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Blurred Lines: Trepidations of Content Marketing & PR

Date published: June 19, 2014
Last updated: June 19, 2014

There’s a lot of talk these days about the blending of PR and online marketing. As the lines continue to blur, online marketers are learning and internalizing the PR industry’s best practices, while seasoned PR pros are scrambling to get up to speed with the limitless opportunities afforded them in the digital landscape.

Just as the goals and tactics of online marketers and PR practitioners are similar, so are their concerns and apprehensions. Recent reports from Vocus on The State of Marketing and Public Relations in 2014 highlight the following themes:

Blogging ≠ Content Marketing

Kevin Bailey recently explained why if you build it, they—your target audience—will not “just” come. There's no such thing as a marketing utopia, according to Bailey, Chief Marketing Officer of DigitalRelevance. Great content, he says, needs to be paired with great promotion.

Let me be frank. Publishing content doesn’t equate to content marketing. Effective blogging is hard to sustain and demands high quality thought leadership on a regular, recurring basis. As Vocus points out, “Unless [your] brand has a well-functioning blog and can own relevant keywords, its blog posts are less likely to create a big splash for news and information dissemination.”

With ever-limited resources in marketing and PR departments across the globe, dedicating the time and staff required to maintain a healthy blog presents a significant challenge. This explains why only 34 percent of PR professionals surveyed for the Vocus study rated blogging’s effectiveness as a 4 or 5 (5 being the highest). Simply stated? You get out what you put in. And without a serious commitment to blogging from the top down, mediocre content published intermittently will not create a loyal, returning readership.

Even when you can sustain blogging efforts and create new information that people actually want to read, that still isn’t enough. True content marketing employs the company website to communicate news, emails leads frequently to keep the brand top of mind, presents new concepts at industry events, engages on social media, and proactively maintains relationships with the media.

If You’re Seeking Earned Media, You Can’t Afford to Not Be On Social

Consider these statistics from the Vocus State of PR report:

  • 78 percent of respondents (325 mid and senior-level marketing and PR professionals) use social to share content
  • 58 percent use social to follow trends
  • 50 percent use social to share media coverage
  • 44 percent use social tools to cultivate relationships
  • 29 percent pitch reporters directly via social

All this data suggests that your competitors are sharing their owned and earned media through their social channels. Monitoring their activity is a great way to find out what they are talking about and what others are saying about them.

They’re also using social media to stay abreast of industry news and trends. Don’t let your competitors get ahead of you on the innovation curve, but also understand that following and engaging with the same media outlets, influencers, and blogs as your competitors isn’t enough. Discover loose connections and explore industries one or two degrees of relevance from your own to find true opportunities for exceptional thought leadership.

Perhaps most importantly, media relationships are being built and content is being pitched on social media. Journalists make no secret of how busy they are and they shout from the rooftops how much they dislike form pitching. It may seem informal and even impolite to begin a self-serving conversation on social media with a stranger, but it works and here’s why:

  • Social media is conducive to brevity… and journalists like brevity.
  • Your social accounts are tied to your identity… and journalists like credible, authoritative sources.
  • Marketers, PR professionals, and the media are already hanging out on social platforms monitoring their competitors and identifying trends, so it’s convenient for everyone.

Strategy vs. Tactics

It’s not easy or intuitive to understand the difference between goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics, but it’s essential to be able to drill down to that level of detail from an ambitious, high-level vision if you ever want to accomplish anything.

Although more than 54 percent of survey respondents say brand awareness (a strategic goal) is their No. 1 concern, they rank content marketing, social media, sales conversion and lead generation as their next biggest concerns - all of which are tactics to achieve some larger goal.

Writers of the Vocus report summed it up best with this insight: Marketers begin with the best of intentions for their efforts, but the need to generate and convert leads day in and day out often takes precedence.

There is a clear gap between vision and reality; marketing and PR professionals buy into the concept of content marketing, but only 60 percent of them have an actual strategy.

You wouldn’t just proclaim you’re going to raft rim-to-rim along The Grand Canyon and then hop in your car and go without having planned out the gear you need to obtain, the route you’re going to take inside the canyon and the training you need to complete that trip in advance. Promoting and distributing content is no different. It requires setting lofty goals, identifying what you’re trying to achieve in chasing that goal, thinking critically about the steps required to get to that goal, and spelling out exactly how to execute each step in the process.

Successful promoters of content understand that successful digital campaigns encompass much more than well-written blog posts and they embrace trends in social media in meeting their goals. Moreover, it is not uncommon for content marketers and PR professionals to share the same high-level goals. As the lines continue to blur between their respective roles, they may even adopt each other’s strategies and tactics.

Where else do you see blurred lines and shared pain points between online marketers and PR professionals?

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