We often get clients coming to us and ask about their communication strategies and many of them ask if they should allocate budget to traditional PR or instead adopt a content marketing strategy. This is a great question and one which evokes debate between the professionals….so we’ve sought about giving you the answer.
To set the scene
Companies that adopted PR as a service offering, even as recently as a decade ago, will be predominantly used to the ‘traditional’ methods of news dissemination. A piece industry ‘news’ is written and ‘sold in’ to various media outlets in the hope that the PR professional has done their job correctly and identified that it is exciting enough to hit the headlines of a targeted publication.
This news can also come in many other guises. It is sometimes expanded on to produce a captivating feature article, or sometimes it is given a personal point-of-view and attributed as a thought-leadership article. Whatever the direction, the essence of ‘traditional’ PR most often aims to strengthen corporate or brand credibility, shaping a mass, optimistic perception.
Indeed there are still some agencies out there that continue to offer this traditional service in isolation, perhaps adding social media strategies into the mix to engage with a targeted audience. Granted, this can be deemed ‘successful’, but what got our team at Wired Studio thinking was how do we measure success? How large a press cutting is? How many hits a website has received following dissemination? How many different outlets a news item made it in to? Do you think your business is making a return on investment?
Despite dalliances into accurate PR measurement, such as the Barcelona Principles and advertising value equivalence, there is still no fool-proof method or formula that identifies guaranteed or accurate return on investment. PR professionals have never really been held directly accountable for the number of sales their client generates off the back of a PR piece. It was simply a ‘cross-your-fingers-for-sales’ type situation, but times are changing.
Should you be changing your communication strategy?
The introduction of the digital age has revolutionised how we think about PR and how we use it. With it, there has emerged a significant difference between the role of a content marketer and the role of a PR professional, and has seen many a PR professional having to evolve their role from where they were a few years back. Many businesses aren’t aware of this degree of change, so it’s important to find out more about it.
So, what is the difference?
The Content Marketing Institute states that content marketing is, “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action”. More plainly, content marketing is the method of communicating with your customers, potential customers and key influencers without ‘selling’ – a style of non-hassle marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that informs your buyer, making them more intelligent, with the ultimate reward being these people rewarding you with their business and potential repeat business.
It is widely believed that traditional forms of communication, such as PR, are becoming less and less effective as a stand alone, and businesses are instead looking to create and curate unique, valuable and relevant content with a predetermined intention to enhance or completely change consumer behaviour. This is personalised content that will have a direct, positive impact on their lives, encouraging a valued brand following and an increased likelihood for sale, as well as a potential repeat purchase.
Think about your favourite brand now – why does it resonate with you? I can bet they deliver unique and valuable content without you really knowing it.
Unlike PR, content marketing centres primarily on owned media (which your business has full control of), while renting or achieving space in an external publication or online platform (paid for or earned media) is secondary. This gives a brand much more control of their key selling messages, reducing the threat that an external journalist will somehow interpret your specifically designed message in a different way. It also means that content marketers can access a much wider range of marketing streams to get their message across, adapting and repurposing content to tailor it to different audiences in different ways – something that is challenging to do with traditional PR.
Perhaps most importantly in a sensitive economic climate, content marketing also allows for the monitoring of traceable data and allows businesses to track conversions directly from content, and in turn allow companies to control demand for a product or service by analysing data, knowing what works, identifying what’s hot and what’s not.
However, by no means is PR dead in the water. Where content marketing works to build, nourish and retain an engaged audience from zero brand awareness to loyal customer, we believe public relations is content marketing’s best friend. It is fantastic at supplementing with key strategic messages that are core to the brand, such as business wins, financial performance, team insight and CSR news, as well as generating overarching awareness and reaching new audiences. There will also always be that increased level of credibility if someone else, such as a journalist, is championing your brand instead of the messages coming directly from you all of the time. It’s just that other influencers such as bloggers can now do this for you too.
PR is a tool that will continue to help your company, your brand and your content marketing efforts become more discoverable, and the ultimate tactic is to cross-promote content on a variety of targeted platforms.
What should businesses be doing?
Ideally, companies need to be looking to allocate marketing budget to a smart, detailed communication plan that encompasses the streams of PR, content marketing, social media and digital marketing strategy. While this might sound expensive, in the grand scheme of things, this does not need to break the bank and be tailored to suit all budgets.
Traditional advertising has been turned on its head and instead, smart companies are turning to other avenues, such as blogger outreach, an informed social media strategy and a clever digital marketing strategy.
Every move should have an optimal return on investment – is it worth the spend and what are you going to get in return? What is your desired outcome from the spend and is this the best way to get there?
If your agency isn’t doing this for you, and transparently showing you how to access your prospects via the right channels, it might be time for a switch over.
If you want to find out more about content marketing strategy, public relations or digital marketing for your business, contact the team at Wired Studio on 01224 826664.