When it comes to launching a new PR campaign it’s important to know whether it is gaining and sustaining momentum. Simon Woolley looks at the importance of signal theory to get your next campaign quickly rolling, along with some pointers to help guide you to success. 

Imagine this. You look at a piece in a target publication. It’s not one that you placed or pitched, it’s not your heading, it’s the journalist’s heading but it’s your message. You’re written up alongside your competitors and other influencers. And yes, you look good by comparison. This kind of outcome is the culmination of a PR campaign running at full speed, based on the powerful use of signals.

Signal theory can mean the difference between gaining momentum in your next campaign and it being a flop. Understanding how the theory is best used is crucial when starting a campaign. It’s even more prevalent when you’re trying to crack new geographies, industries and get new coverage from well-recognised publications and journalists who are familiar with some of your biggest competitors.

But once you’ve cracked the media in a new geography or market and started to generate consistent coverage, the payoffs are clear to see. A recent study conducted by LinkedIn highlighted how 78% of buyers at B2B organisations consume three or more pieces of relevant information before making a purchasing decision. The bylined thought leadership piece is an important element of the campaign, but the third-party endorsement of a top journalist in a Tier 1 publication who is identifying the three best suppliers and you are one of them, is the icing on the campaign cake.

An overnight success or one to watch?

No new campaign is going to see overnight success, but once the right journalist targets have been selected, it’s the mix and type of activity which will help propel a PR strategy forward and quickly deliver results. That means carefully planning a strong blend of initial campaign activity.

So, with that in mind, here are four quick tips on how to use signal theory to your advantage, to quickly gain, measure and analyse that all important momentum when launching your next PR campaign.

1. Big announcements don’t always have to come first

Remember – it’s usually best not to start with your biggest announcement first as it will get lost in the common “never heard of them, can’t be important” journalist response.

Sometimes announcing initiatives into a new market or the appointment of a new executive (hopefully from a field leading competitor) to spearhead your drive into a new market softens up the journalist response and shows you’re serious. Then follow up with a marquee news announcement, such as a product launch or customer win, with a bylined positioning piece quickly in tow to contextualise the B2B organisation in one or many of these target industries.

2. Be patient and the results shall follow

The rule of thumb is that any well-planned campaign should start to yield good results after three months. It’s at this stage where regularity breeds trust – so the content should be well and truly flowing to those target journalists on a regular basis, and by this point coverage levels should be picking up.

If they aren’t, then it might be time to audit and review your output so far. Coding deliverables by type, message and industry focus, then gauging this pull through in your coverage tracking should easily expose any non-performing topics, content formats or vertical markets. From there it’s best to tweak, adjust or redial campaign focus to address these gaps or build on what is already working.

3. Earn your success. ‘Pay for Play’ shortcuts can lead to a dead end!

It’s easy with ‘Pay for Play’ opportunities to get blinded by your success when you see your company messages looking at you in the face.  Don’t lose sight of the fact it’s your message, you paid for it, and remember of course your customers and prospects know this.

But from an earned media perspective, after strategically aligning your PR content and pitching around core topics via selected company subject matter experts for several months, one of the greatest signals of trust and momentum is when journalists begin to come to an organisation asking for input to features they are currently working on. Your campaign is starting not just to rock, but to roll.

This is where a timely response to some journalist questions or a quick one-on-one interview briefing is key to accelerate the influence of your subject matter expert and cement a B2B organisation’s position in the geography or industry in question. It’s hugely beneficial coverage written directly from an authoritative third-party source.

4. You can’t put a price on organic coverage

Now let’s take this is a step further when a campaign is in full swing. You can tell if your B2B organisation is becoming a trusted industry or technology leader by whether journalists begin to cover the company without even being asked! Think horizontal technology journalists who regularly pen reviews of the business software they cover – there is huge value to being included in those articles alongside competitors who may be vastly bigger in terms of company size and PR spend.

Go back to the scenario I outlined at the beginning of this piece. This is the nirvana for any PR campaign. Money just can’t buy that kind of organic exposure. Only truly earned media, which has been cultivated through a carefully planned pattern of activity that sends the correct signal to the correct journalists, can catapult a brand from market entrant to industry leader.

Signal theory – indicating PR campaign success

By putting signal theory into practice, you’ll start to see that campaign momentum quickly building. Start by building your pattern of activity with a mixed blend of content deliverables, learning from initial results, and with timely responses to active journalist features. Want to know the final pay-off and a clear indicator of the signal theory working? Your B2B organisation will be getting coverage from journalists and publications without you even asking. Put the groundwork in now and the rest shall follow!