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In this public relations and marketing case study, the essential challenge addressed involves creating an inbound marketing strategy for an infrastructure company. The strategy integrates the following dimensions: 3rd party credibility, strategic alliances, thought leadership and internet communication.

Infrastructure marketing public relations

This case study is a hypothetical one that is part of a workshop I provide for clients and professional business conferences.

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Infrastructure marketing case study scenario

The organisation is a leading, large, privately owned infrastructure company. It builds bridges, large buildings, port and mining facilities, wind farms, electricity power generators and powerlines, railway lines etc.

It therefore has a B2B target audience for new business, across a diversity of industry sectors (mining, government, energy, transport etc). This means it needs to direct its marketing across these different sectors, though the vocation of those it often interacts with to secure new business are those with an engineering/infrastructure background, and/or CEOs, across the different organisations.

The case study includes making two essential sets of recommendations:

  1. Create an inbound marketing strategy to raise the infrastructure company’s profile, enhance its differentiation and ensure cross-target market buy-in to help foster perceptions of industry leadership and generate new business. 3rd party credibility, strategic alliances, inbound marketing and internet communication should manifest themselves in the strategy
  2. The strategy should also provide examples of the following:
    1. i.      Primary thought leadership pillars for the company
    2. ii.      The hub and spokes for the inbound marketing/digital strategy
    3. iii.      Platforms where content produced as part of the inbound marketing strategy can be syndicated.

Inbound marketing strategy

The following approaches can be applied as part of an inbound marketing strategy for the company:

  1. Partner with key suppliers and university departments to help generate PR Holy Trinity characteristics – thought leadership, 3rd party credibility, strategic alliances – and content for marketing
  2. Partner with one or more non-competitive overseas infrastructure companies to share best practice content/IP for communication and thought leaderships programs
  3. Research all infrastructure-relevant digital media presences, identify where influencers exist and build relationships with these influencers. This could be through the provision of thought leadership content or, perhaps, developing education and/or awareness programs of the infrastructure company and key industry issues for the influencer, customised to their needs and wants
  4. Build a digital and offline ‘community’ for infrastructure service procurement decision makers only. This could be through a LinkedIn group and/or a series of networking and education sessions, amongst other approaches.

Thought leadership marketing

Topics that should be seriously considered for thought leadership topics will be driven by what the top earning areas are of the business, or what are intended to be the top earning areas over time. This does not mean that the thought leadership will be about what the company is doing to achieve profitable outcomes, but what challenges and issues are relevant to these profit areas, or centres.

A complementary initiative that could occur to help with the identification of content, as well as to engage target audiences, is the creation of an ‘index’. The index measures key elements of the company’s operating environment or, more specifically, the company’s target audience’s operating environments and is focused on topics of interest and influence for target audiences.

Characteristics of the index might include:

  • It is undertaken annually
  • It is formalised into a report featuring the sponsoring company’s views as well as those of other credible 3rd parties (e.g. university lecturers, industry association leaders, investment analysts – even traditional journalists)
  • Customised versions of the sponsoring company’s views are placed, as op-eds or posts, in media or industry blogs – with the priority being media and social media of interest to, and influence on, target audiences
  • The report is emailed to all current and potential customers, as well as other stakeholders. It is used as a mechanism to help build a database of customers/potential customers
  • The index itself will be industry-relevant, but it can be tweaked each year to address slightly different topics to help cover the broader operating environment of target audiences. This tweaking also allows the index to adapt to issues identified in the previous year’s index.

Hub and spokes for digital communication

The hub of an organisation’s digital presence will, often, be where it wants to drive most of the traffic generated by its digital participation. For most organisations, that will be its website, but there are strong arguments – especially due to the power of SEO, not to mention its little sibling ‘conversation’, or relationship building – for this being a blog. For some organisations (likely to be more B2C than B2B at this point), it might even be its Facebook page.

There are different factors to consider when making this decision. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The current platform target audiences will be comfortable utilising and interacting with
  • Which platform will in all likelihood be where target audiences will be comfortable in the future
  • The competitive communication and engagement operating environment. For instance, if competitors to the infrastructure company don’t have blogs, does the creation of a blog and using this as the digital hub create a useful point of difference (POD)? Or will it alienate target audiences and prompt thoughts of the company being ‘difficult’? Bear in mind, it is not hard to duplicate having a blog, so there will need to be a strategy to build on this relatively superficial POD over time
  • The frequency with which content can be posted on the digital platforms and the nature of the content, as well as the nature of the employees who will curate the platform (e.g. are they senior enough for responsible stakeholder interaction?) and how much of their time can be allocated to the task. It is simply not viable to construct a blog and then rarely post to it.

The core ‘pillars’ of the content used on the digital presence will probably be driven by the company’s thought leadership platforms. Then ‘satellite’ content can also be featured in a lower level, less onerous manner. This curated content can include retweets and shares, but in most cases with a value-adding qualifying comment to help enrich the resource offered.

What would you change in the approaches espoused in this case study? Have you been in a similar situation and can you value-add to the approaches noted? What are the strengths and weaknesses of some of the case study’s approaches? What opportunities have I missed out on in this case study?

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