Although content marketing is generally thought of as a separate strategy to public relations, the truth is that these two approaches to publicity actually go hand in hand.
Both strategies are about providing people with details about a business. Public relations comes down to methods of communicating a company’s message to the public; content marketing reaches consumers by providing them with helpful, engaging information about a brand’s industry or organization.
Defining Content Marketing
Content marketing is any correspondence you create and distribute to inform, teach and engage with a business’ readers and followers. The end goal is building relationships, thereby increasing brand awareness and name recognition. It’s much more than posting funny cat videos on Facebook or randomly updating a blog; it’s a consistent, measured approach to reach a specific audience.
How effective is it? Statistics show 82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading their custom content. By creating effective content regularly, you’re leaving the public with a positive impression of the brand.
How to Incorporate Content Marketing Into a Public Relations Campaign
While a typical public relations campaign may focus on researching and pitching the media, a content marketing campaign can help support and achieve the same goals. They’re approached a very similar way:
- Set SMART Goals. Just as you begin a public relations campaign with setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely (SMART), you’ll want to come up with SMART content marketing goals to determine if the campaign is successful. For example, we set SMART goals for our client, Adam & Eve, such as a certain number of media placements, links to their website, etc. Every six months we evaluate how we’re doing, refocus our goals and develop new strategies to continue to achieve them.
- Clarify Your Message. What do you want to convey through the content you create? It should be the same message you’re using for your public relations tactics, just packaged in a different way. For example, author Elizabeth Upton recently released a book titled Exuberant Women Don't Age: No Time To Waste. In addition to sharing highlights in the media pitches and book review requests we sent out, we also featured sections of the book as blog posts on the author’s website and snippets as social media updates on her Facebook page. By repackaging the content for the various platforms, we were able to present a consistent message wherever journalists or consumers looked.
- Create a Plan. Just like you’d come up with an overall plan for your public relations tactics, it’s important to figure out the approach you’ll take for content marketing. Will you blog once a week? How many updates will you publish to Facebook each day or week? For example, when we began working with the Peterson Family Foundation we clearly laid out exactly how often we would update their blog, Facebook page and e-newsletter, in addition to developing a clear plan for creating and distributing newsworthy information to the media.
- Follow the Plan, but Stay Flexible. Allow for something newsworthy to happen. Just as you may revise your public relations approach based on breaking news, be ready to create and publish new content based on world events appropriate for the brand. While working with My Hope Chest, we created a specific plan to pitch them to the media and include social media posts about October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Of course, we still had to remain flexible throughout the months leading up to it and during October due to the nature of newsworthy events that came up, such as major sponsorships/awards or surgeries for the breast cancer survivors the charity helps, which we pitched to the media in addition to sharing with social media followers.
- Measure Success. The last step of every campaign is determining success. What went well? What can you do better? Can you think of a new way to share the brand’s message? During a media campaign you do this by tracking coverage. For content marketing, such as in the case of Worldcom Exchange Inc. (WEI), we do this by tracking analytics, such as how many social media users are interacting with the brand through likes, retweets, shares and comments.
How can you use the two different publicity approaches in tandem?
- After you pitch expert tips from your client, turn them into a blog post to share on their company’s website. Then turn the advice into smaller, shorter social media updates and tease the blog post with the snippets of advice. We do this all the time, even with my own firm (Three Girls Media). After creating an infographic, we turned it into a blog post and then pitched it to the media. Then, we pulled quotes from the infographic to share as social media updates.
- If you notice a particular blog post doing well, or certain types of social media updates that receive high engagement, use the subject matter as inspiration for another pitching angle. Or, you can reverse the approach like we did with one of our clients, Lagnappe Custom Interiors. After working with the client to come up with a list of helpful advice for a media pitch, we used some of the advice for a blog post hosted on her website.
- Add the keywords you use for content marketing to any press releases you craft. For example, with WEI we have set keywords and hashtags that we use for blog posts, press releases and social media updates. Depending on the subject matter, we know we can pull in terms like cloud computing, IT or New England technology.
- As you keep an ear to the ground surrounding industry news, think about multiple ways to use current events for approaching the media as well as creating new content. With Peterson Family Foundation, for example, we’re able to use music therapy news in media pitches, blog posts, social media updates, etc. By sharing the message across multiple platforms, it reinforces Peterson Family Foundation as an expert that the media and consumers can rely on for the latest surrounding music therapy.
As you write content for a brand’s blog or social media platforms, make sure you remember you’re directly interfacing with the consumer, not the media. Because of this, the call to action should be stronger, clearer and more direct.
As digital tactics continue to become more common, it’s important for PR pros to adapt and include strategies that would be beneficial to the brands with which they’re working. By adapting skills you’re already using, you can easily add content marketing tactics to any public relations campaign to continue to increase your clients’ brand awareness and name recognition.
Erika Taylor Montgomery is CEO and chief publicist of Three Girls Media Inc., a public relations and social media management firm. Her experience includes 18 years of broadcasting at major radio networks in the San Francisco Bay Area, serving as Press Secretary for the California Legislature and more.