Every company wants more leads, right?

Influencing a target audience to meet a goal or take action is the heart of public relations. In a recent SHIFT blog, we answered the question ‘what is thought leadership?’ In simple terms it’s a recognition created by others that someone is an expert in a specific field or topic. PR helps to communicate compelling stories to improve brand awareness, and by integrating thought leadership, it may help to generate qualified leads.

A recent thought leadership campaign for a client in the healthcare technology space comes to mind, where the client saw tangible returns based on PR efforts around thought leadership. The objectives of the client were to amplify awareness of their brand at a national level, increase brand name recognition with key audiences and use PR to aid in lead generation.

The PR team identified a bench of thought leaders that ranged from two NFL players, to an orthopedic surgeon, to the former CMS administrator, and aligned the appropriate spokesperson with media targets. With proactive media, PR should focus on publications that a client’s current and prospective customers read regularly. Keeping this in mind, the media pitches that the team drafted were tailored to highlight specific storylines that the spokesperson could speak to comfortably and passionately. Additionally, the pitch themes were skewed to resonate with a specific audience.

For example, the team utilized the experience of the NFL players to raise awareness about the importance of preparing your body for surgery. As professional football players, they had undergone over a dozen surgeries, and each player offered a personal point of view on how the technology could help others in similar situations. Targeted consumer and athletic publications such as Sports Illustrated, Inc., Sport Techie and ESPN, covered the announcement of the new technology while quoting the NFL players as thought leaders to solidify the story.

While lead generation is not an intrinsic benefit of PR – rather, awareness is PR’s M.O. – the most common lead-generating PR technique could be considered earned media. The teams work to earn media coverage with business, consumer and clinical press, increased the number of website visitors by 144%, compared to the previous 6-months. At the end of the program, the team arranged 30 media briefings for multiple spokespeople, that resulted in over 50 unique articles in targeted outlets.

To top it off, throughout the program the client repeatedly reported an increase in inbound lead generation and brand recognition with key business accounts. There’s no better confirmation of a job well done than a client saying they have a new sales lead from an earned article, or that they walked into a new business pitch and the company across the table was already familiar with their offering based on the work of the PR team to secure earned media.

Whenever sales or marketing says they received an inbound call from an article, always ask which article. Not only do PR teams want to keep a close watch on where leads are coming from, but it’s important for the PR team to understand which articles produce leads. This helps the team better understand if they need to pivot a media angle or strengthen an existing theme or strategy.

In conclusion, the ability to connect directly with target audiences through stories told by thought leaders can be an effective way to generate leads.

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