Dorothy Crenshaw May 31, 2012 | 09:29:44

7 Ways PR Can Support Lead Generation

PR pros naturally believe that a well crafted public relations program is a sound investment for most businesses.  Yet we often caution clients against thinking about PR as a reliable way to generate demand.  It tends to work best as a branding tool. Publicity can result in bursts of lead or business generation when a big story hits, but it lacks the precision of advertising or direct marketing.

And yet, there are ways in which tried and true PR tactics and results, extended through social media or other marketing channels, can work reliably to support lead and business development, particularly for B2B companies.  Here are the most powerful ways to use PR to support business generation.

Merchandising earned media. Every company posts its best publicity hits on its website, yet they’re often in the form of expired links or hard-to-read PDF files.  It’s far better to keep publicity results fresh and to make sure they’re shared through relevant social media channels.  Better yet, major feature results can be marketed proactively in a customer newsletter, sales kit, or collateral piece.  They may also be used to great effect at trade shows and conferences.

Blending earned and paid media. Publicity is rarely 100% predictable, but seasonal campaigns can present big opportunities.  For a client with a strong digital security story, we routinely created a burst of news just before tax season, when the new feature is most relevant.  As the survey became an annual publicity event, the client began to use the earned media results in a direct mail campaign to dealers.  They also bought search ads around the digital version of major print and broadcast segments. The result was a 1+ 1 = 3 marketing push at exactly the right time.

Marketing expert content. Chris Sietsema groups marketable content into “bricks” and “feathers.” “Bricks” are large productions, like research reports or video series, while “feathers” are continuous text and photo updates shared on social media platforms.  In my experience, many companies don’t invest in the right “brick” content, nor do they go the extra distance to extract maximum value for the considerable time and dollars invested.  The most successful and promotable content is that which focuses on a company or executive’s unique expertise; that spots a trend; breaks news of relevance to customers; or actually bucks the prevailing trends.  Companies should aim for at least one piece of “brick” content per quarter.  But far more important than frequency is how the content is merchandised (see below).

Extending educational events. An event designed to share important news or educational content can be nearly as powerful as breaking news, with greater pertinence to customers.  How to amplify it through PR?  The key word here is “repurpose.”  For example, new industry research shared at a client symposium is just the beginning. It can be offered to relevant media as an exclusive feature, ideally slated to break the day of the event. Afterward, it should be written up in a white paper promoted online with a landing page for lead capture; carved up into user-friendly blog posts that are tweeted and shared; adapted as a bylined article; used as the basis for an executive speech; posted and tagged on SlideShare, and more. There are endless ways of getting mileage out of content with direct relevance to customers.

Placing customer testimonials. A time-honored PR tactic for professional services clients is to tell customer success stories through trade and vertical media and blogs.  The more vertical, sometimes, the better.  Although niche publications and sites often have small audiences, the long tail approach can be very effective in generating leads from similar clients.

Creating conference visibility. There’s nothing like the power of earned media among a captive audience of customers and stakeholders.  A burst of visibility from features in trade show dailies; coverage of booth events; and thought leadership from speaking gigs is one of the most efficient returns for the PR investment precisely because it works so hard within the conference bubble.  The key here is tight coordination among marketing, PR and sales.

Driving product sampling. Because “free” can be inherently newsworthy, using traditional and social media outlets to promote a sampling program can be very cost-effective.  Beyond websites that focus on samples, many mass media outlets, like consumer magazines and blogs, will include mentions that help drive sampling campaigns.

This post originally appeared on the inspiring MengBlend blog for marketers.

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