When you think of traditional PR, what do you picture? If you’re like me, you might imagine someone filling in the blanks of a standard press release template, talking all about the “innovative” new things her company is doing, and blasting that info to every writer and reporter in her email contact list to broadcast that message to a greater audience.
Done well, press releases are still valuable, but the internet and the rise of practices like content marketing have transformed the brand-audience relationship. Audiences today expect more value from their relationships with brands and demand authenticity from the ones they trust. If your approach to PR is still all about the value you can accrue to your own brand rather than deliver to the members of your audience, then they’re going to look elsewhere.
What Content Marketing Can Teach PR
Just because shameless self-promotion at the expense of your audience won’t really fly in modern PR, that doesn’t mean your brand will suffer. You can still use PR to increase visibility, secure the credibility that comes with coverage from an outside publication and position your brand as a leader — but you have to do so in a way that’s genuine and actually helps your audience too.
To do that, consider looking at content marketing.
Both content marketing and public relations want to improve your company’s image by offering content that shows your audience what makes your company credible and trustworthy. While PR looks to increase visibility through outside sources, content marketing looks to boost your reputation from within.
Clearly, these strategies are not the same, and neither one can replace the other. However, they should work together to inform your approach to communicating with your audience.
Content marketing is all about conveying authenticity and providing actual value to audiences, which makes it a perfect complement to successful PR today. If PR leaders want their strategies to meet those needs and be most effective, then content marketing is the place to look to for guidance. Here are three essential lessons from content marketing that can help you improve your PR strategy:
1. Build Your Brand as a Leader in Your Industry
Building relationships in PR are hard. The media contacts you’re trying to reach receive countless emails and calls daily, all from people trying to get their company out there. If you’re trying to get your brand noticed, then you’ve got to set it apart. The best way to do that is to establish a reputation as an expert in your field.
Imagine an editor or journalist at an outlet receiving an email from you. He does a quick Google search about you or your company and finds no evidence that you’re even working in the industry. He’s not going to trust you or your company.
I’ve spoken as a keynote sales speaker at many events in the last year, and one of the key things that come up with the salespeople I talk to is how much building a personal brand will help them sell more. PR is starting to be an amazing weapon not just for people in the communication and leadership areas, but in sales, marketing, recruiting and even engineering. PR can help amplify these leaders’ brands, which can result in some amazing opportunities.
2. Prioritize Audience Value
It’s easy for PR professionals to focus on their own companies. When your job is getting your company’s name out there, you want to do everything you can to make the company look good and demonstrate all the great things about it. Unfortunately, what you want to say may not always be what your audience wants or needs to hear.
In fact, according to a survey of online publication editors my team conducted for “The State of Digital Media 2018,” 79 percent of editors say the content they’re pitched is too self-promotional, and 56 percent say it’s not relevant to their readership.
These contacts at online publications are basically saying that what’s landing in their inboxes may be helpful to the brands that sent those pitches — but they’re not valuable to their audiences.
It might sound counterintuitive to prioritize value to the audience when you’re in PR. The role of the PR department is to hype the company however it can, but when you’re working with media contacts to get press for your brand, don’t forget to consider the end reader. When you offer relevant, valuable content to the reader in the pitches you send, your contacts are going to be much more inclined to work with you and continue the relationship.
3. Distribute. Distribute. Distribute.
Content marketing is nothing without effective distribution. If you work hard to create great content but don’t put in the work to distribute it well, you won’t see any success. The same goes for PR.
The “build it and they will come” mentality doesn’t work when it relates to your company’s communication efforts. Simply landing a press mention or feature about your company won’t generate any brand awareness, credibility, or engagement if no one in your audience actually sees that content.
Don’t waste your time or your contacts’ time to earn a press mention only to sit on it when it goes live. There are tons of ways to distribute content and maximize the value of the press you earn, so do your PR job and disseminate it however you can. This not only helps your relationships with your media contacts by driving traffic to their sites, but it improves your company’s visibility as well.
With the PR and marketing worlds diverging, it’s more important than ever that these two groups learn from each other and work together. If PR can steal a page from the content marketing playbook, it can achieve increased visibility, more successful content, and overall better results, even in this time of shifting audience expectations.
About John Hall