For years, the PR industry has been changing. The increased use of the internet and social media lends itself to a decrease in traditional media readership. It also means more brands are taking control of their reputation online, which in some cases is great PR, and in others, creates a nightmare.
PR, according to the Public Relations Society of America, or PRSA, is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Essentially, PR is the art and practice of building relationships. Relationships matter in personal and professional life – they can make or break you. It deals with the sector of earned media – or content that relies on external outlet – such as guest posts or bylined articles.
Content marketing is, according to the Content Marketing Institute, or CMI, “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Basically, content marketing is the art and practice of telling stories about your brand in such a way that promotes conversions, without overtly pitching the sale all the time. It deals in owned media – or content that you have complete control over, with the exception of user-generated comments and the like. Your blog posts, email marketing, and website copy are all owned media.
In my experience, PR and content marketing affect one another – and while content marketing is certainly alive and well, it doesn’t mean PR is dead. Many digital marketing strategies can do well through integrating PR and content marketing. The two go hand-in-hand, and the best strategies include both. Your audience comes because of the earned media from PR, but stays for the owned media created for content marketing purposes.
Let’s take a closer look at how your brand can seamlessly integrate the two – to not only provide valuable content to your customers, but to maintain your online reputation and generate buzz for your company.
Brands are Publishers
Content marketing has turned well known brands into publishers. These days, we’re seeing popular brands like Red Bull, General Mills, and American Express become large content hubs, publishing content on their own platforms to draw in their audience.
Red Bull creates captivating content that focuses on adventure sports and gaming – things you need energy for. They’ve devoted their entire website to acting as the publication, whereas other brands have created a separate hub for the content. Rather than relying on their official website to sell the product – they’re allowing their official website to engage their customers with the published content – making selling the product less of a focus.
General Mills uses a slightly different approach, creating a separate web property to serve as their content hub. Tablespoon is a recipe hub, where you can register to keep track of your favorite recipes and get coupons and other special offers for their brands. Find recipes for appetizers and snacks, lunch, dinner, dessert, holidays and parties. Hone your skills in the kitchen with a number of how-tos, ranging from how to make Jell-O shots, to how to grind your own meat for burgers, sauces you can make in the blender, and more.
American Express follows a hybrid approach with the Open Forum community. It’s housed on their official website, but could easily be considered separately. It’s targeted at small business owners, who want to know more about financing their businesses, through growth, slow times, and more. But more than about the money side of running a business – it focuses on being a resource business owners can use when they need advice on anything related to it. You’ll find articles on productivity, keeping your employees happy, expanding into global markets, and reaching more customers.
YouMoz is an extension of the popular search engine and marketing focused website, Moz. This second of the site features only user-generated content, from industry experts. The Moz community ones of the most engaged digital marketing communities out there, so opening the platform to members just makes sense. Any member can publish content to the platform, but strict editorial guidelines mean that only the best content that adds real value makes the cut.
Williams Sonoma’s website features an extensive blog content hub. Branded “Taste“, the blog features a variety of content to help readers learn a number of cooking skills, and a vast array of recipes. These lessons and recipes all feature the high-end products from Williams Sonoma, and focus on fostering the luxury the brand stands for. There’s also advice for party planning, including guidance for entertaining your guests, and drinks to serve alongside your meals.
Makeup.com is a content hub for well known brand, L’Oreal. Whether readers are casual makeup users or a die hard makeup lovers, there’s something for everyone. Keep up with the trends with a variety of the hottest looks. Learn about the products used on face, lips, hair, and nails. Get tips and tutorials for everything from how to contour, how to select the right drugstore foundation, when to use which blending sponges, how to take care of your fingernails, and more. Plus, there is of course a section of the site dedicated to product picks, so readers can know exactly how to achieve the look they’re going for.
You’re a brand – so you are a publisher. This strategy can be used in nearly any niche and industry. Think about how you’re going to make it work for you… you’re probably already publishing content on your blog, and for many brands, that’s enough. But, you can go further and create a library of content outside of that, if you want. Each piece of owned media can become a useful brand asset, that can be repurposed and adjusted in any number of ways to suit your marketing goals.
Even if you don’t own the generic domain for your product like L’Oreal does with Makeup.com, you can still mimic their strategy with your niche. If you’re selling pet products and services, create a library for owners with everything from how to choose the right breed for your lifestyle, to proper grooming.
Publishers are Marketers
This isn’t always the case, but today, we’re seeing more big name publications like Forbes in the marketing role, with the introduction of native advertisements and sponsored content. Forbes uses their BrandVoice platform to allow you to post content right within the same results as the Forbes editorial content. It allows the opportunity to work with a team of marketing experts to make the most of your content, and gives you the chance to even be published in the print version of Forbes magazine. It however, comes at a steep price, starting at $75,000 per month.
Even the Associated Press has gotten involved, creating their own content services (separate from their journalism) and native advertising network.
Native advertising isn’t the same thing as content marketing. To be featured, you’re paying the publisher to deliver your content in such as way that the user-experience isn’t disrupted – hence the term native. No matter the platform, the native ad looks and feels like the surrounding content. In 2016, native ad spend represented 56% of all US display ad revenue, and it is expected to represented 74% by 2021.
You, as a publisher, have the option to be a marketer, too. When your content hub gets large enough, like Tablespoon, it could stand on its own as a viable advertising vehicle, bringing in additional revenue for your brand.
Optimize Content for Customers and Journalists
You’re already segmenting your customer data to create profiles for each set of behaviors, so why not approach your content this way, too? Of course it’s written to show your customers something – but it can also be useful to the reporters, analysts and journalists who are researching. It’s no different than using search engine optimization (SEO) to catch your customers who are looking for a solution – except you’re targeting writers in need of a source.
Don’t be afraid to use platforms like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to volunteer yourself, or your content as a source for a story you’re working on. It’s how many PR professionals connect with journalists in hope of getting some kind of coverage for their clients. Something to keep in mind though is, many journalists use this when they weren’t able to get all the quotes they thought they would, and are on a tight deadline a lot of the time. This means you must be ready to go quickly, if you want to increase your chances of being quoted.
Content Makes the World Go Round
Okay, maybethat’s a bit of a stretch. But, in marketing and PR, content is the core of the business. Everything from press releases to blog posts, white papers, newsletters, and even social media content plays a role in your business marketing strategy. PR professionals are skilled content planners, and know what it takes to promote said content. PR professionals use the relationships they’ve built to create and promote content, to position a brand positively among customers.
Content marketing fits right into that – you must plan your content, and know where to publish it to get the most benefit. It’s not just the content creation that matters – it’s much more than that. Yes, you must have stellar quality content that not only educates, but entertains and inspires the audience, but it’s getting that content in front of the eyes that need to see it – to position the brand positively among customers.
It means creating content in a variety of formats, repurposing content, and measuring the results and effectiveness on each piece. It means having a plan for each piece of content’s creation and distribution.
Think of your brand as a publisher and a marketer. When you create content both your customers and journalists will receive value from – you’ve integrated PR and content marketing. This approach helps you amplify your content, ensures brand message consistency, and could help in building relationships with influencers for influencer marketing campaigns.
When you look at your overall digital marketing approach, how integrated are your PR and content marketing efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.