Wednesday, December 2, 2015

PR Produced Great Content Before “Content Was Cool”

C. Pharr's Cynthia Pharr-Lee (middle) and Krystal Morris (far right) speaking to healthcare executives about PR strategies,techniques and case studies of effective and appropriate communication
integration with social media.

In the daily scramble to learn about the new, new digital thing, marketers sometimes overlook the powerful, but NOT new communications methods that can be invaluable contributors to an overall marketing strategy.

Specifically, I’m talking about traditional, B2B public relations and the powerful “earned content” that well executed PR programs can produce.

Long before digital marketers began to trumpet “content is everything,” effective PR campaigns have created the interesting and user-focused content that helps build brands and thought leadership. Such content can also empower marketing programs.

Today’s conversations about digital marketing stress the importance of credibility and transparency in connecting with customers. For many years, PR professionals have helped clients achieve well-placed publicity, speeches at respected conferences, and events that showcase expertise. These PR activities produce believable and impactful content that can be shared throughout a digital marketing program.

One of the strongest arguments for the power of earned content (especially publicity and speaking engagements) is that it yields de facto “third party endorsement” because the coverage isn’t bought and controlled by the subject. Rather, reporters or conference planners independently filter the information before deeming it credible and timely.  As a result, audiences have a higher degree of trust for earned content than paid advertising. Digital marketers who don’t consider “earned content” in their programs are failing to harness opportunities to connect with key audiences.

Current digital marketing practices also recommend omni-channel messaging, i.e., giving customers useful content, how and where they want it. For decades, PR professionals have been doing this by promoting strategic topics and selecting which speaker platform, event, publication and broadcast opportunities to pursue for clients. These standard planks in PR platforms have long provided a means of targeting audiences to give them content that interests them in the channel they prefer.

If anything is the “holy grail” in today’s successful digital marketing, it is the belief that “customer engagement” is the basis for measuring success. Indeed, digital consultancy Rosetta writes that “engaged customers are the best customers – they purchase 90 percent more frequently, spend 60 percent more per transaction, and deliver three times the annual value each year.”

A key strategy to achieve engagement is providing compelling information or experiences without asking for a sale. These approaches have been embraced by PR for decades. Editorial coverage of PR clients never includes call-to-action sales messages. Instead, it builds engagement by providing useful information and boosting awareness of expertise.  PR events, especially those that are cause-based or showcases of expertise, build relationships with targeted audiences through subjects of mutual interest, rather than hard-selling products.

Digital marketing strategists also recommend omni-channel communications, or consistency of messaging across all channels. If the PR team is involved in marketing strategy and aware of the marketing calendar, the credible content produced by PR can easily reflect the marketing messages used on other channels. Usually, the PR team will be responsible for coordinating executive speaking engagements, working with journalists in targeted media, planning events with key communities and helping plan and execute social media while scripting blogs, webinars and podcasts. With forethought, these activities can become integral parts of digital campaigns.

The meaty content produced by traditional PR programs and extended into social media can add real substance to digital campaigns. For example, including social share buttons/plug-ins when emailing content can drive readers to a landing page that offers interesting news articles. For speaking engagements, providing hashtags for the audience can encourage content sharing and assist in measurement.  Building tweets into presentations makes it more likely the speaker’s comments will be shared on social media…the possibilities are limitless.

In summary, there are powerful arguments for blending tried and true, traditional PR into newer digital marketing plans. Marketers who ignore opportunities to harness the power of PR’s earned content risk missing fuel which could fire up their campaigns.

This post was contributed by Cynthia Pharr-Lee, APR, Fellow PRSA. Connect with Cynthia on LinkedIn.


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