Content has always played a key role in PR, but it is only in the last decade that content marketing has become one of the most talked-about tools in every practitioner's arsenal. We spoke to Joyce from Joyce Tsang Content Marketing to get the lowdown on what every PR should - and shouldn’t - be doing to maximise their content marketing success.
What are the common mistakes PRs make with content marketing?
By definition, PR is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their public.
In the marketing sense, PR plays a huge role in generating earned channel content. However, such essence has been lost from my observations of the local market. Here’s what I mean:
“As the owner of a boutique PR agency, I constantly have to explain that we don’t buy advertisements, we don’t order journalists to write stories for our clients, we don’t produce cute radio jingles, and we don’t hand out free samples at the mall. Yes, we try to promote our clients, our products, or ourselves. But unlike advertisers, we persuade our external or internal audiences via unpaid or earned methods. Whether it’s the traditional media, social media or speaking engagements, we communicate with our audiences through trusted, not paid, sources.” - Robert Wynne (2016), Five Things Everyone Should Know About Public Relations
PR, either due to the pressure from clients, or the metamorphosis of our media landscape (particularly in Hong Kong, where we can count the number of printed media outlets with our fingers and toes), has been confusing itself with advertising. The main goal of PR is to build trust so that media partners are willing to give third-party validation, because they agree what the PR is delivering is important. By no means does PR guarantee placement nor control final versions of content.
That is exactly what content marketing strives to do. Instead of telling people to “buy this product”, we approach our target audiences with authenticity and value. The goal of creating and distributing such content is for them to find us helpful, so they naturally become curious and attracted to the organisation we represent.
Therefore, the biggest mistake for PRs is to associate themselves with advertising more than with content marketing. Because the objective between PR and content marketing is, in fact, the same, and that is to increase brand valuation, instead of what clients force upon us, which is to guarantee the increase of sales.
How do elements of content marketing help drive a PR campaign?
At the end of the day, it's all about driving human-to-human connection.
Content marketing helps target audiences solve problems with content, and PR helps brands reach these target audiences by showcasing solutions across different earned channels.
Simply put, materials such as press releases, follow-up emails, and even the online or offline activation itself should extend from a brand's content marketing strategy. It should not, all of a sudden, sound like a hardcore piece of sales material. Worse yet, it should not sound separate from the branding itself, just because it's trying to drive action to a certain initiative. Media, influencers, or any third parties being reached out to are looking for an interesting story and experience, not another sales pitch. The more PR campaigns drive themselves away from the concept of content marketing, the likelier they are trapping themselves down the path of measuring all their efforts with the number of clippings, instead of the quality of clippings.
Content marketing is proven to increase ROI versus traditional marketing for brands, so it can increase the effectiveness of PR. On a basic level, if the PR is sending out the right story, including the triggers or interests of the target audiences as indicated by content marketing (which should also be the very same target audiences the media / influencers being outreached to are hoping to reach), the probability of it captivating attention is much higher. On an advanced level, if the PR can identify the right story from their expertise, and know what to feed the media based on their experience with editorial calendars, they can guide the content marketer on what content to create. This content, as a result, benefits the brand holistically and chases for better success for both content marketing and PR.
Either way, content marketing's understanding of the brand's target audience persona, and comprehensive structure in creating effective content can absolutely help PRs identify the right story to tell.