Inbound marketing has grown at an astonishing rate over the past 10 years. More than 60 percent of companies use inbound marketing; and of those companies, 48 percent plan to increase their efforts in the coming years.
Inbound marketing includes enhanced marketing efforts in content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing. But it also includes PR-like activities like guest posting on major publication websites and developing targeted case studies and testimonials. Companies growing their inbound marketing efforts eventually (and logically) start to wonder if there’s a difference between digital PR and inbound marketing… and we’re here to outline the fact that there definitely is.
What Is PR?
The best answer to the question of whether or not there is a difference between digital PR and inbound marketing starts with a definition of digital PR. PR, or public relations, is a long-standing type of marketing that focuses on how a product, brand, or person is seen in the public eye. The most common example includes the “movie star treatment” of press wrangling and sponsorships. A B2B-specific example looks more like subject matter expert press clips and awards from major magazines and publications like Harvard Business Review and CNN.
Digital PR is a one-way connection between your brand and your customer on an external website that you hope will lay the groundwork for a relationship.
Here’s where we can start to distinguish the difference between digital PR and inbound marketing. The purpose of digital PR is not necessarily to attract new customers or close new business (we’ll get to that in a minute). Instead, digital PR uses press clips, press releases, and awards to build up the reputation and authority of your company. It’s a one-way connection between your brand and your customer on an external website that you hope will lay the groundwork for a relationship.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing may share a few coincidental similarities with digital PR (working with publication editors and crafting careful images and copy for your website), but it serves a fundamentally different purpose.
Inbound marketing creates a full-fledged resource for your customers and website visitors who are looking for answers.
Rather than use external websites to establish your authority, inbound marketing uses search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media marketing to strengthen your brand and website, and attract new people to it. This new activity extends even deeper to create a full-fledged resource for your customers and website visitors who are looking for answers.
Which One Is Better?
Which one is better? It’s an inevitable question to ask when you run a business with competing marketing budget needs. However, the answer is that both marketing strategies have a place in today’s digital economy. Digital PR is what serves up brand recognition and interest in what your company is doing (“I just read that this company won the 2015 Green Manufacturer’s Award!”). Inbound marketing is what provides the important piece of the puzzle that actually drives traffic and customers to your website specifically ("I just read an article by that company about how to make my product more environmentally friendly. Let me send it to you and you can check out their website.").
Depending on the goals of your business, you will likely benefit from a combined approach of digital PR on external websites and inbound marketing for your onsite lead generation efforts. Coordinate with your marketing team and refine your digital PR strategy to incorporate efforts from your inbound marketing strategy. This article from Convince and Convert (@convince) gives you an excellent idea of how to do so.
The difference between digital PR and inbound marketing often rides a fine line. When in doubt, consider the purpose of the marketing effort.
Are you strictly pushing for visibility and authority?
Or are you creating an opportunity for customers to enter into your digital lead generation funnel?
Both digital PR and inbound marketing hold a valuable position in your marketing strategy, but understanding the difference will help you coordinate your efforts more effectively.