How HubSpot Got It Wrong with PR

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edwardb2A few years ago, I read a book that the co-founders of HubSpot wrote called Inbound Marketing. It discusses the benefits of blogging and SEO at length, but doesn’t include anything about PR and its essential relationship to inbound marketing. In fact, it contains only a seven-page chapter about public relations.

Those seven pages seem devoted to communicating two things. One is that you probably don’t need a public relations agency at all and, two, that public relations agencies are mostly good at one thing: Interrupting print journalists to pitch them self-serving company puff pieces.

Now, since that book came out, the folks at HubSpot have learned a bit more about PR than they knew in 2009. In fact, they actually now seem to be claiming credit for “inbound PR,” too.

I’m not easily ruffled, but I do have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about all this. I believe HubSpot’s philosophical approach, like that of many inbound marketers who come from the worlds of SEO, content management systems or web design, misses the critical relationship that drives how we work at Idea Grove.

And that is that PR in neither irrelevant to inbound marketing nor an afterthought or add-on. Indeed, PR should be the story generator that drives your inbound marketing engine.

A Common Misconception About What PR Does

Earning exposure with good story ideas rather than paying for it with advertising has been PR’s driving force for decades. Everything Idea Grove does as a digital agency today, from website outreach to establishing Google Authorship for our clients to “newsjacking” on social media, is derived from basic, traditional PR practices. So why do so many modern marketers leave PR out of the equation?

I think there’s a common misconception as to what PR actually does. People seem to think being in PR is about who you know instead of what you know. But it’s more than just taking editors and reporters to coffee; it’s about what you say during the coffee.

Most of the stereotypical things you hear people associating with publicists or PR is bunk. It’s not just blowing hot air. You’re not going to get a second coffee with that journalist if you don’t provide him useful information — in the form of compelling, journalistic story ideas.

Story ideas are what drive the most successful inbound marketing programs. You can’t be effective with inbound marketing just by process, technique and technology.

I love HubSpot as a tool. We have HubSpot-certified folks on staff, and we manage the HubSpot accounts of clients. We also work with other marketing automation tools like Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot and Infusionsoft. We are tool-agnostic, so we recommend different solutions for different clients.

What we’re not agnostic about is the importance of story idea generation, and the best methods for generating and capitalizing on these ideas.

PR is About Real Ideas, Real Content

It’s about having real story ideas that you build your entire inbound (read: content) marketing program around. That’s good PR.

I’m reminded of what Edward Bernays, one of the fathers of PR, said 90 years ago: “PR must create news in order to appeal to the instincts and fundamental emotions of the public.”

Create news, not product pitches. This is what HubSpot and other inbound marketers have been preaching since the term was coined. Yet, this “new trend” toward providing educational, high-quality content traces back to PR strategies and tactics that have been around forever. I’ll discuss this further in my next post.

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