Yesterday’s PR Pros, Today’s Chief Content Officers

Every day, PR pros are hit in the face with the convergence of marketing tactics—PR, digital, advertising, social, mobile and more.

Certainly, we have to be well-versed in each area to properly advise our marketing and reputation management clients. But there’s a comfort zone for PR practitioners that will never change: well-written content and good storytelling. No amount of techno-whiz manipulation can make a good story out of a poorly presented one. And that’s where PR maintains a critically important hold on the future of marketing. We know how to tell the story—and tell it in ways that get results.

So, as marketing disciplines converge and the lines between PR, advertising and digital blur, how do PR pros remain the chief content officers? Here are three tips to keep in mind:

Keep up with consumers’ rapidly changing use of media. As PR pros, we shouldn’t become complacent in our comfort zone around generating good content. Our content has to fit the media, and only relevant content will engage and motivate readers.

The research on the topic is revealing. On behalf of my client, ARAnet, we recently completed a national study with Opinion Research Corp. that confirms that consumer audiences are definitely changing:

  • Our high-value consumers—young, affluent and highly educated people—are increasingly moving online for their purchase and brand information, at a rate much faster than the general population.
  • Interestingly, these key consumers are also more trustful of information provided online. These demographics say they’re more likely to be influenced by the messages delivered online, compared to the general population.
  • And consumers told us that when it comes to online advertising, they prefer content-rich articles and information compared to banner ads, or other online ad techniques.

Incorporate new content tools that combine the best of PR, advertising and digital. The best new tools blend the branding value of advertising, the credibility of public relations and the measurability and SEO power of online tactics. An example is the evolution of the matte release, the reliable old tool that could always pull print publication results at a steady clip—if, that is, the story was well told. But the matte release has graduated into the digital era, with booster rockets attached.

For example, forward-looking matte companies, like ARAcontent 2.0, have evolved into digital content creators, distributing to top media Web sites, with keywords embedded strategically into headlines and copy to impact SEO. Next-generation services like this have burgeoned with digital distribution of photos and video clips, plus targeting of content to specific audiences such as Hispanic consumers.

Select tools that provide measurement—and proven ROI. Not that many years ago, major objectives were achieving the “thump power” of a big book of clips and gaudy advertising equivalency value numbers to accompany the clip report.

But today, content-driven programs provide measurement and ROI that can be held up to our contemporaries in advertising and digital. Clicks are nice, but they’re only the beginning as far as benchmarks we need to measure against. You need to be able to measure the traffic that arrives at your client’s site, and track it as it works its way through the conversion funnel.

As reputation management, marketing and brand-building have undergone transformation, the element that has survived untouched is the ability—and necessity—to tell a great story efficiently, yet eloquently, that stirs action and favorability among business people and consumers.

The deft touch of PR pros for solid, results-oriented content is also needed as companies become their own media providers through corporate blogs, Facebook fan pages, YouTube channels, Flickr and more.

And even as the tactics converge, PR professionals can keep the marketing, brand-building and reputation management reins in hand as long as we remain the chief content officers—the people who drive the messaging and positioning. 


Bob Rumpza ( is president of Rumpza Consulting, a public relations and communications firm based in Minneapolis. Bob has more than 20 years of agency experience.

  • Dave Toole

    This is a great piece and a good look at things to come. A company is all about their story and how it is presented its stakeholders. We now are learning how the digital tools make a difference. Well presented.

  • Joe Pulizzi

    Thanks for the insightful article Bob. I think the big challenge for PR pros when it comes to being the experts in content marketing is their idea of “who” the media is.

    Most PR pros I talk to still work for placement…to get the story in a media outlet. Content marketing means being the media. Being the trusted resource that customers turn to for ongoing guidance and learning. This is what publishers have done for years and I continue to see PR folks struggle with this change.

    Final note, in our conversations with large brands, internal PR folks are being left out of many of these important conversations that seem to have social media and internal content pros in the meetings. Just an observation.