We are entering a new era of globalisation – a digital one – McKinsey says. Practically non-existent 15 years ago, digital flow of information and content now exerts a larger part on GDP growth than the centuries-old trade in goods.
What we once called normal is no longer normal, it's traditional and old-school. Digital is disrupting the way we lead our lives and the way we do business.
The outbound methods of pushing messages via TV, radio or direct mail no longer work. People ignore all that. We've become a lot more sophisticated because technology and online have offered us a lot of choice to design our ego ecosystems where we decide what to consume and what to ignore.
The problem for business is that right now there's way too much noise everywhere which creates a huge challenge when trying to reach your audience. Hence the need for a partner in solving this challenge – an agency that's an expert in communicating your messages to the right audience at the right time with the right tools.
But this presents yet another challenge: the list of agencies out there is huge too. Not all of them, though, are experts in the new world of digital, and among them, fall some PR agencies too.
PR agencies still have this weird aura around them, being seen primarily as media relations experts and not getting respect.
I've worked in the industry myself and now being on the other side consulting agencies on how to grow their business, I see the pains again and again every day. And they all revolve around one thing – the inability to measure and track results.
I've made two big realisations over the past 12 months observing all this:
- PR people really do excel at storytelling and content.
- But PR people really do still suck at measurement.
What happened then was that as someone who now works at the company that invented inbound marketing, I just connected the dots. Inbound marketing and PR together make so much sense for the two reasons above.
Marketing struggles with content, PR struggles with measurement. But if we combined the two, then we had the perfect solution as an agency partner to a business. And that's how Inbound PR was born:
Inbound PR combines the best of two worlds – public relations and inbound marketing – and alleviates PR’s biggest weakness (measurement) and inbound’s biggest challenge (content).
This makes inbound the perfect fit for PR agencies.
Let's dig into this more.
3 Reasons Why PR Agencies Need to Adopt Inbound PR:
#1. Everything is Digital
We are living in a world where almost everything happens online. I've heard many people say that newspapers as we know them in their print version will disappear in 10 years. What does this mean for PR agencies? Well, you are going to have to go digital all in and finally show that PR is not just media relations.
Why this is not a reality already, I still can't fathom to explain. PR agencies are notoriously known for not being able to adapt quickly enough. This slowness happened once already – with social media. Even though it made perfect sense for the relationship-builders – the PR people – to own this space, it was advertising and SEO and marketing etc. agencies who were quicker at jumping on the bandwagon, learn social and offer it to clients, and then earned a bunch of PR awards.
Now a lot of this is happening again with digital. Digital and inbound are all about content. And who's great at content? Who's best at content? Well, PR. It's what PR people do. They are storytellers, they are writers, they can create remarkable content. Without remarkable content, no one will notice you anymore. There's way too much noise out there now and the fight for attention is tremendous. It's only with remarkable content that you can stand a chance. PR agencies, this is your way to the boardroom, your opportunity to show and prove how important you are.
And as the next disruption – robots – is just around the corner, you better tackle the previous one – cdigital – asap.
#2. Measure It All
Measurement is the big debate in PR that has been going on forever. The majority of PR practitioners are still not measuring or evaluating the results of their work, even though there are plenty of tools and advice out there.
Many PR people are still using AVEs (advertising value equivalent), although there are more than enough alternatives available. Even Meltwater – one of the well-known media monitoring software service providers – recently found itself in the middle of an online storm when they published a whitepaper fully supporting AVEs.
It seems like it's too hard and complicated for PR people to make sense of all this and develop a system that's simple enough to be adopted. The Barcelona Principles are trying but not succeeding.
What PR agencies need is a methodology that runs through the entire array of PR activities and aligns outputs with outcomes to measure results.
That's where inbound comes in. PR agencies can create a simple measurement framework as I explain in detail in this post. Gini Dietrich also provides an awesome case study of how this works. She uses PESO as a model but it fits into inbound quite well too.
#3. Let Your Expertise Shine
There are hundreds of thousands of agencies out there and as we've explained, the barriers between marketing, PR and advertising are blurring. The competition among agencies for winning clients is fierce. Not only that, traditional consulting firms now fight for your clients offering the same services too.
That's where the importance of agency positioning comes into play. Multiple studies have shown that clients want experts, not generalist firms. They don't want an agency that promises everything to everybody – that's not very credible – they want real results from specialists who deeply understand their business.
With Inbound PR, PR agencies can truly let their expertise shine – storytelling and relationship-building. Because content is at the centre of all inbound. It's remarkable content that attracts people to the business, turns visitors into leads, helps close them as customers and ultimately drives results for the business.
Inbound PR let's PR agencies focus on what they are great at and capitalise on that expertise by creating remarkable content and measuring its results all the way through.
PR people understand how content works. They understand audiences, how they tick and what they need – whether customers or media. They understand the importance of relationships and how to drive them – whether on social or with the media. They understand how important a company's reputation is and can shape it since businesses fail to that on their own. No surprise then that budgets for PR and digital are going up, so PR people better not disappoint.
Ultimately, Inbound PR is about transforming an outdated agency business model and making it relevant again for the digital future. By being able to let your expertise shine and also measure the results of all your activities, you can create a repeatable business model for your agency and have clients come back for more, allowing you to drive recurring revenue and sustaining growth.
So what are you waiting for?