Lee Odden

The Evolution of Public Relations Through Content Marketing

Content Marketing PR

Brands are answering the call to create more value for customers and their community by publishing their own news and editorial content.  As companies adopt a publisher model of content and media creation, many are surpassing the reach and influence of traditional publications in their industry.

Some great examples of popular content hubs include Intel IQ, Target’s Bulls Eye View, Adobe’s CMO.com and Dell’s Power More (client).

Dell Power More

Dell’s Power More Content Hub

I think everyone watching these trends can agree that the PR industry has been in a state of flux over the past few years. Over 17,000 newsroom jobs have been lost since 2007 and if you’re a journalist, that can be a scary statistic. In fact, if you’re in media relations, it can be concerning too, because with fewer journalists, the competition for stories is even higher.

Declining readership of traditional media, exploding use of social and mobile technologies, shortened news cycles and an explosion in brand publishing make today’s media environment very different for the Public Relations and Communications industry.

If you want to be in the media, become the media. (tweet this)

Here’s the good news: Brands are evolving as publishers, hiring journalists to better tell brand stories and investing in content marketing.  10 years ago, maybe 25% of our our consulting engagements involved content creation. Today, nearly 100% of our client marketing programs involve creating content to achieve marketing objectives.

Optimize for Customers AND Journalists

In the same way marketers segment customer data to create profiles that reflect key behavioral data about information discovery, consumption and what motivates action, so too can PR professionals approach content creation and optimization for journalists, analysts and reporters doing research. Time on social media and search engines means being where the target audience is looking, whether it’s buyers looking for solutions or a journalist looking for statistics or a story source.

How can you be where journalists are looking? By creating and optimizing content that’s useful on “in demand” and relevant topics.

Where does content marketing fit in the public relations and communications mix? I think defining content marketing in the context of PR answers that question well:

Content Marketing is the planning, creation, and amplification of brand and customer focused narratives that drive measurable business outcomes. (tweet this)

When you look at the idea of storytelling targeted to a specific audience intended to affect certain intended outcomes, it sounds a like influencing publics to me. When you combine that ability to incorporate key messaging into content stories with marketing level accountability – it’s a clear competitive advantage over PR or standard content marketing by itself.

Of course there’s a diverse array of skills involved with content marketing that go way beyond the purview of most PR professionals. But the messaging, ability to influence and target groups is spot on.

Content is the currency for building social relationships that can boost earned media. (tweet this)

Here’s the thing about content marketing and PR: Both Marketing and Public Relations are in the content business. At TopRank Online Marketing (previously Misukanis & Odden Public Relations) we’ve lived this duality for nearly 15 years. Some of the content types you’ll find PR pros creating include:

  • Newsroom
  • Blog Posts
  • Press Releases
  • Case Studies
  • Social Content
  • Newsletters
  • Contributed Articles
  • White Papers
  • Events
  • Video, Image, Audio

The value PR brings to the content marketing mix is more than content creation.  By providing news content that traditional sources are not, brands are creating new connections with their communities and customers. While much of content marketing falls under the realm of corporate marketing, the expertise in messaging, content creation and media relations that many Public Relations professionals bring to the table can offer competitive advantages.


“Facts tell, stories sell”. Content Marketing is the ability to tell brand stories that consumers and the media will care about. Who better to find and tell those stories than PR and Communications pros?

It is often said that people make decisions based on emotion but justify them with logic. Therein lies the intersection of PR and content marketing. Stories can connect with customers on an emotional level and the architected narrative of content marketing can provide a vehicle for both facts and stories that matter to your customers.

Editorial Based Marketing

PR professionals understand how news organizations work. Businesses are investing in content from planning to production to editorial. Corporate Journalism is on the rise and PR professionals are perfectly capable of fulfilling those functions or supporting them to create compelling brand content. Content designed to engage also inspires action – whether it’s a social share, a purchase, a referral or an inquiry to do a story.

Influencer Marketing

Working with industry and media influencers has been the stock and trade of media relations professionals for years. Numerous tools from Traackr to GroupHigh to The Shelf can support the need to identify influencers and content creators based on their ability to affect action. PR professionals are well positioned to identify and engage influencers for a variety of content marketing based outcomes ranging from guest blog posts to co-creation of content with industry thought leaders.

Now more than ever, creating content that influences growth in market awareness and new business requires an integrated approach. While this has been a challenge for many PR professionals as marketing and PR functions converge, the good news is that through a model of Attract, Engage and Convert, organizations can better plan, implement and optimize the performance of their content based PR programs.

Public Relations pros that are skilled in messaging, content planning, social media and promotion have an excellent base to become better content marketers than many of the opportunists now calling themselves “content marketing experts”.  The main area of opportunity is in measurement, because marketers are accountable to performance and business outcomes in ways that most people in the PR world aren’t.

Learn More About PR and Content Marketing

I’m going to be presenting on this topic of public relations and content marketing at several events this year. Most notably, at PRORP’s Congreso Internacional de Relaciones Públicas in Mexico City next week on June 8th. PRORP is the largest association of public relations professionals in Mexico.

I will also be presenting on integrating PR and content marketing at the PRSA International Conference later this year November 8th in Atlanta.

Photo: Shutterstock

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About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.