Is content marketing the new face of PR? We asked ourselves that question not very long ago. For a time, we even experimented with substituting the words “content marketing” for “public relations” on our business cards.

But we’ve come back to PR because we believe that great content has always been at the heart of great public relations—regardless of the medium. Terminology aside, the PR companies that have figured out how to take “old media” storytelling skills and adapt them to “new media” platforms have thrived. The rest are either out of business or just treading water (read “Is It Finally Time to Bid Adieu to the Press Release?”).

Cross-Platform Content Strategy

Companies once had to rely on editors, producers and other third-party opinion makers for news coverage. Nowadays, thanks to new technologies and marketing platforms, it’s easy to bypass traditional media altogether and produce your own branded content to share with the rest of the world.

The problem is that many companies find it impossible to keep up with the near-constant demand for useful, well-written content. That’s where skilled PR practitioners help. Well-versed in persuasive pitching, they can take your organization’s story and develop it into engaging content for multiple platforms (e.g., online articles, blog posts, e-Newsletters, slide shows, videos, podcasts and more).

But don’t assume that a cross-platform content strategy is as simple as taking material from one site and publishing it on another. You need a solid content strategy and plan for “atomizing” your content according to the needs of diverse audience segments. You need to know the type of information they want, when they want to receive, and how they’ll access it (desktop, tablet, smart phone, etc.).

Case Example
We work with a manufacturer that produces an all-natural, organic soil amendment for gardeners and farmers. We discovered that well-researched blog posts, steeped in soil science facts and findings, rank high with industry leaders, organic farmers and commercial retailers. They also help keep the company at the top of search engine results for key search terms. Yet this information does not appeal to the company’s social media fans who are mostly backyard gardeners and hobby growers. This audience prefers beautiful, color-saturated garden photos juxtaposed with the occasional jaw-dropping statistic related to soil science and soil health.

The point is, keep the big picture in mind. Give audiences small, digestible story segments that when pieced together paint a comprehensive picture of your brand.

Public Relations More Effective Than Content Marketing

While “owned” media may be the talk of the town, “earned” media (the placement of third-party media articles that most people associate with public relations) is still the most effective source of information in influencing consumers along all stages of the purchase process.

A 2014 study conducted by inPowered and Nielsen showed that, on average, earned media lifted brand familiarity 88% more than branded content and 50% more than user-generated reviews. Stated another way, content marketing is 88% less effective than public relations.

Here are a few other interesting highlights from the study:

  • 85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out third-party articles and reviews from credible journalists when considering a purchase
  • 69% of consumers read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase
  • 67% of consumers agree that an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider making a purchase

The bottom line is that consumers still value the opinions of independent, third-party news outlets. So before you replace your PR agency with a social media agency, consider which is better able to help your organization develop a cross-platform content strategy that delivers value to your key target audiences across multiple platforms and in different formats.

Rethink the Big Picture

It took less than a decade for the Internet to turn the field of public relations on its head. The days of sending out press releases and hoping for publicity are gone—yet the need for strategic public relations is greater than ever. Today’s PR professionals provide big picture thinking, sound strategy and focused attention to keep your audience engaged and build your bottom line.