PR programs have always included client generated content such as contributed articles, blog posts and white papers. When working with clients, one of the first things I’ll do is an inventory of their assets – reviewing all their content that can be packaged or repackaged for the PR program. Creating this content is not a new thing for PR agencies. Focusing on the creation of good content to build inbound communications, thought leadership and leads isn’t that new either. Collaborating with publications on paid content, aka advertorials, isn’t that new either. Even the proliferation of channels due to the increase in social media outlets isn’t that new. Any company or technology has spent the last 15 years learning that blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages and curation are important to the brand.
But what has changed is the focus on combining company created content and those channels into content marketing to not just to raise visibility but as a vital and ongoing part of the sales cycle. Today, instead of just pitching your self-generated content to a publication as was done years ago, today companies and brands have more ways to leverage their content to reach customers and potential customers.
So it makes perfect sense that PR agencies would lead content marketing. Who else better understands what media outlets need? Who else is best able to creatively tell a story? Who else can take raw material and turn it into compelling content? Who else has shown they can get inside the customer’s brain and provide material that influences rather than sells?
But while content marketing may leverage all the things PR does really well, it also requires the collaboration of advertising, marketing, SEO and sales management. That sounds a lot like digital marketing, doesn’t it? And there lies the challenge to the opportunity for PR. PR’s challenge in capturing the opportunity around content marketing isn’t in offering content marketing services, it’s in offering a more compelling solution for it than advertising and digital agencies. I saw this back in 2006 and 2007 as many PR agencies were slow to capture the opportunity around digital and social and ended up taking a backseat at the revenue table.
Will agencies be slow footed again? Weber-Shandwick, one of the agencies who was fleet of foot during the introduction of social and digital, last week announced a new division devoted to content marketing. Edelman is also offering content marketing services. Yesterday, Marketwire, which focuses on online distribution of press releases, rebranded itself to Marketwired and will up its focus on content marketing. And if that’s not enough critical mass for one week, Cision which provides tools to PR agencies to engage journalists announced it will have a speaker address “Content Marketing: The Future of PR and Marketing” in April. The wagons are being circled; it must mean money is on the table.
So with PR signaling its importance to the content marketing “craze” as Ad Age called it, what should a company be doing around content marketing if there isn’t a program right now? To start, ask your agency what role they see themselves playing in content marketing and what value they can see adding to your PR and communications program. If they don’t know or can’t provide a satisfactory answer that’s at minimum a red flag. Full fledged programs may not make sense for smaller companies but for emerging companies with long stretches between “big news” they make sense.
Here’s a good infographic from PR Newswire that shows how PR and Content Marketing interconnect.