If you Google “how to choose a PR firm,” you’re likely to find a bunch of articles by PR firms that will suggest that you look for agencies just like theirs. That’s content marketing after all–trying to answer people’s questions about a business challenge with helpful information that subtly conceals varying levels of self-promotion.
This is not one of those articles.
There are really two things a PR agency must be able to offer, and many can do both. It needs to be able to integrate digital marketing strategies with PR, and it needs to have a media database platform like Cision, Meltwater or Muck Rack.
Digital Marketing and PR are About Trust
The lines between PR and marketing have blurred as the content revolution has changed the way people consume information and decide what information they will trust. Content marketing is about helping people solve problems, not selling them stuff. This is especially true in the B2B world. You’re not going to trick someone into buying something they don’t need. You want to help them, even if helping them means directing them to another supplier. This is good for you too because if you’re not the right answer for a buyer today, they might come back when they have the right challenges.
PR is also about building trust–trust with journalists and with their readers. Journalists are hungry for real news and unfortunately many, many companies just ship out self-promotional press releases and pitches that talk about the greatness of the company and its products.
Kendall Baker, writer for The Hustle, delivers to the cold truth to PR folks. “Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t care about who you are or what you do.”
If you have real news, and can demonstrate to a journalist that you understand his or her beat, publication and audience, you’ll be helping the journalist do his or her job just as in marketing you aim to help shoppers solve their problems.
“Your pitch has to offer me value,” Baker says. “Rather than explaining what x company does and why they’re awesome, show me why their story will drive traffic to my article and resonate with my audience.”
PR and SEO
Digital PR also works like digital marketing in that getting stories about your company covered by reputable media sites does wonders for a company’s SEO. Google ranks sites in large part by how trusted they are by users and by other credible sites. Backlinks from sites with high domain authority are powerful SEO tools, and media sites are among the most reputable domains on the web.
Why Media Databases Are Essential
In today’s fragmented media world, a media database is essential for PR on any kind of scale beyond local media. Media databases are storehouses of journalists, beats, publications, recent articles, and their reach. They help you target the right media, find the right writers and editors, and communicate with them directly from the platform.
It’s absolutely essential to know who you are pitching and to personalize messages to specific journalists and publications that are important to your brand. As Baker says, “Know who you’re talking to.” He shares an example of a pitch that invited him to an event in Chicago. “First off, I’m in San Francisco. On top of that, this event’s in like a week and I’ve never heard of your [company] in my life.”
Showing that you know who you are pitching “builds a relationship right off the bat, making it more likely that I continue reading and then email back,” Baker says. Media databases give you the information you need to build trust with journalists that can pay dividends long into the future. Honestly, if a PR firm/marketing agency doesn’t use a media database platform, and your intention is to reach a national or global audience, it probably isn’t worth the investment.
Media database platforms can also help you measure the impact of your outreach efforts, place press releases on wire services, and monitor press coverage for your company and your competitors. But their most important value is in their ability to help you find the right people to pitch from lone bloggers to the right writer at a large media outlet.
PR Has Changed
PR has changed from a discipline that solely drives brand awareness and thought leadership to one that also can drive measurable business results in the form of traffic, leads and sales. A good marketing/PR agency can help you identify the news that might be buried in your promotional material, reach the right media outlets and journalists with relevant, valuable stories, and build your SEO credibility and web traffic.
For more help with PR check out the Ultimate Guide to Public Relations resource page.