In the mood for some Prowly #PRChat? This is where you can expand your PR horizons a bit by getting to know a huge variety of pros within our industry and learn something about them through their answers to our questions.
This time, we’re talking to Scott Baradell, CEO at Idea Grove (a PR and marketing agency based in Dallas), and the ultimate authority on all things trust-related. Trust in PR. Trust in business. Trust in PR in business. The business of trust in PR. You get the idea.
Trust us, you definitely want to see what Scott had to say in response to our questions.
Could you tell us a bit more about your “Grow With TRUST” approach?
You hear a lot about “growth hacking” these days—the idea that you can just come up with this genius idea to magically make your company grow. The truth is, growth that lasts usually takes time, because it requires you to establish trust with the people you’re trying to reach, and trust never happens overnight.
“Grow With TRUST” sets forth a modern, integrated approach to the practice of PR. At Idea Grove, we believe a holistic program based on this framework is the surest path for virtually any business to build, grow and protect its brand.
In “Grow With TRUST,” TRUST is an acronym representing the core elements of our approach:
- Third-party validation
- Reputation management
- User experience
- Search presence
- Thought leadership
We believe a well-rounded brand must distinguish itself on each of these five fronts. If you have an established business with happy customers, you are missing an opportunity and leaving money on the table by not working every day to make the most of what you have created and achieved. “Grow With TRUST” helps you do that.
What is a commonly held belief in public relations that you passionately disagree with?
That PR is about “connections.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about my media contacts by prospective clients. Well, yes—I was a journalist and later a media company executive. Some of my friends have won Pulitzer Prizes and Peabody Awards. I have contacts at publications and media outlets all over the country.
But that’s not what has made me a success in PR, or Idea Grove a successful tech PR firm. What has made us successful is that we’ve learned what a good story is and how to tell it. Once you know how to tell a story, it doesn’t matter if you know the journalist you’re pitching or not.
What is special about doing PR for tech companies?
My vision was to create a PR firm that loved technology enough to truly understand it, and to translate it in exciting ways for the non-technical world.
When I worked with agencies as a client, I was always disappointed in their content creation and in their ability to understand technology. Most firms used contractors at the time and didn’t even hire in-house writers. I wanted to be the agency that could tell complex stories in compelling ways, earning the trust of both business and IT buyers.
What is a resource or tool that PR professionals aren’t using correctly or to its fullest?
Most PR people haven’t yet realized that PR and SEO have effectively merged and that some of the best public relations tools out there today were created as SEO tools.
Done well, digital PR achieves the twin trust-building benefits of both third-party validation and search presence.
Every PR person today should be learning how to use tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Google Search Console to do a better job of building trust and awareness for their clients or brands.
What is a recent thing you tried in your company that you were surprised by the result of?
We put rules in place to better manage the use of communications tools like Slack and Zoom, and it’s had a remarkably positive impact on our team’s productivity and happiness.
Our president and COO, John Lacy, wrote about this for Fast Company and he’s had so many folks reach out to thank him and to ask for guidance in handling communication overload at their own companies. We had no idea this would have such an impact—not only for our company, but for others.
How do you go about measuring your PR efforts for clients?
First, we try to put measurement in perspective, and to help our clients do the same. As David Meerman Scott put it on Twitter the other day, “What’s the ROI of calculating the ROI of something?”
It’s not a bad question, actually. You should use metrics to help you see if you’re on the right track in building awareness and trust for your brand through media coverage and other trust signals.
The data we look at most closely include (1) direct and branded search traffic; (2) media visibility and share of voice; (3) search and social media presence; and (4) market surveys and qualitative research.
What trends are you seeing in PR that you’re excited about?
I am seeing PR people finally realizing that they can no longer so closely identify their value as professionals with the practice of media relations. PR people are stepping back and asking their clients what their goals are, and then looking for new ways to achieve those goals.
What most PR clients are seeking today is third-party validation. They are seeking credibility and authority with buyers and other audiences. Ultimately, they are seeking one thing above all else: Trust.
Brands need to be trusted in the marketplace, or they won’t be able to grow. Traditionally, PR firms have used media coverage to borrow the media outlet’s credibility and give clients that mantle of trust. But media coverage alone isn’t enough anymore. It’s far from enough. Today, brands must gain trust in many other ways.
I define PR as “the art of securing trust at scale.” While that’s a very specific objective, it opens up limitless possibilities for PR professionals to help brands achieve this goal in new and creative ways. That’s the opportunity I’m most excited about.