Making noise isn’t the same as making music! Acuity’s Ian McCawley explains the flaws of “vanity” PR.

In a world festooned with communications channels, PR professionals have to make their campaigns shout louder than ever if they are to be heard by the right people. Untargeted, irrelevant work simply reverberates around the digital universe, falling on deaf ears. I’m sure it’s dawned on you by now that yelling through a loudspeaker to whoever might be paying attention no longer works for us folks in B2B PR.

Meanwhile, a working week once punctuated by long lunches with trade journalists now flies by amid the daily combination of content creation and carving out precious media slots for your perfect prose.

In spite of this shift to targeted content, lots of businesses still see the value in ‘vanity’ PR. There is a case for it, after all. Raising awareness of a brand or organisation will never do any harm and can boost search engine ranking along the way.

But there are pitfalls in a singular, media noise-based approach. When was the last time a PR article written purely for the sake of untargeted profile-building helped secure a piece of business? A quantifiable win that could be directly attributed to opinion alone (your own opinion of its quality notwithstanding)?

Let me give you an example. Client X, MD of a customer experience marketing agency, wants to arrange a media tour (getting in front of as many journalists as possible on the same day) to wax lyrical about his ‘unique’ approach to digital transformation. When the journalist finally glazes over, she extricates herself from the meeting by agreeing to commission a two-page comment piece.

All well and good – and a great chance to set out positioning and include key messages – but how is that contributing to the ultimate goal of helping to book and close meetings with prospects?

Media relations and thought leadership in the trades is a faithful, but tired, tactic. As an ex-hack it pains me to say it, but publications are now only one ‘route to market’ for news and opinion. Enter PR’s role in content marketing: reaching the right person through the right channel at the right time.

Content is nothing new; in fact, it’s already becoming a cliché. Despite that, it’s growing in importance. The key to PR’s future success is to prove it can directly drive new business meetings.

Getting the nuts and bolts in place is paramount. Content creation should be a given. Clients naturally expect PRs to handle researching, writing, shaping and filming. What they may not realise is that a good content strategy means the creation of a day-to-day editorial calendar, encompasses targeted distribution, and ultimately underpins lead generation and nurturing.

In B2B PR, it’s now vital to develop ‘prospect journeys’ much like marketers do (or ought to do) for consumers. Get your content distribution strategy right and the person you’re targeting should have no excuse for ignoring the article, report, video or tweet you are putting directly in from of them.

There are so many different ways clients can spend budget these days that PR has to fight harder to prove its worth. Traditional aspects of our craft just don’t do that job. It’s time to get used to the idea that something many PRs never thought we’d do – namely, cosying up to the new business strategy and effectively becoming part of the lead gen team – is the way forward.

In the modern PR landscape it’s what you say and who you say it to – not how loud you say it – that matters.

Ian McCawley is Managing Director of Acuity PR, part of Ingenuity.

This post originally appeared on the B2B PR Blog.