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Balancing PR with Content Marketing

Balancing PR and Media Relations with Content Marketing

Part of any job is choosing the right tools. For PR pros, especially those focused on media relations, the right tools also convey meaning. This is what Marshall McLuhan meant and he conveyed his messages in a book.

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman unbundles the concept:

“For although culture is a creation of speech, it is recreated anew by every medium of communication – from painting to hieroglyphs to the alphabet to television.  Each medium, like a language itself, makes a possible unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought, for expression, for sensibility.  Which, of course, is what McLuhan mean in saying the medium is the message.”

Those that follow this blog know I’ve been a vocal advocate of content marketing as a tool for PR…

…traditional tools including press releases, pitches, fact sheets, backgrounders, speaking abstracts, contributed articles, white papers, newsletters and other vehicles that PR has used to communicate all contain the basic elements of what we refer today as content marketing.

It’s the PR pro’s background in working with editorial contacts, understanding what makes a good news hook and the skills of a writer are all what make PR pros so well suited to content marketing.

As Lee Odden recently wrote:

“There’s an old expression that has held true for me over the past 15 years: “Facts tell, stories sell”. Content Marketing is the ability to tell brand stories that consumers and the media will care about. Who better to find and tell those stories than PR and Communications pros?”

A Content Marketing Epiphany

For me, the epiphany came when I published a pitch that was ignored…as a blog post, and then was astonished to see the content takeoff.  The post even earned links from very media sites that had ignored my initial pitch.

It was both vindication and a turning point in my mindset:  I could earn the 3rd party validation that defines PR, while also connecting with a community directly.  PR wasn’t just the top of the funnel anymore – through content marketing it could both fulfill PR’s mandate while also providing content that facilitates sales at multiple touch points in the cycle.

PR is Only as Good as its Last Placement

If content marketing is effective PR, has pitching or press releases or other tools of the trade become obsolete?  Quite simply the answer is no.

Traditionally, PR pros over-pitched – they blasted their contacts with every minor feature enhancement. Often this was at the behest of executive pressure for more “buzz.”  I once had a CEO tell me – after securing an incredible 200 placements from a single announcement – that the company wasn’t in the news enough.

In the eyes of business leaders, PR is only as good as its last placement. If headlines are easily forgotten by the public, they are forgotten more quickly by the C-Suite.

Content marketing solves this problem.  There are a lot of ideas that won’t interest a reporter, but they do interest a lot of people.  These ideas are well-suited to content marketing – and sometimes this content can cross a threshold – that is they garner so much attention that it comes full circle and earn media anyway.

From my vantage point, I save those ideas I know are going to be of a reporter’s interest for pitching. It might mean that I only send one or two strong pitches a month, which is fine, there’s plenty I can do with announcements that don’t quite meet the traditional editorial litmus test.

If a good pitch fails, I’m going to use it as content anyway knowing full well I’ve got a good chance at earning enough interest to merit another look.

In the words of Postman:

“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism.”

The medium – the right tool – is indeed the message.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Five Old School Tips for Relating to the Media

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5 Responses

  1. leeodden

    Great post – love the epiphany story. And thanks for the mention Frank. Looking forward to presenting on this at WVU INTEGRATE in a few weeks and at the PRSA International conference in Oct.

  2. leeodden Thanks Lee and sorry for the delay Lee, just seeing your comment now. Lot of comments lately are getting caught up in the Livefyre system lately.  Something to do with the last few upgrades.  Enjoy your conferences; break a leg!

  3. DinaHoward

    I would have to agree, your epiphany story was really great. It surprised me. What do you think made the original pitch undesirable those publications in the first place? Also, to tie it back to the whole medium is the message concept, can you share more about the tactical angle of turning your pitch into a blog post? Today, do you see much of a difference between the two forms?

  4. DinaHoward Hi Dina, I think the average reporter and big blogger inbox is just too full. They look at pitches the way we look at banner ads — they don’t.  

    That’s why relationship building is so important — and I use the word relationship loosely as I think its overused by PR pros.  We’ve got a job to do — and so do they — so a relationship is built on trust; trust is built by sending solid stories they can actually use and answering — sometimes cajoling the executive team — questions with transparency. 

    As for transforming a pitch into a blog post — I might have added a few more details and a couple links — and then it’s good to go. I try to write pitches like stories — with a headline (subject), strong lede, a good anecdote if I can get it — and supported with stats where they exist. 

    Hence, content marketing is a natural evolution for PR.

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