Posted: April 2, 2014, 2:00 p.m.
by Jonae Shaw.
For many companies, public relations and content marketing are put in separate categories. Each has unique characteristics, as public relations incorporates earned media, and content marketing is owned media. However, they have overlapping goals: to create, maintain and present a favorable product, service or brand.
What misleads a company is when it tries to decide if it should focus more on its public relations or content marketing. In reality, content marketing is public relations. Content marketing is a PR tactic that many companies and communication professionals have heard about, but aren’t effectively using toward their own success.
So, what is it?
Stacey Gordon, president of Suite Seven Inc., a content strategy and brand communications agency in the San Francisco Bay Area, defines content marketing as a tool — one that “adds value to customer relationships by providing content that educates, supports, inspires, informs or entertains.”
Gwen Morrison, founder/owner of Endurance Marketing in Atlanta, Ga., defines content marketing as a tactic centered on the audience.
“You need to be delivering quality that is relevant to whoever you’re trying to reach,” Morrison said. “And you have to reach them at different media, in a way THEY want to consume content.”
“Content marketing is more ‘inbound’ marketing — meaning that people find it, pursue it and consume it over time,” Gordon said. “And in [that] process, [they] become more informed consumers and develop more affinity for the brand.”
Essentially, content marketing is about providing accurate information and content to your audience about your brand or product. The more the audience knows about the benefits, cool features or better prices, then the more likely they are to choose the product.
Why the confusion then?
What some professionals don’t realize is that content marketing doesn’t stop at a website or a few social media accounts. Content marketing is an umbrella term for much more. It’s a set of tactics to fulfill a brand’s goal through communication channels such as blogs, live events, interactive guides, how-to-videos, e-books, case studies and many more.
“Even Instagram and Pinterest provide content; it’s visual content,” Morrison said.
In addition to the typical media used to present content, there are other ones that companies often overlook.
“‘Content’ can be so many things: videos, webinars, seminars, infographics, conferences and even mobile apps,” Gordon said.
Another issue companies have with content isn’t about what’s overlooked; it’s about what’s not given enough attention.
“People online are very impatient, so they want to see something very quickly,” Morrison said.
When this happens, companies begin providing content too fast, and don’t focus on the quality of the content they are providing. With content marketing, ‘quality over quantity’ is a saying that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Furthermore, quantity has to be just as important. Companies need to provide longer, more thorough content.
“Content provided sometimes tends to be really short,” Morrison said. “But people are given so much content, they need to trust that you know what you’re talking about, so longer, more detailed content is needed; that shows your expertise.”
But is it effective?
Content marketing is the tactic that first attracts a company’s audience, and then ensures that they remain. However, before a company can chose what type of content they want to use and how to market it to its audience, it must figure out what its audience needs.
“My biggest piece of advice is to figure out who your target audience is and what they need, and focus on the channels and content types that are easiest and most preferred for them,” Gordon said.
Another issue companies struggle with is deciding if the content itself is the most important aspect, or the channel through which it’s presented.
“Content is most important!” Morrison said. “You have to start with quality content.”
Suite Seven believes that collaboration of content and the channel is important but that it has to begin with quality.
“It’s both! But the content strategy needs to come first. It’s vital that you figure out what you’re trying to communicate, then the best channel and medium to communicate it,” Gordon said. “Organizations that say ‘we need to be on social’ need to be able to answer ‘why?’ and be clear on what they’re doing there and what they hope to get out of it.”
Is it working?
“Technically, there are ways to peg the content so that you know the readers are reading it from this source to that source,” Morrison said.
However, the reach of your content is the best way to measure effectiveness. Suite Seven’s agency notes that inbound traffic — more page views and referrals from search engines and other sites — is important, but the engagement from your audience is most important.
“What you really want is engagement and conversions,” Gordon said. “Downloading content, watching videos, sharing content and providing contact information in exchange for content are all ways that users show engagement with content.”
“For social media, it’s the number of retweets, shares and comments,” Morrison said. “The reach is the biggest indicator that the content you’re writing [and presenting] is succeeding.”
Content marketing is all about creating interesting, sharable information for one’s audience. If, and when, companies add more variety, more audience-centered and better-quality content, they will certainly attract and keep their audiences. Now that is good public relations!