Content Marketing vs. PR: Why You’ve Been Thinking About It All Wrong

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By Alyssa Patzius, COO of Influence & Co.,

When it comes to PR and content marketing, there’s often a disconnect. People associate PR with promotion, a kind of display to sway public perception. The view of content marketing is very different: It’s all about leading a buyer with education rather than selling to them directly. This is an important distinction, considering that we’re seeing a trend of people with an aversion to ads.

This aversion isn’t just a taste issue. A whopping 96% of consumers surveyed by Inc. believe that ads can’t be trusted. Considering that American consumers are exposed to up to 10,000 ads every day, this aversion to ads (and public relations, by extension) is understandable. So it’s important to incorporate both content marketing and PR into your marketing strategy.

But the truth is that content marketing and PR don’t have to be at odds — far from it. They can enrich and empower each other and marketers can use them in tandem to achieve their goals.

Why Is the Content Marketing vs. PR Debate Misguided?

There has long been an assumption that the PR team and the content marketing team are two separate entities with different methods, tools and even goals. Many companies often assume they have to pick one or the other.

In reality, content marketing and PR have a large crossover area. Although overtly promotional tactics aren’t recommended in the world of content marketing, being able to highlight selling points and expertise is vital. The benefits of PR can be brought to the art of content marketing, including valuable backlinks, real-time feedback on the topics chosen by journalists (and journalists’ reactions to them) and qualified referral traffic back to your website.

Similarly, the educational approach of content marketing could be extremely valuable in a public relations context. You need both strategies to engage leads at different stages of their journeys.

How Can Companies Use Content Marketing and PR in Tandem to Achieve Their Goals?

Because content marketing and PR are so often discussed in entirely different conversations, it can be challenging to bring them together. What are the first steps? Who should be involved in this collaboration? What kind of goals should you set?

Here are a few places to start:

1. Ready your internal experts.

Kick off your collaboration between content marketing and PR by determining the internal subject matter experts within your team. Which people have unique expertise and points of view and can be positioned as thought leaders in your industry — both in guest posts and in press mentions?

These experts could be members of the C-suite, department leaders or anyone else in your organization who has some level of authority and is knowledgeable in their space. These voices will naturally bring together education and promotion because their insights are likely to be both useful and compelling to your target audience.

Once you’ve identified these key personalities, you can start thinking as a team about how they could contribute information, anecdotes, research or experiences to build pieces of content full of rich, helpful and forward-thinking insights. This kind of content will bring the clout and authority that will encourage industry-leading publications to consider reaching out for quotes and interviews.

2. Identify pain points and problems.

Once you have a roster of experts at the ready, it’s time to decide what subjects your PR and content marketing strategy will focus on. Start by identifying the pain points or problems your sales team hears in the sales process. These will be the subjects your audience truly cares about and you can shape your combined PR and content marketing strategy around these items.

For the content marketing arm of your strategy, you could create blogs, whitepapers, email campaigns, infographics, videos and more to address the pain points and provide helpful, valuable content for your audience.

To take the strategy further, you could employ PR by pitching your subject matter experts to journalists who would be interested in covering these topics in their reporting. Just make sure you consider what the journalists you’ll be pitching to are looking for. What’s happening in the corner of the industry that they cover? What do they care about now and why? How can you position your subject matter experts as the people who are best suited to comment on these topics?

For example, if we were releasing a big industry report on developments in the content marketing space, it might make sense for us to create a related blog post or guest post with a theme such as “how to build a content strategy” or “how to conduct research to create a report of your own.” These would be real points of interest for the audience we speak to. And then, we could amplify our results by reaching out to journalists in the industry, letting them know about our new research findings and offering to provide an exclusive interview to talk about the report’s implications.

3. Create a comprehensive, complementary strategy.

Now it’s time to craft a detailed, documented strategy that includes the benefits of content marketing and complements your PR tactics.

A balance of different strategies will bring the best of both worlds to your brand. Utilize paid media opportunities to ensure your company shows up when leads search for solutions. Bolster this with an on-site content strategy, making your website a go-to resource for leads in your industry and compounding that content marketing ROI. Just make sure to write down every tactic you plan to use so you can track your efforts and monitor your success metrics over time.

Then, find public relations avenues that will add credibility to those content efforts, such as applying for industry awards. This might not be something you’re used to doing (maybe you’re waiting to be nominated!) but gaining third-party validation for your business can be a great promotional push alongside your topic-based content.

You can also start pitching to media outlets and publication editors who are writing on topics your audience is interested in. By pitching your subject matter experts and their expertise, you can develop relationships with publications based on shared human interest.

Content marketing and PR don’t have to belong in separate conversations. In fact, opening up your brand to promotional tactics and educational tactics at once could squeeze the most benefits out of both approaches.

About the Author

Alyssa Patzius is the COO of Influence & Co., a full-service content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies strategize, create, publish and distribute content that accomplishes their goals. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.