The discussion about accountability in the PR profession is as old as the profession itself. In our sector, we generally communicate indirectly with our target groups and on a fairly abstract level, so we are reluctant to make predictions about the results of our work. It’s hard to make solid statements about the results of an awareness campaign, of PR activities intended to improve a reputation or create understanding of a point of view during a citizen participation project. You can only gain insight into the results of these campaigns through measurement. This involves significant budgets, which organizations usually don’t want to allocate to communications and PR.
In the advertising world research on reach, viewing and reading behavior and behavioral changes is fairly well established. These tools are certainly also useful in marketing PR. Years ago, Wisse Kommunikatie started offering media planning as an integral part of the communication approach for certain clients. Initially, we found that very annoying – especially the ex-journalists in the office – because we also believed that editorial (read: free publicity) and advertising should remain strictly separate. However, then we realized that a PR agency, based on its knowledge of the media, might be even better suited to make media choices than an advertising agency. We judge not only on the basis of reach, but also on the basis of the editorial atmosphere and appearance, which both must suit a customer. Moreover, the trade journals became more commercial in their struggle for survival. In most professional media, free publicity without ‘sponsorship’ is hardly possible anymore. This is justifiable when it comes to commercial (product) news, but unfortunately, there is a lot of professional media that does not cover valuable information from companies because they are not willing to pay for publication. This will ultimately be reflected in the poor journalistic quality of such media, which makes the editorial environment less and less attractive.
Particularly in marketing PR the communication objective is clear: to ensure that the target group becomes acquainted with the product, so that they contact the supplier and purchase the product. Typically, our clients sell expensive, complex, or technically high-quality products, that require a detailed, in-depth explanation. A few bullet points in an advertisement will not suffice. In order to get the message across, professional content is needed, which in a journalistic way, explains the technology behind the product, its applications, the possibilities, and the advantages and disadvantages. Such information – in text, image or audio – has traditionally been the domain of PR.
Professional, journalistically responsible content is almost always well-read if it responds to the informative needs of the reader. In that respect, our customers do not find it particularly useful to know when medium x publishes an article about their company or their product and only supplies information about the number of people that read it.
Leads through journalistic content
In recent years we have gained very good experiences with a ‘hybrid’ model. On the one hand we use high-quality journalistic content about trends, innovation and applications for free publicity purposes, allowing us to generate awareness for our client and technology. In a second phase, we use that content for white paper marketing.
On the other hand, we create more commercial stories for our client that we place as sponsored content in print media, on portals, in digital newsletters and on social media channels. If you link that information to unique landing pages on the customer’s site, they will get a good idea of the traffic resulting from the information. In doing so, we have seen a 600% increase in traffic for one of our clients (this is not a typo). If the visitors are also traceable and give GDPR-proof permission for further contact, the customer can immediately direct the leads to their ‘sales funnel’. A big advantage is that leads that come in on journalistic content are usually high quality. After all, people take the time to click through and – judging by the longer average reading time – they prove to be actually interested in the product.
As a next step, we set up ‘journalistic content automation’ for some customers. This is systematic and automated distribution of journalistic content to establish contact and to engage prospects by frequently offering high-quality information and – in the long run – to convert them to clients. There are many companies that have invested in marketing automation in recent years, but are very disappointed with the results. Perhaps they should consider outsourcing the associated content production to a PR firm that can turn key messages into compelling content and your investment into leads. You can of course always call us.