How to use inbound marketing to make more impact


Andy Williams

A father of two grown-up daughters, a cyclist, an activist and a serial volunteer, Andy is most intrigued by what makes you tick. He’s also co-MD of Cohesive.

Like chocolate and chilli, PR and content marketing are two ingredients that marry surprisingly well together.

Get the blend right and you’ll create a wider reach and a deeper connection than if you used either technique alone. Here’s our guide to producing deliciously impactful inbound marketing.

Make your purpose the foundation of your marketing

Quick tip: Add more why

Challenge yourself to create stories that reflect the difference you want to make in the world. Like lime juice and sea salt give salsa more zing and tequila more slam, so the bold introduction of ‘why’ will make your story sing. Weave why your business does what it does into your marketing and be less bland.

Why in action: AirBnB’s why is …to create a world where Anyone can Belong, Anywhere. That purpose arose from the experiences of hundreds of hosts and guests, worldwide. They achieve it through a powerful community of sharers, carers and adventurers. It flavours every story they tell. Whereas their what – we’re quite good at renting  rooms – could be claimed by all of their many of competitors. 

Cynical marketing and the social media echo chamber have dulled our senses of taste and smell but fresh, authentic stories can and do cut through. Blend genuine insight with empathy. Ideally, your stories will connect your business with your tribes through that common cause and narrative. Sprinkle liberally across earned and owned channels.

Find the right influencers to share your story

Quick Tip. Find your influencer tribe

Getting coverage in influential publications used to be straightforward. Publications were once a kind of supermarket of writers arranged neatly into ‘aisles’ – by flavour, shelf life, raw, pickled or cooked. You knew where everything was and it was simple to shop around. No more. Many of the people you most want to connect with have a freelance side and lots are giggers. You’ll find them guesting at different stores across a variety of aisles, and showing up at street markets, pop-up venues and – of course – on their own pitches. The influencer smorgasbord is complex, colourful and ever-changing.  Get to grips with that variety. It’s tremendously valuable. 

Try: Learn from inbound’s manual, and think about creating ‘influencer personas’. Each is a shopping list of influencer interests and expertise, reach, careabouts, and accessibility. Use them like you would a long-tail search term to find the individuals most relevant to you. And let them flavour the pitches you make.

Blend retaining with campaigning to maximise your results

Quick tip: Do the basics well and use campaigns wisely

Nurturing your organisation’s reputation is PR’s job, in cahoots with your public relations firm if you have one. Like grandma’s famous sourdough, there’s a proven recipe which doesn’t respond well to tinkering. So don’t mess with it. Stick to the regular PR rhythm, and supplement your menu with some spicy sides – in the form of focus campaigns.

Try: Each campaign should closely target a particular tribe, be story-led, offer valuable insights through follow-on content, and have clear outcomes – not just outputs – defined. You could measure visitors referred to a campaign landing page from coverage, for instance. Right there, you have created that desirable PR dovetail with Inbound.

Measure what matters

Quick tip: Know your weights and measures

Borrow from Inbound and use measurement to prove and improve results.  Measures like ‘wrote x content pieces’ and ‘pitched y influencers’ are the bread and butter of PR reporting. No one can live by bread alone though, and your Inbound colleagues feast on some very zesty morsels – ‘created x leads’, ‘converted $ revenue’. If you want to prove the ROI of your PR, measure what matters.

Try: You already track and evaluate coverage. Know that most of the tools available to your Inbound colleagues are available to you too. Measure bumps in web traffic referred from coverage, benchmark that and look to improve it. Share coverage on social media, and track reactions and referrals from there. Another idea borrowed from Inbound that translates neatly to classic public relations is to measure influencer engagement. Say, a campaign to create awareness of your story with 10 new influencers, using a simple ‘net promoter’ type survey before and after the campaign to prove that the needle has shifted.

Stay fresh

Tip: Stay curious and keep experimenting

Stale ingredients make stale meals. It’s no different with inbound PR. There’s more than just validation in your measurements. There are real learning opportunities. Which stories are resonating? Which influencers are friends and why? Use that knowledge to push forward with ever more vibrant stories. 

Try: Don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s in the doing – not in theorising, ruminating, wishing or worrying – that we learn. Works in the kitchen – more often than not – because ‘measurement’ is usually fast and direct. Works in marketing too, so long as you create fast feedback loops.

Have fun!

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