Gone are the days where PR efforts solely revolve around media relations, press releases and pitches. In the digital age, you are expected to do more with less, changing the PR landscape to include inbound marketing efforts. By integrating messaging, content, and social with marketing automation software and improved measurement, PR is becoming a powerful tool to drive prospective customers into the sales funnel. Together, public relations and inbound marketing drive awareness, build trust and increase ROI.

While seemingly different, both PR and inbound marketing rely heavily on quality content creation. In early 2017, PAN Communications surveyed over 100+ marketing professionals as part of its fourth annual Content Fitness Report (CFR), querying marketers on the “health” of their content marketing programs. PAN discovered that the majority of marketers surveyed remain at an intermediate level in terms of integrating content marketing with other programs like PR and social media. There’s a gap in the ability to amplify content – with 57 percent of respondents only halfway towards fully integrating the execution, distribution or optimization of their content.

The value recognition is clear – cohesive storytelling, keeping pace with the customer’s journey, heightened lead gen and ROI – these integration strategies are high-priority for CMOs. For this reason, efforts should be combined under a single task force, and some brands may choose to work with an agency specializing in integrating communication efforts. Running these efforts together improves strategy performance in accordance to goals, campaigns, upcoming events and product announcements.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to executing successful integrated campaigns.


Step One: Lay the Groundwork: Buyer Personas & Messaging

While PR does an excellent job of increasing brand awareness and attracting new visitors to your website, inbound marketing creates conversions. Together, these efforts play a critical role in assisting the buyer along their path to purchase.

First, work with your integrated marketing agency or internal team to identify and develop your buyer personas. These personas will help your brand address and solve your customers’ pain points.

If you do not have existing personas, begin by determining your target audience. Understand who they are, what their pain points are and where and how they will be searching for and consuming information. Utilize an integrated agency to help you better understand your personas and create more effective messaging and content marketing assets. Keep in mind that customer sentiment and engagement remain the most popular metrics for gaining insight into your target audience. Since persona data will change over time, set reminders to keep these fresh and up-to-date with business goals. 

Once your buyer personas are developed, identify your brand’s targeted message. Each persona may require a different approach, but each message should tie into one overarching theme.  As part of your buyer persona refinement process, you should also be testing those messages to find the most effective engagement approach.

Once your personas and key messaging strategy is set, work with your agency to apply them to all integrated campaigns. Track progress on key metrics and analyze your goals along the way. Telling a story in this capacity reaches customers and prospects on all channels, while maintaining a consistent message.


Step Two: Connect With Your Audience by Listening & Engaging

To become a more effective storyteller, tap into your readers’ emotions. A recent article from Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO of Coupa Software, describes the “Engagement Economy” and the impact storytelling has on a buyer’s experience: “Marketing is all about winning the battle for the mind  of  the  customer,  and the  best marketers use emotion as a weapon of mass influence to win the battle through powerful storytelling.”

Personalized storytelling comes down to listening, learning and engaging with your customers. Remove assumptions and lead your audience along a journey without selling to them. Staying genuinely connected to your customers will convert better qualified leads.

While most marketers have surpassed the beginning stages of simply posting their content to social media platforms, 55 percent of PAN’s survey respondents have yet to take their social media strategy to the next level by listening and engaging with their target audience or implementing influencer relations strategies. That results in missed opportunities.

A solid storytelling strategy should serve as a guide for real-time conversations to ensure connections move seamlessly through the funnel toward conversion. Use your library of assets to show value and solve problems, communicating to prospects that your brand cares about more than just the bottom line. In turn, your company will be positioned as a trusted resource for information.

Step Three: Managing, Executing & Measuring Integrated Campaigns

With your buyer personas, brand messaging and storytelling techniques in place, the next step is managing, executing and measuring your integrated campaigns. Sixty-three percent of marketers are creating content without a documented strategy or means for defining success. Setting up one integrated approach with one integrated team to implement your campaign will help alleviate this pain point, alongside having the right tools in place to manage, document and track performance for more accurate results.

Marketers know they need to use data and analytics to better predict what content will resonate during each stage of the buyer journey and customer lifecycle, and ultimately lead to increased engagement and higher ROI. To accomplish integrated reporting, be sure to loop your agency into the wealth of data available via your martech stack, or seek proper training for your internal team members.

Gartner states that 87 percent of marketers believe that marketing technology is improving the marketing performance of their organizations. With integrated analytics and the right martech stack, showcasing  the ROI of marketing has become more achievable.

By choosing the right agency and an optimal mix of marketing technologies, you can avoid wasted time and delayed ROI from managing multiple teams or training staff to put a successful marketing program in place. With this type of support, your brand will be ready to connect with buyers at every phase of their journey. As a result, engagement will increase, resulting in better qualified leads and, ultimately, increased ROI.