Integrating Marketing and PR
Creating a Comprehensive Strategic Communications Plan
For brands of all sizes, the start of a new year typically means putting the pedal to the metal on planning. As the dust settles from the holiday season, this is when most brands are defining what steps to take in order to reach goals laid out for the next 365 days. Most of us are putting the final touches on budgets, projections and expectations and getting down to the nitty-gritty of how those resources will be put to work.
In order to achieve tangible results, a comprehensive communications strategy is an essential first step. Public relations and marketing are both long-term initiatives, and smart preparation during this time can set your brand up for success and maximize your ROI.
At the table with your agency team and marketing director, now is the time to forge the foundation for a cohesive brand narrative that is tailored to your business goals and poised to boost your brand awareness this quarter.
Make Sure Your Marketing Partners are Acting as One Team
When you decide to partner with a marketing agency, it’s essential to ensure they understand your PR goals and practices. If your agency is an integrated marketing and communications firm, then the start of a new year is the ideal time to have that conversation.
Sit down — in the conference room or on Zoom — to discuss your broader business goals and develop strategies that leverage the entire breadth of the communications spectrum to meet them. What are your media relations goals? How will PR amplify your brand’s marketing initiatives? How will your marketing campaigns support your brand’s PR efforts? Is there cohesion between the messages in your press releases, social media posts, blog content and company newsletter?
Setting those goals up front will benefit your brand to move forward in tandem with your communications partners. According to recent data, just one in five PR professionals are involved in developing a company’s overall marketing strategy. This is, to put it plainly, a waste of valuable expertise and resources for your business. Your marketing campaigns can — and should — be brought to life in a way that interests both the media and the everyday consumer.
Metrics, findings, and trends from your marketing team can inspire and strengthen PR pitches. Insights about newsworthy topics, trends and media insights from the PR team can help your marketers plan product messaging, launches and announcements.
Update Your Brand Messaging and Put it to Work
Formulating the correct messaging for a brand is everything – it shapes the way the broader public will perceive your brand. A carefully developed tone of voice that speaks to your key stakeholders in their own industry language is what lays the groundwork for a good integrated marketing and PR campaign.
Your agency partners are a valuable asset for this; lean on the expertise of your branding partners to develop or refresh your core brand messaging guidelines. Do you have a master messaging document for your brand partners to reference? Are your key differentiators well defined? Is your tone of voice established? What are your brand’s goals, value propositions and key talking points for the new year? (Pro tip: If you’re having trouble defining those, our proprietary Trust Analysis was designed to do exactly that.)
Then, once your brand messaging is in a strong place, you can put those messages into actionable PR and marketing tactics. For instance, your brand messaging will be integral to your SEO strategy for the year. What do you want to be known for? What solutions are your target customers looking for? Those are the keywords you should strive to rank highly for in search engines like Google. Across all marketing channels, those keywords should be included in your media pitching, press releases, bylines, blog posts, website copy, etc.
And don’t be afraid to get creative. Ideate innovative ways to activate your key messages and differentiators and bring your marketing campaigns to life in a way that will interest the media and generate social buzz.
Here’s an example: Our own agency CEO and founder, April White, once created a campaign for Sealed Air — you know them, they’re the creator of Bubble Wrap! The brand wanted to reinvigorate their positioning as industry innovators, which can be a challenging feat for a B2B company in an established market.
So, April and her team designed a youth engineering competition for middle-school-aged students to create new inventions using the familiar Bubble Wrap material. The campaign culminated with an award ceremony at the Rainbow Room in New York City.
By combining the brand’s messaging goals with a powerful marketing activation and a sexy press hook, the Sealed Air Corporation’s first-ever Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors generated press coverage in top-tier media outlets like “Good Morning America” and People Magazine.
Earned Media is as Valuable as You Make It
Equally as important as earning a media placement is extending the life of it. Just because an article or video was published once doesn’t mean its shelf life is over. According to BrightEdge, 83% of search engine-generated traffic is derived from SEO while just 17% stems from paid search. Likewise, 53% of that traffic results from a user’s organic search. This means that optimizing and sharing your PR wins and marketing content across platforms, such as your website or blog page, can help drive valuable traffic. The entire content creation process can be geared toward multipurpose reuse.
And the wins don’t stop there – there are plenty of ways to continue maximizing coverage. PR wins can be used as fodder for social media posts, blog entries, newsletters, and more. Marketing content like graphics, executive quotes and research can boost your earned, interviews, bylined articles, white papers, and press kits. That powerful integrated approach requires that you set up a plan to leverage PR wins in your marketing assets, and to feed your marketing campaigns into your media outreach.
Tie Everything Back to SEO
Your PR and marketing content can be engineered to increase your search footprint in the long term. Because PR, marketing and SEO are long-term initiatives, good planning is the main driver of success. The key here is to circle back to your keywords. While backlinks can be a nice bonus in your PR placements, many publications decline to include them out of the journalistic principle to remain objective.
To weave SEO more deeply into your PR strategy, focus instead on incorporating your keywords into any byline or interview content your brand is generating. In addition to the value of those media placements, your brand will also see that those SEO phrases positively impact your search engine rankings for those key terms over time.
To track your progress and web traffic, you might also consider vanity URLs. These short, unique URLs can be created specifically for a particular campaign. Combined with Google Analytics, this tactic can track the traffic driven from your various media pitches, placements and press releases.
You can also super-charge those efforts with paid search and paid ads to support your PR and marketing activities. When a new PR campaign goes out, for example, you might utilize ads that tap into some of the keywords that have been used in the corresponding media placements. When people search for those terms, your results will come up at the top of the page — regardless of whether it’s organic or paid.
Moving forward into 2023, integrating your PR and marketing campaigns is a critical step to elevate your brand’s profile. Whether through traditional media, thought leadership content or social media, an integrated marketing and communications team can help capitalize on your branding efforts and generate awareness through shared goal-setting. Combining earned and owned media coverage can help create a strong identity, push a brand past its competitors and catapult it to new heights.
Trust Relations Team