The Art Of Inbound PR

As both a blogger and digital marketing professional I sit on both sides of the fence when it comes to PR. One example of this?

Companies send me pitches and try to encourage me to talk about their brand. Concurrently, I help brands create strategies to connect with audiences (although we don’t “pitch” the way most reporters are pitched) from media to the web at large.

I’d highly recommend that any marketing and PR pro put themselves in the same position, as you’ll gain invaluable perspective from both sides of the table. Going through the process is powerful.

Sure, one of the simple and tactically useful things you’ll learn by becoming media is how to pitch, because if you’re even a little successful you’ll start to be pitched yourself. And there’s no better way to learn what works than being on the receiving end of a bad pitch.

This is a deceptively simple skill, in that you’d think everyone would have it down by now. That’s of course not the case: as any media professional will tell you the amount of bad pitches they receive far outweighs the good ones. It’s why strong media relations is an extremely valuable skill to have, it is (shockingly) still not widely distributed.

But what is even more important than learning how to pitch is by becoming media you’ll go through the same information discovery process modern media go through to craft stories. You’ll use search engines and learn the advanced operators (as well as how to effectively monitor your category on the web). You’ll use social channels to ping your networks for quotes, opinions and information. You’ll come across story ideas through pure serendipity of  using stream-based platforms. You’ll build a community from scratch.

Through this, you’ll start to gain a clearer perspective of how ideas spread online. And only then can you understand the art of inbound PR (or pull PR, as we’ve called it before).

Not to completely discount media relations, but I think for the sophisticated brand an inbound approach – where media, users and other companies react to your brand’s content, ideas and leadership in an unsolicited fashion, or find and then pitch you on a story – is a far more strategic play. I’ve implemented enough programs and seen success replicated enough times I’ve become sold that inbound success is what you should aspire to.

It requires analytical and research skills, deep domain expertise and a commitment to succeed, in essence weeding out those with less passion. You have to consistently show up. You take risks and experiment. You basically need to  to iterate your ideas forever. And that’s a huge reason it’s so effective: so few actually commit to the notion of becoming media themselves (a requisite of inbound).

The longer I’ve concurrently been a publisher and online marketing / PR practitioner, the more I view an inbound program as the most elegant approach to communications you can take. You gain an executive perspective on content, are in a position to flesh out narratives over the long term, make data-driven decisions and approach communications as an equity-building activity vs. a reactive approach which always relies on other people’s platforms to gain a fleeting voice.

Let’s not kill outbound PR, but let’s use it as a tactic within a larger strategic framework which focuses on building a community through your own unique brand of media.

What do you think?

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