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Content Marketing is PR

Some of the conclusions drawn from a recent study – The Role of Content in the Consumer Decision Making Process – are missing the mark from my perspective.

One finding from the study:

“A brand new in-lab study by Nielsen, commissioned by inPowered, shows that expert content—credible, third-party articles (earned media)—is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories. More specifically, when measured against owned media (branded content) it showed that earned media is 80 percent more effective at the bottom-of-the-funnel or purchase consideration stage, 80 percent more effective at the middle-of-the-funnel or affinity stage, and 38 percent more effective at the top-of-the-funnel or familiarity stage.”

Based on that data, the conclusion is: PR is more effective than content marketing.

There’s no question in my mind that third-party validation is what makes PR effective.  Aside from the endearing nature of self-deprecating humor, nothing we say about ourselves is as powerful as someone else saying it about us.  My definition of PR is third-party validation.

For PR pros, the Inbox is Broken

A friend once told me to never underestimate the power of a well-written and timely letter. By extension, a good pitch that meets the same criteria is also very effective, but the inbox is broken.

We live in a day and age where our very business colleagues struggle to keep up with the inbox and respond to emails in a timely fashion. If those that know us, indeed are bound by the virtues of employment, can’t keep up, imagine what that means for the influencer, blogger or reporter. It means unsolicited emails from unknown sources go to the bottom, or to the trash bin with little more than a scan of a headline.

Add to the mix there are fewer publications and fewer reporters from a traditional media relations perspective, and the conundrum is exponentially problematic. Useful content developed by a brand – content marketing or brand journalism – is the path to overcoming that problem.

A blog post provides or demonstrates:

  • Relevancy. Social proof – arguably third-party validation – in the form of social sharing.

PR has changed.  PR pros live in a world where we can earn far greater visibility for the brands we represent by being actively engaged in the market of conversation – than a pitch ever could. Active engagement in the community of our customers and prospects is a more effective means for relating to the public than sending unsolicited email pitches.

The Mix is Part Art and Part Science

There are better conclusions to the study – it’s that no one-size-fits all approach to marketing.

“The inPowered/Nielsen study reminds us, in other words, that there is no one correct strategy for content marketing—but there is a unique strategy for your brand, and the key to that strategy is to start where your audience is, and not with where ‘the industry’ is.”

There’s an age-old debate about whether or not PR is more effective than advertising. The argument usually presents a case for why marketing should dump one tactic and load up the budget for another one.  A better question to ask is how PR and advertising can be integrated to greater effectiveness – and that’s true of any function of marketing.

Good PR is a mix of art and science that often includes a blend of media, including paid media tactics for earning media – and by extension third-party validation.  Any program for marketing’s effort requires consistency, experimentation and a process for iterating and improving outcomes.

Concluding from this study that content marketing is less effective than PR is missing the mark because today content marketing is PR.

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Photo credit:  Flickr, [smiley face], the world is flat (CC BY 2.0)

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