The Article in 60 Seconds
When companies like Mobil Oil started writing their own op-eds in major newspapers, they were creating valuable content for a clearly defined audience. They originated content marketing.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that creates and distributes valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Think like a journalist, and hunt for newsworthy items you can build around your company.
Content and PR create a virtuous cycle: well optimized blogs drive more traffic to your site. Content from blogs can be re-purposed as contributed content to an appropriate publication, to build out your social media arsenal, or to form the basis of a targeted media “pitch” to an influential publication.
Think About This
- From 2008-2018, the number of journalists working in the US declined by 25%, according to Pew Research. There are about 80,000 working in newsrooms today.
- There are 3x as many PR professionals as there are journalists.
- PR employment is growing at a fast clip: the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the figure at 260,000 in 2016, and expects it to grow 9% between 2016-2026.
- Companies have a challenge and an opportunity: competition for journalist attention is high, and getting the right pitch in front of them is a challenge. But it creates an opportunity to provide overworked reporters with relevant content that will help them do their jobs. It also heightens the importance of finding other avenues for influence beyond traditional media. Quantitative analysis to identify category influencers, and content marketing to reach them is something every company should be thinking about.
The symbiotic relationship between content marketing and public relations create a sum much greater than its parts. When structured correctly, they build an environment of trust and reliability about your company and its products, and can turn customers into brand evangelists. Here’s what B2B marketers should be thinking about when weaving the two marketing disciplines together.
In the years before its merger with Exxon and the subsequent sunsetting of its corporate identity, Mobil Oil pioneered a hybrid of advertising and commentary that became the foundation for today’s content marketing. The “advertorials,” placed on the op-ed page, were usually penned by Mobil’s visionary head of public relations, Herb Schmertz. Frustrated by what he often believed was poor news coverage of the oil company, Schmertz set out to state his case by going directly to his audience.
Since this was the cave drawing years before the internet, Schmertz went to where he knew his audience was, but bypassed the reporter/editor gatekeepers with Mobil’s take on everything from oil prices to supporting the arts. Mobil staked out its piece of conversational real estate in major newspapers across the country for 30 years.
Today, Mobil’s advocacy-driven advertorials have morphed into content marketing’s more instructional bent. Websites give companies unlimited real estate to discuss their product offerings, spur sales, and build and burnish their reputations.
The Content Marketing Institute defines today’s content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” As with public relations, content marketing enables companies to impart their expertise and point of view to their relevant audience. The difference: public relations reaches outside your own media channels, principally your website, to proactively engage audiences via press releases, news media and influencer outreach, speaking engagements, and industry awards.
Content marketing harnesses your company’s own channels: social media, blog posts, white papers, and other assets to drive awareness and turn your website visitors into customers. It helps build your reputation as a trusted authority in your field and demonstrates how well your company’s product(s) understand and can meet an articulated need or problem among potential customers.
The Role of Public Relations
Public relations reinforces all the things you’ve been saying about your company through content, but outside your own channels. It’s the art — and science — of getting others to build your reputation and advance thought leadership.
So why do you need both? You’re investing time and resources into attracting potential customers to your site, and to test out your product or service. Isn’t that enough? Well, yes and no. Yes, if you’ve already got all the leads you can handle from content marketing. But no, if you want to reach two important groups:
- potential customers who may not know they have a problem that has a market solution (yours)
- the customers who know you, but are having a hard time picking you out of a lineup of me-too companies and products.
Remember — journalists are in the storytelling business, too. The vast majority are highly trained professionals who, like you, are tasked with finding relevant stories for their audience. Think like a journalist, and hunt for newsworthy items you can build around your company. For example, is there an emerging industry trend your company can speak to? Get in front of the reporters and business analysts writing about that topic and insert your voice into the conversation.
Aligning your brand and its story with the news your targeted journalists care about dramatically improves your chances of securing that essential third-party endorsement that comes with scoring placement in their publication. The placement can then be re-purposed for your own content efforts.
Your PR strategy should answer two pivotal questions:
- Who am I trying to reach?
- What do I have to tell them that they will be interested in?
Next, you can use content as the basis for all your public relations assets, which could include:
- Press releases
- Targeted news story pitches, whether via email or Twitter outreach
- Contributed content
- Influencer outreach — identify and make sure they have access to your content
- Speaking engagements
- Partnerships with relevant associations/networking organizations
- Industry awards/competitions
Content and PR come together to create a virtuous cycle: well optimized blogs drive more traffic to your site.
Content and PR come together to create a virtuous cycle: well optimized blogs drive more traffic to your site. Content from blogs can be re-purposed as a piece of contributed content to an appropriate publication, to build out your social media arsenal, or to form the basis of a targeted media “pitch” to a reporter or editor in an influential publication. Thought leadership is always being advanced on the company’s own site as well as through earned media coverage.
Here’s how the content and PR journey might look for a single piece of content:
Blog post announcing a new product offering and strategic partnership (content marketing)
- Email to existing readers (content)
- Social media (content and PR)
- Employee announcement (content and PR)
- Bylined article from C-suite level executive pitched to trade publications (PR)
- Press release with targeted pitches to specific media (PR)
- LinkedIn article from CEO (PR)
- Leadership talking points in preparation for employee questions, media interviews, investment analyst inquiries (PR)
Now that’s a hard-working piece of content!
These assets form a content PR campaign guaranteed to produce results.
How One Company Did it
Simplify ASC, a SaaS platform to streamline management of surgery centers, partnered with Golden Spiral for a holistic marketing strategy. In the three months leading up to a pivotal product launch at their industry trade show, they initiated a robust content marketing and public relations campaign.
We worked in concert with Simplify to publish a collection of valuable, relevant, and consistent content: six extensive blog posts per month, along with “rich content” pieces such as white papers and infographics.
With these assets in hand, we re-purposed several blog articles to score successful placements in leading trade publications. One publication began to publish Simplify's content on a regular basis. All placements link back to the company's website and created the cycle's greatest benefits: increased search rankings and greater domain authority.
Proactive pitches, spurred by much of the blog content, resulted in several pieces of original reporting and showcased the company’s expertise. Finally, the more frequent and in-depth content posted on social media boosted the company’s engagement levels on pivotal social platforms. The virtuous cycle continued, as the media coverage was showcased on the company’s site and through social media.
These activities helped Simplify ASC build up substantial momentum prior to the trade show. Together with a solid trade show strategy and execution, these content marketing elements helped to triple the company’s expected number of sales leads.
Make the Most of What you Have
Content marketing is about making the most of all the marketing assets you have complete control over.
Public relations is about establishing trust and building a thought leadership profile for your company via efforts you may not completely control, but that can rack up substantial wins for your company.
They’re both trying to take you to the same place: new customers, or greater engagements with existing ones. By closely aligning your content marketing and PR efforts, and keeping both communication disciplines in fighting shape, you’ll have a solid foundation to grow your business.
The First Thing to Do After Reading this Article
Pitch a piece of your content in the next two weeks.
- List your top 5 highest performing pieces of content, and select one that you believe might gain the most traction with your trade media.
- Research the reporters and editors who you think might be the most interested, and draft a 2-sentence summary. Make sure you emphasize why it’s relevant to his or her readers.
- Reach out to them via email or Twitter (have you researched how they like to be contacted?), and see where your query takes you.
Hearing crickets? Move on to the next set of contacts on your list.