Alloy logo

June 07, 2017

Team Member Renee Spurling

Renee Spurlin


Executive Vice President

This article originally appeared in the Hypepotamus.

Technically, the definition of PR is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Have you ever tried to tell startup founders that they need to invest in PR in order to create “mutually beneficial relationships?” Right.

PR needs a new definition – one that actually defines the many values of investing in it, such as sales leads, closed deals, increased valuations, talent acquisition and retention and so much more. The good news is that marketing automation tools – like Hubspot, SharpSpring and Atlanta’s own Pardot – are helping proactive PR pros redefine their value and provide measurable, impactful results.

First, a bit of history.

PR as an industry turns 120 years old this year, but instead of celebrating this benchmark of continued success, PR is actually on the decline. Agency/client relationship tenures have dropped drastically in recent years, signaling dissatisfaction, and employee retention is faring no better. PR has lost its perception as an innovative industry. In fact, PR firms only spend 1.9% of their annual revenue on technology – that’s well under half of other industries. And those technologies that we are using aren’t exactly transformative. Reporter databases, story-mining resources and news monitoring services have made some tasks easier, but they’ve made no fundamental difference in how we do our work.

Enter marketing automation.

Marketing automation tools, however, are poised to truly help PR teams transform – to address flaws in the ways the industry has traditionally operated. No more is great content buried on a hidden web page; no more is a news article a one-hit wonder; no more are we limited to measuring work by potential impressions, ad equivalency and share of voice against the competition. PR can now better integrate with marketing and sales, providing true value to the c-suite. Here are the top three ways it can do so:

  1. Giving content a turbo boost. PR teams produce tons of quality, targeted content – byline articles, white papers, reports, case studies, infographics, the list goes on. But these are often used for one media placement, one conference or trade show, one press release or one social campaign – then filed away and forgotten. Using marketing automation, these content pieces can live on indefinitely. They can become part of your website – gated so that visitors have to provide their contact information before accessing the content. They can become a part of an email nurture series, automatically sent when people take certain actions on your website. They can become valuable sales resources, provided to better educate and drive prospects toward a decision. Integrating your content efforts into marketing automation helps to ensure it will continue to be used as long as it’s relevant and driving results.

  2. Proving ROI. Marketing automation tools can help demonstrate meaningful value by providing a more detailed view of how PR’s efforts – from trade shows to media hits to influencer engagement – drive website visits, leads, conversions and sales. How do you tie a news article to a prospect inquiry or an event keynote to an increase in qualified website conversions? Using marketing automation, PR teams can now see not just their awareness building efforts, but follow the trail throughout the sales cycle.

  3. Integrating key organizational communicators. Traditionally siloed, PR, marketing and sales can now better work together. The PR team is responsible for building general brand awareness and communicating with all stakeholders; marketers drive interest in products or services; sales identifies right-fit buyers and closes deals. All three of these teams have a significant role in communicating and influencing key audiences, yet they are often disparate, lacking understanding of the core functions and value of the other teams. Marketing automation can help close the gap to create common goals, giving all three teams a holistic picture of content, communications efforts, conversations and conversions.

Wait, not so fast.

Unfortunately, marrying PR and marketing automation is a change that can’t happen overnight. Despite it’s name, an effective marketing automation program is anything but automated. After all, can you really automate a relationship? You can certainly automate certain communication pieces, but that’s why PR and marketing automation work so well together. Automation won’t work without paying close attention to your relationships, and PR works better with automation to help spread and measure your message. Lots of companies invest in a marketing automation tool without a plan for using it effectively – wasting money and expecting miraculous results. Instead, consider these four questions before making the leap.

  1. How big is your marketing database? How is it segmented? Marketing automation works best when you can deliver content to individuals based on persona and stage in the buyer’s journey. It could seem like a daunting task, but spending time segmenting your existing database accordingly will pay off in the long run.

  2. Do you have the content necessary to fuel marketing automation? If not, who will create it? Content is the driving force behind marketing automation. Conduct an audit of existing content – case studies, use cases, news articles, etc. – to figure out what you can plug into your marketing automation efforts and what will need to be developed.

  3. What features will you actually use? Marketing automation solutions boast some very cool features in terms of analytics, integrations, testing, segmenting and more. But if you don’t have the capacity or need to use all these features, why invest in them?

  4. What will you do with the leads? First, you need to have a plan for how you will nurture inbound leads, but you also need to make sure you have someone monitoring these leads, and personally following up when appropriate. After all, this is about building relationships.

Marketing automation software is powerful – and it’s excited to see the opportunity it’s presenting for PR pros to transform the craft into something more impactful and measureable.