The convergence of media content, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and sales engagement is the new hotspot for PR.

Now for the first time, PR can be used as a real driver for lead generation across all business environments and demonstrate a clear return on investment.

Bottom line is that PR agencies have often struggled to demonstrate real value to sceptical Finance Directors. Coverage by the column inch has never really cut it as a serious form of measurement because too many questions remain unanswered. Chief among them has always been: so, when it comes down to it, as a business, what do we really get from all this coverage?

In response, PR has tended to lay dubious claim to misty areas such as brand building, profile raising and long-term attitudinal or behavioural change as essential elements of the PR value proposition. The problem has always been that, at best, PR can only really claim a partial role in any of these; and secondly, there is no reliable way of attaching any kind of measurement of its precise contribution to them.

On the other hand, mention the idea of associating an investment in PR with anything as down-to-earth and clearly measurable as generation of sales leads and agency account directors tend to go all wobbly and call for the smelling salts.

But at Aspectus, with our new model for integrating creative content with search optimised websites and the creation of traffic to key sales engagement pages and opportunities, we are more than happy to hang our value-for-money hat on lead generation.

Our Search Integrated Communications (SINCOM) model, which is now used by more than half of Aspectus’ clients, is a process and method for creating a direct link between PR content and lead generation. It has been perfected over the last 12 months and we now have a substantial body of success stories and case studies.

The SINCOM process is detailed and rigorous rather than complex. It starts with an agreement on key messages: the things a client really wants to get into the ears of decision makers in their target markets. These can be quite raw; but they must be arresting, original and clear.

The next stage is developing these core messages into storylines to create platforms for all outbound media content, perhaps over a six or 12 month period. This leads on to a complete review of a client’s target keywords and the creation of a new keywords tree, starting with the top search terms and working down to longer tailed, more complex phrases at the bottom of the tree.

At this point, under the SINCOM process, we conduct a complete review of a client’s website. We focus on structure, content and how well engineered the site is for message-driven sales engagement. Through our work in this area, we have developed a detailed knowledge of what works and what doesn’t and – more importantly – the best way of pushing new communications-driven visitors into sales engagement.

After any structural changes that are needed have been made to the client’s website, development of the content can begin in earnest alongside strategies for mainstream media and social media. We try and encourage clients who are inexperienced with, or nervous about, social media not to get too hung up about it. In terms of SINCOM, engagement with social media is simply a means to an end; the Google robots like it, so it helps improve search performance and drives quality traffic to the target website.

Benchmarking is important at the start of a campaign. This means looking in detail, not just at the volume of current web traffic, but analysing how long visitors stay, what pages they look at, what files they open, what videos they watch and so on. Examining and learning from these patterns of visitor behaviour are crucially important in this process.

As the campaign progresses, Google Analytics will reveal a great deal about how well it is working and what needs to be adjusted. Indeed, being flexible and prepared to change elements of the content and keywords in response to traffic data are key characteristics of SINCOM.

SINCOM is like an engine: all the component parts need to be working for it to fire properly. And since we designed and built SINCOM, we know exactly how to engineer and maintain it.

But if there is one element of SINCOM that has to be spot on for the whole thing to work, it’s the quality of the content. One of the great things about SINCOM – and indeed the crossover between the web and mainstream media – is that fantastic ideas and compelling content are still what really count in today’s complex multi-media world.

It’s also important to recognise that content can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be a media article; it might be an image, a video, a series of Tweets, an animation or even a presentation. Indeed, the best idea should work well across all these different forms of content. And the wider that content is, the better its search performance is likely to be.

The fact that you can get so much more value out of content and, using Aspectus’ SINCOM model, use it to drive sales in a way that has never been possible before, makes this profession more exciting and relevant today than it ever has been before.

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