ABC’s of Content Marketing: Always Be Content-Optimizing

Kiersten Lawson
Kiersten Lawson

Alec Baldwin's character in the movie version of David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" famously distills his philosophy of selling to three words: "Always be closing." Kiersten Lawson, content strategy director for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, is nearly as terse in her core belief about content marketing: "Always be content-optimizing."

Lawson, who will offer a similarly concise and insightful survey of the content landscape for PR professionals at PR News' June 18 Content Marketing Boot Camp in New York City, says a content strategy must be continually revised and fine-tuned in a feedback loop that incorporates data and specific calls to action. As she says in the following Q&A, only with a well-thought-out call to action tied to business objectives can a PR pro test, re-test and optimize a content strategy.

PR News: What can PR professionals uniquely bring to the creation and distribution of content?

Kiersten Lawson: Building authentic relationships is in the DNA of PR. The long-term, one-on-one relationships we’ve always forged with journalists give us an intrinsic understanding of the value of trust and loyalty and how it influences behavior not just in the moment, but over the long haul. Expert storytelling skills also give PR practitioners a leg up in content marketing competence. Beyond helping journalists shape stories that will resonate with their specific audience segments, we have finely honed our editorial savvy to customize content type and tone to relate to a wide range of audiences—say those of a consumer blog versus the New York Times or a tech Twitter feed.

We’re also well-versed in acting or reacting fast to capture storytelling opportunities and imperatives.

PR News: How would you characterize the business opportunities content marketing offers PR agencies in particular?

Lawson: We see it as both a growth opportunity and a replacement offering. As brands increasingly act as their own content publishers, PR partners provide a crucial storytelling skill set needed to implement a more nimble and effective content engine.

PR News: What skills should PR pros develop to take advantage of these opportunities?

Lawson: We need to marinate more in data, and develop our analytical understanding around content success measurement.  “Call to action” should become our middle name—we must learn to stop in our tracks and never create content without a clear idea of what we want our audience to do after seeing it.  The action we want to spur just needs to be something we can count or track.  Brand awareness and brand humanization are valid metrics in many cases, but tough to count. Metrics tied to actual business objectives and the customer journey or sales funnel reap the biggest rewards.  

PR News: What’s one tip you want to share with attendees at PR News’ Content Marketing Boot Camp?

Lawson: Always be content-optimizing. No matter how sophisticated or nascent it may be, implement a regenerative content strategy: one that thrives on the process of continual learning, listening and fine-tuning—from research through execution and feedback.

Kiersten Lawson will kick off PR News' June 18 Content Marketing Boot Camp at the Yale Club in New York City with a look at PR's developing role in the content marketing landscape.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI