How to Do Online PR the Inbound Way

Generate more awareness by integrating media and relational strategies into your next campaign.
Yasmin Khan
by Yasmin Khan on January 16, 2017 in Visibility
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pr inbound marketing

You’re targeting your audience, generating awareness, nurturing leads, and seeing conversions trickle down the funnel. Sounds like every marketer’s dream, right? But the reality is that a business is not built on inbound marketing alone. Sometimes it takes a little more of a media-style push.

That’s where even the savviest marketers who know how to spin a winning campaign often stop in their tracks. The boundaries between online PR and inbound marketing are often blurry, partly because they share overlapping qualities. As your company's inbound marketer, how can you handle the overlaps while delivering what your customer needs without overstepping your own scope?

Glad you asked.                                            

You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it. But the exact point and definition of public relations has perhaps eluded you—until now.

So just what is public relations (PR)? It’s the creation and maintenance of a company or individual brand’s image. It focuses on creating awareness and sales by feeding a message to the right publishers and their audiences.

  • Main tools: Press releases, targeted websites, news feeds
  • Goal: Build awareness and visibility

Sound familiar? As a marketer, it should. Here’s the overlap. Marketing incorporates a variety of techniques to drive sales to achieve a company's bottom line. Today, three out of four marketers are opting for inbound approaches in their marketing. Why? Because it’s measurable, and shows greater ROI than traditional outbound methods alone. Inbound marketing lays a strategic trail to a brand through creating valuable content that opens the door to two-way communication.

The difference between marketing and PR

Online PR and inbound marketing share many similarities - compelling content, campaigns, bylines, thought leader positioning. Both are about finding the right angle to approach your audience and compel them to act, and both need to keep producing quality content to stay in business. Both require a targeted, optimized approach to a solid campaign.

But they differ on several key points, the integration of which can make any online PR and inbound marketing campaign all the stronger. Online PR depends on a publisher or editor to publish material (thus, the notorious media pitch). An inbound marketer often self publishes for a broader (or narrower) audience, as the case may be.

Perhaps the most blatant difference is the fact that inbound marketing isn’t a fast fix. It’s a nurturing process toward a specific end—leads, conversions, and sales.

Online PR, on the other hand, is fast. News happens every moment, and if you miss the moment of opportunity to give a shout out to yours, the train will leave the depot without you.

What is the goal of the perfect mix?

Your goal should be to increase engagement with media and audiences by incorporating the best techniques from both inbound marketing and PR.

Traditional PR that depends on press releases is disruptive, not to mention borderline blasé. After all, who has time to read yet another email from yet another brand vying for attention for yet another new product release? The truth is, reporters, just like everyone else, need to be drawn in with relational approaches to relevant information.

So should we ditch the old press release?

Yes and no.

3 Actionable tips for your next online PR

Forego the predictable

You can brighten the day for reporters and help them escape the doldrums of their job by sending them a killer press release. Ditch the template—it puts people to sleep. A dose of the unexpected inspires curiosity and interest. Adding video or photos, or even formatting your press release in an easy-to-scan (bulleted) style can entice reporters to actually take a look at what you’ve sent.

Focus on relationship

As much as we’d like to imagine that media works in a click-and-send kind of way, media placement is often based on relationship—but not in the nepotic sense. It turns out that media publishers are people too, and as with any audience, connection is important. Launch your social personas. You’ll be developing an expert name for yourself by simply and unobtrusively being an active participant in the social community.

Optimize for search engines and humans

You put a lot of thought into that press release, and it'd be a shame if it went unread. Get it noticed by tying in popular topical keywords that people can find. Reporters scour the web for story ideas, and information seekers are never lacking. By making your online PR efforts searchable, you can connect with a broader audience, organically gain visibility, and generate awareness that can lead to media mentions and sales.

the perfect inbound online PR mix

Now that your press release has been freed from the shackles of the template, here are a few more techniques you should be incorporating into the mix for a well-rounded, solid inbound online PR campaign.

Engage your target audience by getting social

Social media isn’t going anywhere, and Facebooking, tweeting, and Instagramming have become a sort of societal tagline. Those are two very good reasons why you should be utilizing social media to connect with your targets. The media goes where the people are, and the people have gone social. Engage with your target contacts by creating a following and providing relevant, interesting content to place yourself at the top of their mind for story ideas and expertise. Plus, you’ll gain insight into what individual reporters care about, and be able to meet them where they are.

And that, my friends, is Relationship Building 101. 

Start (or update) your blog

With everyone and their mother running a blog these days as a platform for their opinions, the blog as a marketing tool can easily be lost in the mix. But an optimized, relevant, and captivating blog not only draws visitors to your site—it can also draw in reporters looking for their next story. Your brand’s blog is an opportunity for you to showcase your expertise and make you quotable by media without the pitch. So start updating that blog and sharing it on social, stat.

Aim to educate

Extend your online PR focus from simply getting published in a magazine or journal to publishing your own bylined articles online. This will help establish you as an expert and thought leader. After all, true thought leaders don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves. They make their own opportunities. 

Reuse your PR content

Content creation takes time. Savvy online PR people and marketers get the most value from every piece of content by using it as a springboard for additional content. Wrote a press release? Break it out into articles, blogs, white papers, or videos to expand upon and establish your expertise in a value-lending way. And of course, don’t forget to share on social.

Measure your success

Online PR activity, by nature, doesn’t lend itself well to metrics. But inbound marketing was made for it. By blending inbound marketing techniques into your online PR tactics, you can gain a better sense of what’s working and what you need to revise to achieve your bottom line. Tracking metrics like site traffic, downloaded content, social followings, SEO ranking, and lead conversion rates can help justify your campaign or encourage you to rethink your approach.

Help a reporter out (HARO)

HARO is more than just a trending hashtag. It’s a way for industry moguls to position themselves as thought leaders and experts, and to connect with the media in more organic ways than the old online PR pitch. Receive daily emails of reporter needs, and pitch them a story they’re already looking for.



Compelling content and organic relationships are the backbone to your success as an online PR specialist and inbound marketer. By merging the two methodological disciplines, you can blow your next campaign out of the water and straight into media view.

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Yasmin Khan

Yasmin Khan

Yasmin is the marketing manager at Bonafide. She loves writing, tweeting, and positive change. She's all about the big picture and the greater good.