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What is the Buyer’s Journey? It’s No Longer a Straight Path

Apr 3, 2019 Beth Monaghan

Plotting Your New Course with Integrated PR Strategies

Remember when the “Buyer’s Journey” was a straight line down the marketing funnel? PR’s job was to prime awareness, which sits at the top of that funnel, and then nudge prospects toward interest before we handed them off to sales somewhere around consideration. Today, the trip down the funnel looks more like a constellation. It’s complicated because the journey looks different for every person. Here is one example, which I’ll call the constellation for “Beth buys marketing automation software”:

ConstellationFunnel-02-2

The good news: Once we identify the ideal customer persona, we have an unprecedented ability to understand what that journey — or constellation — looks like. And today, our ability to target your audience has an infinite number of strategies, while at the same time, it’s so much more precise. Today, PR now plays a role in almost every stage of the funnel. The bad news: the 24-hour onslaught of polarizing headlines has people checking out. Fear-based approaches to PR run the risk of alienating the people you’re trying to bring closer. Also, media relations is no longer enough. It’s still the best way to build credibility, but it’s lagging in its ability to drive awareness.

A successful PR strategy must begin with authenticity, be guided by empathy, and amplify its messages on the way toward building community. Digital marketing strategies must be part of the PR program: PR can no longer afford to live in a vacuum. It must be integrated with your content, search, social, other digital strategies, and yes, offline campaigns too (because person-to-person interactions are becoming important again). Here’s where we recommend starting:

  • Amplification: If a media outlet prints a story, does anyone read it? Today, the lifecycle of a news story is minutes, hours if you’re lucky. We are inundated. In the last 10 years, we have seen a 835 percent increase in news stories. Amplification allows you to use media coverage and other great content to drive actions such as click-to-purchase and thought leadership initiatives on social media.
  • Content Marketing: Your message, in your words, to your audiences. The content you create, which we call “owned content,” is one of the most powerful integrated PR tools because you control the message. However, BuzzFeed threw things out of whack with its viral listicles that got clicks, but didn’t generate loyalty. But clicks were the prize so everyone followed suit. Today, quality is performing better than gimmicks because people are overwhelmed with volume.
  • Influencers: Authentic evangelists create believers. Credibility is a gating factor to any new product, organization, or idea. Influencers can create the bridge between awareness and trust, and they aren’t just celebrities and YouTube or Instagram stars. They are people with smaller, but more engaged followings — industry analysts, community leaders, even teachers — anyone who has the ability to shape brand perception and/or purchasing decisions. These “micro-influencers” increase campaign engagement rates by 60 percent and are 6.7 times more efficient (AdWeek).
  • SEO: Bring people to you. Search engine optimization is not only website keyword strategies. In integrated PR, organic SEO strategies make your third-party content discoverable — by the media and by your audiences. It’s the long-term amplification strategy that continues to work even when you’ve moved on to other things. You should not only match headlines and content with your keywords, but also with potential related content and trending topic searches.

Effective PR interconnects campaigns across your universe, to make sure the right message reaches the right audience at hundreds of the right times and places. The buyer’s journey is now a scattered series of moments, or touch points, where you have the opportunity to educate, increase awareness and even inspire someone to take an action. When PR takes an integrated approach, it also closes the measurement loop so we can more accurately assess the impact of your program. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more insights from our vice president of digital marketing, Angela Trapasso.

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