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By Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer June 14, 2017 Reading time: 6 minutes


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In a perfect world, public relations and marketing teams would work together more often to achieve common goals. But let’s be honest: we’re all fighting an uphill battle in reducing organizational drag, and not everyone needs to be in your weekly marketing meeting.

I, however, believe marketing teams would benefit from inviting at least one person from their public relations teams into the mix more regularly so they’re tapping into the power of PR intelligence.

Here’s how it typically works…

Brand strategy teams set mandates around key messages by creating a boilerplate, message card, branding guidelines and so forth. Marketing’s job is then to identify key audiences and directly market to them through the lens of the brand.

But then there’s PR, which is commonly treated as a different mechanism altogether. PR’s job is to pitch and secure stories that align with the brand, as told through third-party endorsement. In doing this, PR professionals gather vital intel about message penetration, brand perception, and the storylines that are the most timely and interesting to industry-specific reporters.

Unfortunately, this knowledge goes largely untapped by marketers, which is a lost opportunity given that it’s the exact type of knowledge that could be driving more effective marketing campaigns.

Because I believe so strongly in the power of a PR-Marketing partnership, I wanted to share a few ways PR can help marketers achieve their ever-growing list of goals.

Marketing Goal 1: Gain a better understanding of which messages are resonating.

Marketing and advertising teams A/B test ad copy to see which messages resonate the most with their customers. They often go it alone without checking in with PR, instead leaning on the fact that they’re working with the creative team’s copywriter, and copywriters are all the extra “messaging expertise” the marketing team needs, right?

Yes, you can test messages effectively through A/B testing, UserTesting.com, Facebook ad campaigns, and so forth; but you can also align with your PR team to see which messages are resonating the most with the audiences who are reading articles about your brand in Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and more.

Jason Riggs, senior director of communications for micro-loans platform Kiva, gained an understanding of the effectiveness of sharing the inspiring stories of the small business owners Kiva’s loans benefit. Since journalists regularly feature these “borrower stories” when they write about Kiva, that fact can inform Kiva’s future marketing campaigns, helping to draw in more lender sign-ups (marketing goal) so Kiva can fund more individuals looking to drive social impact (the brand’s ultimate mission). Many of the insights Riggs discovered were due to his use of PR analytics and measuring the nuts and bolts of PR campaign success.

Once you understand which stories excite journalists and their audiences, you can identify keywords and subject matter to include in future marketing campaigns.

Marketing Goal 2: Better position your brand or product.

Say your company makes smart refrigerators. Your marketing team does some initial user research, and decides to market the product to tech-savvy millennials who make above a certain level of annual income. The marketing team then caters ads and email marketing campaigns to tech geeks, playing up features that will make them giddy.

While your PR team is targeting tech outlets such as Wired and Recode with the same story, they’re also pitching Elle Décor and Real Simple, emphasizing how the fridge makes a décor statement while making home life easier altogether. The PR team could, hypothetically, discover through PR analytics that the articles secured in the lifestyle magazines are driving 4x more web traffic than the articles in the tech publications.

They could then let their marketing cohorts know this interesting fact, and ask: Given the data, might we consider spending more marketing dollars in similar publications or build partnerships with brands that align with these ideals?

When marketing departments gain an understanding of which publications are helping the brand get the most reach and response, they will be able to further develop insights that can drive or pivot their campaigns in the right direction.

Marketing Goal 3: Keep your finger on the pulse of industry trends.

While a marketer’s jobs is to market, a PR professional’s job is to see trends and future stories before they happen. Because they’re constantly consuming news and putting context around brand stories for journalists, PR people are an incredible resource for trend spotting and research.

Examples of these trends, as surfaced by the media, include how brands will use VR to market their products five years from now, diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, artificial intelligence’s role in marketing automation, etc.

This “media trend expertise” can be useful to marketers in several ways: (1) If you’re producing content about these topics, you can use those articles for lead generation by engaging with a content retargeting service, or (2) The topics identified by your PR team can either validate or challenge your marketing strategies.

For example, there was a flurry of International Women’s Day content spreading across the web in March, and the brands that got ahead of the curve were able to create timely, emotive marketing campaigns that helped them lead in conversations that were important to their customers.

Marketing Goal 4: Measure brand perception more effectively.

According to a study conducted by B2B International, only 54 percent of B2B businesses have a program in place for measuring brand perception. And while marketers certainly have their ducks in a row for measuring the quantitative success of their campaigns, they don’t as easily gain insights about overall brand perception — which is where they can lean on PR.

Now that there are ample PRTech tools that empower PR professionals to measure the success of press hits down to fine granularity, they can share data about message pull-through, share of voice versus power of voice, and a number of other metrics that can help marketers determine how a brand is perceived when audiences are fed certain narratives.

Not too long ago, the lion’s share of this data was missing because PRTech hadn’t yet caught up with MarTech and AdTech. But now it has, and it’s a pretty darn good case for awarding PR a seat at the table.

Ultimately, both marketing and PR departments are pushing toward the same goals, and if marketers make a more concentrated effort to leverage the media and messaging intelligence of their PR teams, they will benefit in a big way.

Marketers can also consider adding PRTech tools to their MarTech stack for a more effective overview of all the work contributing to an organization’s marketing goals.

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