Content PR. You’ve probably seen this phrase bouncing around the blogosphere recently, and no wonder, it’s an emerging PR trend for this year. But what is content PR? To discover the answer, we need to look to marketing first.
Over the last couple years, we’ve seen a significant change in marketing tactics, and the subsequent rise of inbound marketing. Driven by generating interest rather than causing interruption, inbound marketing tactics, including content marketing, draw the audience to the brand, rather than pushing messaging out and hoping that someone pays attention. Doing this requires a brand to be in tune with its audience, know what they’re talking about (and where the talking is occurring) and the creation of content that speaks to the audience’s interests.
The Genesis of Content PR
Within that last sentence you see the genesis of content PR. More than any other department, public relations is dialed into the sentiments of their brand’s constituents. And knowing where influence and conversations are to be found is PR’s stock in trade. And finally, PR pros are an organization’s master storytellers. In a word, they do content.
What is Content PR?
Content PR is the extension of content marketing principles applied to PR. The core content marketing principles include:
- Understanding audience interests,
- Creation of relevant and compelling content
- Deployment of that content in various formats and across different channels in order to reach audiences where they live
New strategy & tactics
In practice, content PR requires some shifts in the traditional PR mindset and tactics.
From episodic campaigns to ongoing presence. It can be tough to get away from the traditional idea of a campaign. But as we all know, audience interest isn’t dictated by campaigns. While campaigns do a great job of building interest, opportunities are lost when brands don’t serve the organically occurring interest that develops when a person has a gift to buy, is researching charities related to a new cause, or is researching vendors or a project at work. Content PR is crucial to developing a plugged-in brand presence that understands – and delivers – what constituents are seeking, and what they need to make related decisions.
Reflecting the audience point of view in messaging. While there’s still a place for news announcements of record, savvy brands are changing their messaging to reflect the audience point of view. Rather than simply issuing a message from the ivory tower to the masses, brands today are communicating in the context of their customers and other constituents, building audience values into their messaging. A brand that’s launching new software, for example, might develop content supporting the launch around related customer challenges, bringing in expert advice about dealing with a particular issue, and work in details about the new software’s capability within that context. So instead of “NewSoftware from XYZ Corp. Offers Improved System Performance,” the headline might read “5 Ways to Improve System Performance.” And instead of a simple text press release, the content might include an array of elements, including an infographic, slides or a short video with an expert.
Measuring pull, not push. While we’ve been talking about “push vs. pull” communications for years now, fully embracing a “pull” mentality is crucial for the successful practice of content PR – and measuring it. How do you measure pull? While metrics will vary for each organization, here are some ideas:
- Search rank, and inbound search terms used to find brand content. A dive into website analytics tremendously revealing. A look at the search terms people used to find your web site shows you pretty clearly 1) the terms for which your content ranks in search engines and 2) the terms your audience is using to get to your web site. If those terms don’t jibe with the larger PR strategy, a focused content PR effort can help.
- Traffic to specific content – and the resulting activity. Measuring the visits to specific pages is one obvious measure. But take it a step further, and look at what happens next. Are people sharing the content published on social networks? Are they clicking on the links embedded in the content and taking the next step (see Outcomes, below.) Looking deeper into page traffic will reveal whether or not your audience is truly engaging with the content your brand has published.
Collaboration. More than ever, integration with marketing is crucial if content PR is going to work. Key challenges that collaboration will address include developing a consistent and coherent experience for your audiences. It’s also important to realize that one piece of content can trigger a variety of outcomes, and brand need to have their ducks in a row to capture all of the potential results. For example, in addition to generating interest among media and bloggers, the direct connection the audience has with the content brings with it the opportunity for the brand to move prospects ahead in the decision process. PR and marketing should collaborate to ensure the content is accurately mapped to the customer decision process, and appropriate next steps are offered to readers. Designed to further inform – and qualify – your brand’s prospects, next steps can include access to more specific information (such as case studies), tips for doing something better and access to staff.
A hallmark of content marketing is creating content that can ultimately represent the brand’s voice and POV within the timelines of an individual person’s search for information or buying process. Content PR shapes opinion contextually. When coordinated with the brand’s marketing efforts, content PR shapes opinion generates lasting visibility and delivers measurable, top line business results.
Join us for the upcoming webinar on Wednesday, January 23, 2013: Leveraging Converged Media’s Impact on Content Marketing
Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media. See her in person at the upcoming Online Marketing Summit in February, where she’s hosting a workshop on Driving Qualified Audiences Into the Funnel Using Rich Media and Distribution Networks.