It's no secret that technology is fundamentally changing the way most industries operate. Manufacturing has become largely automated. Improved logistics processes have created efficiencies previously unimaginable. Payments can be processed and transmitted faster than ever before. But PR, as an industry, has been slow to change. In fact, PR firms only spend 1.9% of their annual revenue on technology versus the 5.2% spent by other industries.
And the technologies we are using aren’t exactly revolutionary. Cision, the database of reporters that PR practitioners often use to research the right-fit contacts for their pitches, used to be a giant printed book. In its newest form, the book is now online. Sure, it’s now more easily searchable and more frequently updated, but at its core, the service is the same. The same is true for the services we use to track media mentions. Previously, agencies would enlist a clipping service that would find mentions of the agency’s clients and snail mail or fax them over. Now, we have Google Alerts and more robust digital media monitoring services that have made this process more efficient, but the results are still fundamentally the same – just in a different format.
Marketing automation tools, however, are poised to truly help PR teams innovate – to pave the way for new service offerings and improved PR ROI. These tools allow PR practitioners to spread the reach of their content like never before. They help PR to better integrate with marketing and sales. They provide PR new ways to measure their results, beyond soft metrics like impressions, share of voice and brand affinity. Despite these benefits, most PR firms have been slow to adapt to such technology. In fact, none of the top-grossing PR firms mention marketing automation on their websites. But they should, and here are the top 4 reasons why.
1. It significantly enhances existing technology investments
or even replaces them. For example, marketing automation suites like HubSpot and Pardot offer social scheduling and tracking, not only replacing scheduling and listening tools, but also giving added insights into exactly which contacts, prospects, customers and even reporters are your top influencers. Likewise, these tools can enhance the metrics you're getting from your website analytics. Not only can you see which media hits most effectively drive traffic to your website, you can also see the action visitors take once they arrive and whether they became qualified prospects or customers.
2. It gives content a turbo boost.
PR teams produce amazing content – byline articles, white papers, reports, case studies, infographics, etc. But these are often one hit wonders - 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 – or at least for as long as they are resonating. 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.
3. It proves PR ROI.
How to showcase results to the C-suite is an ongoing discussion – and challenge – among PR teams. How do we tie a news article to a prospect inquiry or an event keynote to an increase in qualified website conversions? Marketing automation tools can help us 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. Using marketing automation, PR teams can now see not just their top of funnel influence, but follow the trail throughout the sales cycle.
4. It Integrates three key groups of organizational communicators:
1) the public relations team responsible for building general brand awareness and communicating with all stakeholders, 2) marketers responsible for driving interest in your company's products and services, and 3) sales teams responsible for identifying right-fit buyers and closing 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.
In 2017, PR’s 120th year, it’s time to embrace technology to overcome the challenges that have plagued the perception of our industry. I look forward to seeing how progressive PR teams use marketing automation (and will share some consideration tips in an upcoming blog!). To learn more in the meantime, download our new playbook, Inbound Marketing: The Missing Link in ROI-Driven PR.