Inbound PR: The Key is Attracting Media, Rather Than Interrupting & Disrupting

Written by: Holly Clark

BlueChip’s Head of Integrated Marketing, Danielle Stitt, has just returned from one of the world’s largest marketing conferences in Boston where she was introduced to the concept of Inbound PR by Illiyana Stareva who coined this nifty label.

Shiny new concepts, labels and a potential better way to service clients are always exciting in our world so I was very eager to find out what the fuss is about and whether this really will change the way we operate.

And if Facebook is investing in online courses for journalists to help them discover content, create stories and engage with audiences online, I’m figuring we need to dig a little deeper into how to apply the inbound methodology to media relations.

To the uninitiated Inbound PR is this - understanding the content and channels that are required to lead media on a journey of discovery from being complete strangers to your brand to eventually becoming advocates.

The key to Inbound PR is attracting media, rather than interrupting and disrupting , and making the impact of your content on media measurable at all stages.

So what does it actually mean? If you hold the outdated view that PR = blasting out a media release to your rolodex of contacts, then to use Iliyana’s words, this might serve as a ‘wake up call’. But if you have recognised the evolution of media and know that great targeted content sits at the heart of earned, owned, paid and shared media and is instrumental in building ALL relationships (including with journalists) then you can relax. Well just a little bit.

Inbound PR effectively means we treat media in much the same way as a customer – we need to understand them (or their media persona), we need to know what they are interested in, serve them palatable content, entice them and build relationships by inviting them to exclusive events, giving them exclusive content, sharing their stories and all the usual stuff PR professionals do blind-folded. We also need to understand that media research stories in the same way customers do their research to make buying decisions and if you can’t be found, you won’t be considered. Journalists are time-poor so we need to make it easy for them.

By now most of us know the value of great content but where Iliyana may have hit a raw nerve for some is her belief that PR people ‘suck’ at measurement and that this is still one of our biggest sticking points. Measuring objectives such as ‘raising brand awareness’ and ‘becoming a thought leader’ have historically been difficult without blowing the budget but it’s become a lot easier. There is an overwhelming amount of metrics available to demonstrate impact and global leaders AMEC, the international association for the measurement and evaluation of communication, have made strides in this area with tools such as their evaluation framework.

For me, the most valuable aspect of Inbound PR is having a structure for what so many of us are already doing but not explaining well to our clients. We can use this to show how the content we need to nurture media relationships according to where they may be in the stranger to advocate journey. And the tools Iliyana has provided such as the Inbound PR Newsroom are a really great checklist.

So will Inbound PR radically change the way we work? It has the potential. The truth is that good PR people are already doing a lot of Inbound PR but the rigour and discipline this will helps us to deliver will be a great aid to our clients and to the journalists that matter to them. This is more than PR getting an image overhaul, it is a change in mindset that gives us great focus on meaningful outcomes.