that highlight the benefits of your product
Each of these types of content will appeal to a different audience at a different stage of the journey.
For example, a potential buyer researching their options might be interested in a video showcasing the uses of your product, while a journalist looking for brands to include in an upcoming story might be more interested in your customer stories. Slack's customer stories act as mini press releases.
Once you’ve established the content you need to create, map it out on a calendar to ensure you’re posting consistently. This will increase visitors to your site as your audience starts to expect content from you.
5. Promote your content
The final stage in the inbound PR process is promoting the content you’ve created
- after all, what’s the point if no one’s going to see it?
The way you promote your content will depend entirely on who you’re trying to target. Different stakeholders will prefer different channels, and it’s up to you to determine which ones they hang out on the most.
Here are some ways you can promote your content:
- Social media (but determine which platforms are their preferred - some will prefer Instagram, while others will favour LinkedIn)
- Forums and niche interest sites
- Paid ads, including social media ads and SERP ads
- Influencer marketing
- Sharing content with your email list
Slack shares its customer stories on Twitter.
Along with a content calendar of when you should post content, you should also have a calendar that outlines when and where you’re going to promote it. Having a promotion schedule will keep your promotion efforts consistent and ensure as many stakeholders as possible see your content.
Do You Have an Inbound PR Strategy?
Inbound PR is crucial for brands that want to stand out and reach stakeholders amidst a wealth of competition.
Creating content that tackles the common questions journalists, media professionals, and buyers have will create a slick journey that gets more sales and more media mentions.
If you haven't already started brainstorming and implementing an inbound PR strategy for your brand, now's the time to do so.