Inbound PR: The PR Agency’s Manual To Transforming Your Business With Inbound by Iliyana Stareva

The Blurb On The Back:

Once upon a time, public relations departments and agencies had no way to effectively tell their clients’ stories other than through the mainstream media.  Journalists, editors, and analysts were ultimately the mouthpieces for every PR campaign.  Then came the age of digital disruption and now PR professionals can tae full control over their messages, deliver the directly to the intended audiences, and accurately quantify the return on investment.  Inbound PR tells the story of how inbound marketing can refresh, expand, and optimise PR for today’s connected world.

Written by a global thought teacher at HubSpot, the pioneering software company behind inbound marketing, Illiyana Starve applies her expertise for growing businesses with inbound marketing to PR in an innovative methodology that both grows your PR business and your network of engaged media contacts.  This step-by-step road map to amplifying your PR influence to standout levels gives you practical guidance on using the attention-grabbing content you already produce to raise awareness, generate leads, and delight them into followers.

The secret to this game-changing approach is measuring results.  Forget about advertising value equivalents that only measure cost, and start calculating the meaningful bottom-line returns your work generates in the four major types of media with a turnkey framework.  Specifically written for everyone in the day-to-day mechanisms of PR and especially agency owners, this custom-fit guidebook enables you to embrace metrics and put analytics at the centre of your campaigns and organisation so that you can make highly informed, data-based decisions that give state-of-the-art leaders a competitive advantage.

This go-to resource makes transforming your business into an inbound PR agency simply and profitable by giving you:

– A proven, seven-step process for writing the best positioning strategy for your agency and practical advice on defining and packaging Inbound PR services into a twelve-month retainer

– Detailed systems for taking an inbound approach to media relations, including creating a robust online newsroom specifically for journalists, bloggers, producers, etc

– Actionable guidance for working every step of the inbound process, from attracting leads into your sales funnel, nurturing them, and finally retaining a new client.

Stop pushing your message and chasing clients by attracting them all to your brand with Inbound PR.

You can order Inbound PR: The PR Agency’s Manual To Transforming Your Business by Iliyana Stareva from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Ilyana Stareva is a global partner program manager at HubSpot and runs a highly regarded blog discussing inbound PR.  This book is aimed at people who run PR agencies but is still useful for clients who are looking to get something extra from external PR advisors. Be aware though that it is repetitive, lacks detail on how to use the techniques described and is silent on GDPR considerations (a notable omission in these data sensitive times). 

I’m going to start the review by saying that this book is aimed at PR professionals (particularly those who own their own agencies but also those working in-house PR for companies) and as such assumes a certain level of professional knowledge that I didn’t have as a casual reader.  That said, Stareva does write very clearly, explaining the issues facing PR workers – especially the problem of measuring what they achieve – and how PR traditionally works on a ‘push’ basis that uses interruptive communications (like newspaper articles and advertising) to force their message into people’s attention whereas inbound PR works more on a ‘pull’ basis, using social media and multichannel techniques to create a two-way dialogue with people who are already receptive to your message and thereby build better engagement that’s more authentic and longer lasting.  As such, while the book is aimed at practitioners, I think there’s a lot here that can help clients to be better informed about what PR is and how it operates in order to obtain a better service.

Inbound PR has 4 key principles: attract, convert, close and delight, which are based on PR’s great strength (namely content creation).  Unfortunately, it takes Stareva until Chapter 4 to describe the methodology behind putting inbound PR into practice as the early chapters are spent describing the problems of measuring PR activity and explaining why PR practitioners need to adopt inbound PR.  Personally, I think it should be a given that if someone is picking up this book then it’s because they want to know how to do something and as such I thought it was a bit of a waste of verbiage from a practitioner’s point of view (albeit that as a non-practitioner I have to say that I did find it useful).  

The chapter on the methodology is fine although there is a lot of repetition there of concepts and advantages from the earlier chapters.  The steps on what an inbound PR campaign needs and what media relations carried out on an inbound basis need are straightforward to follow but I would have liked to have had some real world case studies in there to illustrate exactly how they have been implemented so that the reader has a better idea of appropriate content, stakeholder identification etc.  My same comment holds true for the chapter on how agencies can generate new business using inbound principles because while Stareva spends a lot of time citing other authors working in the PR space, there’s not a huge amount of real-world experience supporting what’s being preached here.

My main issue with the book is that it’s so focused on selling the benefits of inbound PR that there’s no real attempt to discuss potential pitfalls for practitioners to be aware of.  For example, Stareva talks about working with influencers to generate leads and spread messaging but not all influencers are the same and it would be useful to have had had some guidance on there about getting metrics from influencers on potential conversions, how some influencers inflate their follower base with bots (and how you can look out for that), advertising rules on working with influencers (not necessarily something detailed as different jurisdictions have different rules but some countries certainly require disclosure of associations) and what happens if influencers suddenly turn toxic.

More seriously though is that there is zero consideration of data protection and specifically GDPR here.  To be fair, the book was published a couple of weeks after GDPR came into effect but should certainly have been on Stareva’s radar given that so many of the tips used in the book involve getting potential customers to sign up to newsletters and sending emails to customers to follow up I would have liked even just a single sentence about the need for consent and information on processing plus the importance of removing people from databases if they ask.  Again, it could be that this is missing because Stareva assumed it went without saying for PR practitioners but just as a matter of good practice I felt it should have been in there anyway.

Ultimately this is a breezy enough read and makes some interesting points that certainly made me think about what a PR agency could do for me and how PR campaigns could be structured but there are some deficiencies here and a lot of repetition and lack of detail, which meant that it wasn’t as helpful as it could have been.  

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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