Tl;dr - Middle-market industrial manufacturers generally eschew investments in traditional public relations. That's often reasonable. However, there are situations where it can be tactically appropriate, and creative approaches to PR can yield significant notable distribution and promotion benefits to address a common shortcoming of manufacturing content marketing.
Don't Underestimate the Work of Marketing Content Distribution
That little voice in your head, or that consultant, or that digital marketing agency, or that new marketing expert you've hired - they all might be whispering that if you just build it...your content marketing assets...that your buyers will come.
It worked for Kevin Costner, and it kind of worked for early internet movers circa 2000. It's not going to work for you.
Today, SEO and industrial inbound marketing require a keen understanding of buyers, deliberate strategy, relentless execution, and large volumes of content. It also requires vigorous content distribution efforts.
Relatively few incorporate all of the above-listed tactical elements in the content effort. Their results normally reflect a diminished return despite the resources invested.
Fewer still work to distribute and promote content fully. Therefore, while SEO and content will attract some visitors, there's simply so much content, and therefore noise, that just publishing it isn't enough. So marketers miss out on large swathes of the market who would like to know about them if they stumbled across them somewhere else.
Content distribution and promotion are critical to digital success and don't get the attention they merit.
While this post will focus on the public relations play for distribution, keep in mind the power of coordinated social media promotion by your team members (e.g. automatic sharing on LinkedIn when you publish certain kinds of content.)
The Role of Public Relations in Manufacturing Marketing
PR, as it's traditionally practiced, is a long-term awareness play. Experienced marketers will quibble with the analogy, but for most middle-market industrial manufacturers you can think of traditional PR as a form of brand marketing. Important and desirable if you have the resources, but not a priority in terms of manufacturing marketing for lead generation and revenue realization.
Traditionally PR folks will look for angles on the company's business and build a "pitch" around it - a story which they hope will pique the interest of journalists who cover that "beat." The goal is to prompt the journalist to interview a company executive in support of a story they're working.
Essentially it's cold-calling journalists, hoping to catch one's interest and schedule a meeting. Over time they hope those meetings will evolve into relationships as valued sources who are routinely sought for input on various events and stories. The expectation is that consistent media appearances will indirectly drive brand awareness and credibility.
It's very labor-intensive. PR shops are often staffed with legions of young staffers who pay their dues much like BDRs who aspire to become ARs.
That doesn't mean there isn't a place for it, even for lower middle-market manufacturers who use it as a tactic to approach a market tangentially. For instance, sustainability is a topic that increasingly touches companies in the manufacturing space. It's an opportunity for attention and differentiation for manufacturers with a legitimate angle on sustainability and it could well make sense to pursue this traditional PR path in that case.
Because of the sheer volume of work and media expertise involved, it is probably best outsourced to small agencies or freelancers.
There are a couple of PR-lite approaches that may also be appropriate. Internal marketing folks can easily monitor HARO1 on a consistent basis, responding to requests for SMEs as appropriate.
They can also monitor industry event "calls for speaker" submissions. Public speaking opportunities can establish executives as industry thought leaders among industry professionals and media covering the events.
Brandscaping & Newsjacking
Andrew Davis' book Brandscaping2 provides a great template for content creation that leverages related audiences and interests. Davis' premise is that you'll create more impactful content through collaboration with niche experts. Not only is the content often more enjoyable, but it's also an opportunity to engage broader audiences that entertaining independents have cultivated.
Companies may hesitate to build their entire content strategy around this approach, but it's easy to dabble by accepting and placing guest posts, hosting and appearing on podcasts and webinars, and creating specific pieces of collaborative content. Done well these all enable you to introduce yourself and your content to new audiences.
David Meerman Scott coined the term Newsjacking which refers to building content immediately and tactically around trending news events. The goal is to ride a wave of attention and perhaps even capture the attention of journalists looking for different angles on saturated stories.
PR for Content Distribution in Manufacturing Content Marketing
Here we get to the heart of this post - the role PR can play in direct content distribution and promotion. While the techniques above rely on coopting someone else's audience, this tactic is self-sustaining (although it absolutely might help toward more traditional PR goals too.)
Every manufacturer should have several different blogs (more here) including a "News" blog. This is important because it provides a location to have very carefully optimized articles that discuss important company news (events, key personnel, publications, awards, important customer wins, etc.) to earn the SEO value related to those articles, BUT to do so in a way that doesn't abuse the time and attention of subscribers to your primary blog(s.)
In other words, if you have a primary blog that explores trends, challenges, and innovation related to your industry, you'll build a subscriber list of folks who are interested in those consistently published insights. If you start to interrupt your stream of helpful information with self-serving announcements, you'll quickly lose credibility and subscribers. What a shame!
A news blog provides the perfect spot to publish that information appropriately - for the right reasons, and without this impact on your subscribers.
But you'll take it a step further. A couple of days after publishing articles on your news blog, you'll also drop them on the wire to amplify the reach of that content. This is particularly helpful for new product offerings and significant content publications - e.g. lead-generation offers. Not only will you accrue inbound links to your landing pages, but you'll also reach new audiences via sites which syndicate the press releases.
Opportunity Hides in Complexity
Too often we miss revenue growth opportunities because effective execution requires a detailed understanding of the nuance, mechanics and detail which is considered too complex for a world with short attention spans.
We're told that sales is too busy; marketing has to focus on key priorities; pick a couple tactics only.
I disagree. In fact, that's often a smokescreen for mediocrity.
Instead, a deep understanding of buyers, tools and tactics opens up large opportunities which can be outsourced and/or efficiently incorporated into current practice for impressive and differentiated results.
These PR tactics are an example. Publishing press releases on your News Blog, and later on the wire (using a service like PRWeb) helps you reach audiences, increase traffic, and promote and distribute content.
2 - Brandscaping