Content marketers, listen up!
As we know, the world of Inbound Marketing has created a unique job hybrid: the content marketer–part journalist, part publicist. With this combination, an interesting set of responsibilities sit on the content marketer’s shoulders. They need to create content and then pitch, promote and work their way around some other highly nuanced aspects of public relations. In doing so, they may find themselves in unfamiliar territory and not know exactly what to do.
With that, I thought it would be great to get advice, tips and perspectives from seasoned PR experts to help content marketers. So I posed the question:
“As a PR expert, what would you like content marketers to know?”
Here’s what they had to say…
“The old rules don’t apply anymore. Your customer is on social media and they want to hear from humans, not from brands. The more you can humanize your voice and allow your brand to become a personality, the more successful you will be at public relations. With everything you write, everything you create, stop and ask yourself, ‘Would this actually come out of someone’s mouth? Like in a conversation?'” – Danica Kombol, President, Managing Partner at Everywhere
“From my vantage point, PR should be champions of content marketing because Content Marketing is PR. However, PR has been very slow to adopt change and other functions of marketing do enter the content marketing mix. SEO is a prime example and there are similar quips among the organic search community stating to the effect, content marketing is the new SEO.
“No matter the background of a content marketer, there are some fundamental earned media concepts – the traditional bailiwick of PR professionals:
“-Earned media. Every content share, every link, every mention of a piece of content that is earned organically is earned media. It carry’s the power of 3rd party validation, which can be expressed simply as: nothing we say about ourselves is as influential as someone else saying it about us.
“-Relationships. Content is a relationship building tool, because it is a conversation. Markets are conversations, as the Cluetrain Manifesto explained, and content is an extension of that conversation. A story, or a conversation, on the web, isn’t limited by the confines of print, and often it doesn’t.
“-Thresholds. For all the noise on the web, the signal to noise ratio in the email inbox is probably worse for media or influencers. A more effective way of earning 3rd party validation, even from influential publications, is through content marketing. The content marketer that can cultivate a community around an idea, will cross a threshold that earns the attention of larger media publications.” – Frank Strong PR Consultant at Sword and the Script
“An effective content marketing strategy must include not only ‘owned media,’ or content published on your own channels, but also ‘earned media.’ That’s where public relations comes in. Using PR, we can promote content; secure interviews and stories in newspapers, magazines, and on TV; and build awareness of a brand. When a media outlet tells potential customers and the public how great you are, that creates a lot more credibility than if you were just ringing your own bell, trying to convince your customers of your greatness. We’ve found this strategy very effective for our business-to-business (B2B) clients. Content marketing in this niche includes white papers and case studies – content that’s easy to promote to the media, get stories, and help build a brand. These third-party endorsements are vital: Mark Schaefer, who writes about the concept of Content Shock, says that if you want to get your foot in the door of effective content marketing, you need endorsements from established media sources with large audiences, in order to stand out in an increasingly cluttered content world.
“Remember too, when you produce content – it’s not just about working in as many keywords as possible and boosting those SEO rankings – but it’s also about how and where you publish it. Recent studies have shown mobile taking over desktop media usage; that’s important because other studies have shown that poor mobile implementation can result in 68 percent less traffic to a particular website. That’s all the more reason to make sure your website is responsive and the content you’re generating is accessible on a mobile device. Ultimately, content marketing is a great way for a company to build brand awareness. But if it doesn’t go hand-in-hand with a solid public relations strategy, it probably won’t be as effective as you’d like it to be.” – Heather Ripley, President & CEO of Ripley PR
“The art of relationship building moves to social media with creative content development and sharing that involves well known bloggers and influencers. Similar to media relations work and the value of the third party credible endorsement, using influencers in your marketing/PR program can help to deliver content with more impact. Whether influencers are providing great quotes, thoughtful interviews or just sharing your content with their networks, the result is more credibility, amplified messages, extended reach, and, most of all, helping to spark an influencer’s community into action. The result can lead to deeper interaction with a brand.” – Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge), PR Expanded
“At Strategic Objectives, we believe that PR is the originator and founding mother of content marketing. Public Relations pros work with journalists to create credible, relevant stories that engage audiences and create actionable awareness on behalf of brands. This awareness reaches into the hearts, minds, and wallets of stakeholders, shareholders and consumers alike.
“PR is at the root of content marketing. It satisfies the citizen’s right to know essential news and info that influences public opinions through credible storytelling that has the power to change minds.
“PR, like content marketing, is the art of communicating with customers and prospects without selling – it’s non-interruption marketing that customers find through credible, third-party sources like bloggers, journalists and influencers.” – Deborah Weinstein (@DebWeinstein), Canadian PR Agency: Strategic Objectives
“In my experience, PR people could be more useful to authors if they would just do a few simple things. One really useful practice is to always include pics with press releases (or access to high-res pics).
“One annoyance I’ve seen a lot less frequently lately is the follow-up call to a press release–thank goodness that’s almost over.
“It makes our lives easier if you tell us up-front what makes a product unique and better than its competitors–a basic skill in writing a press release or pitching a product that many PR people miss.
“Don’t ask us to send you a link when a review is published. That tells us you aren’t bothering to read anything we write, aren’t willing to look for it and don’t know or care about what we are writing or doing.
“Finally, please don’t commit the worst sin of all ‘PRdom’: pitching old products. We usually know if a product’s old, and re-pitching it makes you look dishonest and manipulative.” – Charlie White , Emmy award-winning television producer/director, author and PR consultant.
