A recent Nielsen study pursued that question to determine which type of content had the greatest impact on the consumer decision-making process. The study compared the effectiveness of three kinds of content: expert content (credible, third-party articles and reviews), user-generated content (review from users, like on Amazon) and branded content (any content developed or owned by the brand).
These content types were measured for their ability to provide lift across three stages of the consumer purchase process: brand familiarity, brand affinity, and purchase intent.
Ultimately, Nielsen found that expert content was the only type that provided a lift across every stage of the consumer buying cycle. The study showed that the credibility and unbiased nature of third-party articles and reviews were critical to their impact on the consumer’s decision-making process. In fact, the study showed that:
The data clearly shows that the content that experts are writing about our brands – the press coverage that PR practitioners secure – has far more impact than the content we write about ourselves. Why, then, does the ownership of content marketing strategy and execution so rarely live with PR teams?
Our PR teams are the storytellers of our organizations, the folks we hire to help shape our messages and effectively communicate with the press and other influencers. They have their fingers on the pulse of what messages will resonate, when more market education is needed, and why certain stories fall flat. They’re also responsible for the most strategic content our organizations have at their disposal – the press coverage that has the most impact on consumers.
Now, this doesn’t mean that organizations should rely 100 percent on the press coverage that the PR team secures. The Nielsen study clearly shows that, while Expert Content had the greatest lift across all categories, both User-Generated Content and Branded Content also impacted the consumer and provided lifts. It’s not an either/or proposition when it comes to content, and a mix of these different types of content should be used for maximum impact.
But the fact of the matter is that the order in which you use these types of content does matter. You might have an amazing writing staff cranking out great content, but if the consumer does not know your brand, and if you haven’t established some level of trust with them, then your branded content will fall on deaf ears.
So regardless of the content mix you decide to use, the Nielsen data suggests that utilizing trusted, third-party content is a solid first step towards educating the consumer and establishing trust.
PR teams are already leading the charge in securing this trusted, third-party coverage for your organization, thus helping to establish consumer trust and educate the market. So perhaps it’s time more organizations hand the keys to PR and let them drive the content marketing machine. And with only 42 percent of marketers feeling like they are effective at content marketing (from the CMI and MarketingProf’s annual B2B Content Marketing Trends Report), perhaps they’re ready to pass the reins.