Lee Odden

Why Content Marketing is Imperative for the Future of Public Relations

Content Marketing Public Relations

Whether you’re considering media relations, brand journalism or managing corporate communications, content has always played an essential part of effective Public Relations.

However, PR pros that don’t accelerate their ability to develop content strategy, development and measurement quickly and effectively are being left behind as the future of digital PR evolves. This is a topic I’ve advocated for the past 3 years, starting out as a warning and now a reality.

Major changes in the digital marketing and PR world have revealed how social technologies, devices and ubiquitous internet access have opened the doors for all-the-time, “everywhere” connectivity to the web.

That connectivity enables consumers and brands alike to:  Create, Consume, Publish, Interact and Transact anywhere, anytime. From tablets to smartphones to getting digital content via your car, the relationship between technology and people has had a major impact on how information is discovered, consumed and shared or acted upon.

These changes in behaviors and technology represent challenges, but especially opportunities for the public relations industry in several categories:

Who Are the Media? – It’s no secret that news media publishing models have experienced dramatic changes in the past 5 years with strong shifts to digital and new business models to meet consumer demand of real-time news and information on any device.

The ability for individuals to develop social networks and publish information to an audience that can match or exceed a traditional publication means that influencers are no longer limited to industry news publications and media. Connecting with and creating value with many niche influencers, whether they be journalists covering a specific topical beat to a passionate blogger with an engaged community, can be as impactful as a hit with a mainstream publication. Being useful with content further enhances niche influencer relations and provides more mutual value than relying on the “big media hits’ alone.

Content is the currency for building social relationships that can boost earned media.

Brands as Publishers – Companies are increasingly leveraging content marketing to boost owned media as well as the effectiveness securing earned media. Companies are hiring editors, corporate journalists and editorial staff to create a publishing environment not unlike many publications.

If you want to ensure your brand gets in the media, then become the media.

Emerging Technology and Consumer Behaviors – Consumers being connected to the web all the time from anywhere and the normalcy of sharing on the social web has allowed mainstream media to tap into their own audiences to capture and report news. Consumers are audiences but also publishers. Expectations have changed and many consumers expect not only to be informed but to participate with the news. Co-creation of content with consumers as well as industry influencers can lead to mutual satisfaction all around.

Ubiquitous connectivity has turned consumers into publishers and they expect participation.

So, what do these changes mean for public relations? Here are three key areas to consider:

1. Convergence: The roles, of PR, Marketing, Customer Service and other disciplines are increasingly integrated.

  • PR needs to cross train for skills, collaborate and integrate
  • PR can tap into other resources in an organization to reach mutual objectives
  • PR can show more value for its own efforts

With the prevalence of the social web and internet connected mobile devices, there are even more opportunities to leverage cross functional resources and skills to connect influencers and buyers alike with corporate content.

2. Become the Media: Brands are adopting publishing models in their efforts to establish better connections with customers, and to achieve a competitive advantage.

  • PR must consider it’s ability to leverage earned media as well paid, earned and shared media
  • PR is no longer a gate keeper to content, but a creator and participant in the content ecosystem
  • PR can establish credibility with other media when it it has it’s own well know media property

Media Relations can be a tough game. Journalists and increasingly, bloggers are bombarded with pitches and it’s difficult to stand out, let alone get in the door. When the end objective is exposure, awareness and influence, why rely soley on 3rd party media? Why not become the media?

Companies are investing significantly in the “brand as publisher” model with content hubs to create a web presence that satisfies consumer needs for information and allows the brand to info-tain, educate and persuade with content. Companies ranging from American Express to General Mills are so successful at this, they are able to monetize marketing editorial with outside advertisers and syndication.

3. Adapt & Optimize. Repeat. Technology and consumer behaviors are evolving quickly and the ability for businesses to attract, engage and persuade their public requires strong adaptability and a continuous effort towards optimizing PR effectiveness.

  • PR needs to continuously monitor consumer and technology trends
  • PR must develop a cycle of objective, audience, approach, tactics, measurement and refinement.
  • Continuous efforts to improve performance of how PR content is discovered, consumed and acted on will be essential

When a competitor launches a new product and gets major media coverage, a brand might decide to parody something in that message or provide a counter point and promote it through social channels as it gains momentum. Knowing people will look for more information than what’s covered in the initial story, content about the story can be optimized for search to make it the best answer and easiest for people to find.

If a business creates a substantial amount of content, there are many opportunities for repurposing to specific verticals or across horizontal publishing channels like email, social networks, blogs and byline articles.  If an organization doesn’t create a lot of content, then repurposing may serve the purpose of extending the value of resources and gain additional reach without a corresponding increase in resources.

I challenge public relations professionals to look beyond the simplicity of earned media and take a bigger picture look at how these changes and the integration of content marketing with PR can empower the role of PR to have greater and more significant impact on bottom line business goals.

Think about how content marketing can create more owned assets with which to attract, engage and inspire earned and shared media. Those same assets can work with paid media for customer acquisition objectives as well.

The only question is, what are you doing as a PR executive to adjust your strategy, skills and resources to make the move forward with content marketing?

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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.