“You can have great content, but if you’re speaking to the wrong audience, in the wrong context, via the wrong medium, then your story either never gets told or loses its impact along the way.
“The wikipedia definition of ‘Storytelling’ is ‘the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment.’
“Telling an amazing story is the ideal aim for any content creator. How can you be the best storyteller? Know your characters, know your plot, know your P.O.V., know your audience. Every word, image and visual needs to feed that story in a cohesive and compelling way. Even if these elements change over time, there should always be a purpose or moral of the story.
“Content marketing is storytelling. What sets a PR pro apart is knowing how to tell the right story to the right audience and has the insight to pull it off. After all, we connect with each other via stories which can create lasting, loyal relationships that are remembered and shared.
“For each story, who is the hero? Who is the villain? Why does the story need to be told? And when you have a clearly articulated outline of the important pieces of the story, then you can craft compelling content that weaves these components together to educate and inspire.” – Molly McKinley, Digital Analyst for IBM, formerly Senior Account Executive at A&R Partners, Edelman
“Content is great. Really! How amazing that we can create and distribute content that has all of our key messages exactly as we’d like them. How wonderful that it is easy and affordable to create professional video, infographics and images today. But it’s important to remember that although ‘Content is King,’ as the saying goes, it isn’t the only card you need in your deck. Content is not promotion. PR is promotion and is required to get content in front of the right audiences, at the right time. Content has always been around–most of it today is social and thus, content is often confused with social media. However, content comes in many forms: social updates, video, white papers, news releases, images, etc. So content is not new.
“Furthermore, strategic and consistent messaging should be taken into account with content–and that’s where PR can help. It’s a PR executive’s forte to be a professional communicator–that means PR is invaluable in making sure content is strategic and poignant–not haphazard and off-brand. Please, pull in your PR expert when you’re creating content strategies!
“Content may be King, but PR is its Queen. Without the right placement, content is like that tree in the woods that falls and no one is there… does it make a sound?” – Christine Perkett – SMB owner, digital marketer, writer and public speaker.
“Too many content marketers skip the first important step: Identifying their target market(s).
“An alarming number of self-published authors, for example, cannot define the people for whom they are writing. (I know that because I ask.) If you don’t know your target market, you may as well be marketing the book wearing a blindfold. You won’t be able to identify magazines, blogs, podcasts, reviewers, and radio and TV shows that are the best opportunities for pitching.
“Other things PR people want content marketers to know:
“The free line has moved drastically. Don’t be afraid to ‘give away’ too much information during media interviews.
“Give helpful answers to the interviewers’ questions. Never say, ‘If you want to know about that, you can find the answer in Chapter 5 of my book.’
“Give away a free chapter, podcast excerpt, video, cheat sheet, checklist or anything else that gives people a good taste of the content.” – Joan Stewart, Publicity Hound
Great advice from some great minds in public relations. If you’d like to weigh in on this, please feel free to email me at [email protected]
You can also follow us on Twitter (@goinflow ) to be part of these great discussions.
Very valuable stuff here. These two industries definitely need to talk more because they are both in the same business and want to add value.
Dave at NinjaOutreach
Hey Dave! Thanks for reading.
I completely agree. Writing this article was a really refreshing an educational experience for me!
Couldn’t agree more, Everett & Rand. As SEOs begin to shift their primary focus from keyword usage to customer focus, they are all (hey, myself included) realizing that there is a lot to continuously learn about this thing we call “marketing.” I think it’s easier for a PR person to learn how to use a keyword or insert a link than an it is for an SEO to learn how to have charisma, persistence, benefit-focused messaging and the overall ability to appeal to people…different kinds of people…in different ways! I doubt a couch potato SEO could pick up a girl (or boy) at a bar very effectively.
About writing solely for potential customers…I believe part of the reason (in many corporate scenarios) is the pressure of R.E.V.E.N.U.E from the top of the corporate ladder. When a budget guides most of what a company does, you end up with:
1) early-month promotions focused on driving sales with blog posts and email marketing delivering the message.
2) mid-month panic promotions with more blog posts and email messages.
3) last minute email marketing & blog posts of desperation to promote a sale, a discount, whatever.
The crew at the C-level need to buy into the long-term value of content marketing that builds trust, community and brand affinity despite lack of immediate cash flow. Easier said than done when you’re reporting to a board, I know, but must find a way.
I really like what Joan said
“Too many content marketers skip the first important step: Identifying their target market(s). An alarming number of self-published authors, for example, cannot define the people for whom they are writing. (I know that because I ask.) If you don’t know your target market, you may as well be marketing the book wearing a blindfold.”
Totally agree – and I’d add that a lot of content marketers think they’re writing solely for potential customers, when they need to think broader and consider writing for the influencers of those customers (which may be a different audience with needs/preferences of their own).
Great point, Rand.
All these tips also have me positioned to not only question the audience, but also the purpose of the content I produce. Is it simply throw away content, or is it something that can truly add value to a conversation for multiple users/personas? I know the temptation to just put quick, fresh content up is hard to resist, but what’s the good if it just gets lost in the noise?
Wow, thank you for pulling this together Sara! It is interesting to see how intertwined and similar the two concepts are, and we mustn’t forget from whence we came. Great tips and thoughts from everyone!
I really like what Molly said about storytelling. It gave me inspiration to look at how brand voice is working within content marketing.
Me too, Sara. I imagine the target audience really needs to be able to connect with one of the character(s) in the story for it to truly work. I’m going to try and use this in my future writing. Great article, by the way!
Thank you, Dan!