As the media world continues to evolve, so too do the ways in which brands grow their presence. For years, many relied primarily on traditional PR, working with channels such as newspapers, magazines, and television to manage public opinion. As the world went digital, so did PR, with brand awareness efforts shifting towards online news sources, blogs, and websites.
Then, another player entered the digital ring: content marketing. Whether you’ve recognized it or not, you’ve almost certainly come in contact with it, most likely in the form of an resource page, blog post, infographic or social media post.
Like PR, content marketing is a concentrated effort to improve brand awareness for a business. But how each one achieves that goal can greatly differ, from strategies implemented to metrics used to measure success.
At its core, content marketing is a type of marketing aimed at building brand awareness. Companies pursuing a content marketing strategy typically produce and share “content” like infographics, blogs posts, resource pages, social media posts, podcasts, and videos online.
While companies go through painstaking measures planning, creating, and distributing the content, the point is not to directly promote themselves. Instead, the content is designed to garner interest in a company’s specialty or service.
As the digital world continues to evolve, content does, too. Content marketing stretches to reach every corner, ranging from blog posts and infographics to whitepapers and eBooks.
There are several types of “content” used in content marketing. The type of content a business pursues directly relates to the audience they’re trying to reach. Some businesses may focus on one, two, or three vehicles for distributing their content marketing strategy, while others will tackle all of them:
Blogs: Blogs aren’t just for educating customers. Instead, posts are created specifically to reflect a brand’s purpose, therefore improving SEO while boosting organic traffic.
Videos: Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Though basic, an engaging video – whether it’s a tutorial, research, or product visualization – can play well on social media platforms and catch the eye of potential customers. According to a study by Hubspot, 54% of people want to see more videos from their favorite brands.
Infographics: When designed well, infographics are eye-catching ways to display and share data that has the potential to go viral. While on their surface, infographics look fun, they’re great ways to make a brand more reputable and increase leads.
Trending visuals: Social media applications are flooded with memes and GIFs. These rending visuals are easy to view and easy to understand, making them incredibly easy to immediately share with others. Utilizing “trending visuals” is one way content marketing can feel fun, culturally relevant, or go viral.
Influencers: With an estimated 70% of consumers on social media, partnering with an influencer plays a key role in many brands’ strategies. The average earned media value per $1 spend is close to $6 – more than worth it. Be strategic in your partnerships, choosing only influencers with audiences that resemble yours.
User-generated content: Simply put, user-generated content is exactly that – content created by a user. Ranging from social media images to blog posts, this content attracts other like minded individuals and potential customers.
Testimonials and customer reviews: Much like user-generated content, testimonials and customer reviews directly from your audience will appeal to your audience by showing why your company is the best at what you do.
Case studies: Case studies are the best ways in which to inform a lead about who a brand is and what it does through a first-person perspective.
Checklists: By painting a clear picture of what your brand does and how it solves your customers’ problems, you’ll allow potential customers to envision the way your product fits their needs.
eBooks: It’s not what you think. Brands aren’t writing actual books, instead eBooks work as a great means of inbound marketing. These are essentially longform blog posts that offer value and tips to potential customers by giving them something useful. Turn readers into leads by gathering contact information.
Whitepapers: Despite popular belief, whitepapers and eBooks are not one and the same. While whitepapers are also long, they focus more on data and information than eBooks, which are short, to the point, and have keywords sprinkled throughout.
Content marketing, like any type of marketing strategy, happens in phases. First, companies need to to plan their content by identifying who their audience is and how they want to engage them.
From there, they can create and distribute content to that audience with the end goal making the content as easy as possible to share.
Simply put, content marketing is important because it supplements the efforts of outbound marketing. It’s an effective way to connect with audiences, increase conversions, enhance SEO, and generate leads.
Content marketing doesn’t do the “hard sell” asking for someone to become a customer, instead, it subtly builds a community of engagement through content that educates and enriches the conversation.
By definition, public relations is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Unlike content marketing, which produces tangible (or digital) pieces of content to promote and share, public relations focuses on brand or reputation management.
Generally speaking, there are two types of public relations strategies: traditional PR and digital PR. The latter has organically evolved from the former as the digital world continues to grow in prominence.
Traditional PR is what many think of when they hear the term: a direct approach to public relations that focuses on promoting a brand and increasing awareness. PR professionals leverage the power of television, radio, newspapers, and magazines in order to manage the public’s opinion and generate interest.
Digital PR professionals seek to combine the traditional media outreach component of PR with a wider online strategy in order to take advantage of the reach of the digital world. Instead of focusing just on traditional media outlets, digital PR seeks coverage by online news sources, social media, blogs, and websites.
Because the two share the same goal – increasing brand awareness – but vary in approach, many companies combine the two in order to create an even further reach.
Why does PR – digital or traditional – matter? Because without it, it’s difficult to build brand awareness while sending a positive message to the correct audiences. In addition, it helps build trust and maintain credibility while increasing leads, sales, and profits.
What’s the difference between PR and content marketing? While PR focuses on direct promotion of a brand and brand name via traditional media outlets, content marketing builds content for the purpose of educating audiences and establishing a brand as an expert.
Both PR and content marketing share a similar end goal of building brand awareness and earning company mentions.
At its core, content marketing is about garnering attention for the stories a brand tells about itself; whether they’re being told on a blog, in an eBook, or on social media. PR, on the other hand, is about developing and sustaining relationships with the writers and journalists who tell the brand’s story, thus building brand awareness and positive sentiment.
The common denominator? They’re telling stories. Both traditional and digital public relations can support content marketing by getting a brand’s stories and content in the hands of journalists and writers. When a brand’s content is put into the hands of the media, it stands an even better chance of garnering attention, going viral, and increasing brand awareness.
Content marketing isn’t new. In fact, it’s always been part of PR.
“Great content has always been the key to educating prospective and current clients and building brand trust,” Danielle Cyr of Co-Communications says.
But content marketing has changed the way that PR is done.
Today, there’s a much higher demand for content and data – and it seems like everyone is a content creator. Brands must now work harder to stand out, and that often calls for creative, timely, and relevant efforts. It calls for content marketing.
Thanks to content marketing, a number of new PR distribution strategies have taken flight, including earning backlinks, partnering with influencers, and creating data visualizations.
When choosing between content marketing and PR, brands need a firm grip on what they’re trying to accomplish. They need clearly defined goals. Are they simply looking to garner interest in their business?
If so, content marketing is the best choice. But if they’re actively trying to sway the public’s view of them or boost positive sentiment surrounding their company, PR will get the job done.
Oftentimes, brands will combine their content marketing and PR efforts. While content marketing is an immediate strategy forward, PR can take their mission one step further by putting ready-made stories directly into the hands of journalists and writers.
San Francisco-based agency Meltwater calls the decision to combine the efforts a “win-win” for a number of reasons:
Content creators don’t have to compete with PR professionals. By working together, they can elevate a brand’s presence and take awareness to the next level.