In a recent Decision Marketing article, ‘Is content really king for marketers’, participants agreed that content is “the new big thing”. But they were also wary of serving the right material to the right audience and not “shoehorning in content for content’s sake”.
As part of any content marketing strategy, the message has to be right. If you’re a marketing director with internal pressures and external suppliers champing at the bit to assist, making sure everyone involved understands the strategy and delivers the right message can be difficult.
That’s when marketers need to carefully consider the value of PR in creating and disseminating content; an obvious and easy statement for me to make, so let me explain.
When the concept of content was in its infancy, and the PR industry happily ploughed its furrow in media relations, the nearest an agency got to content creation for digital channels was crude, SEO-facing overhauls of traditional press releases.
But Google soon got wise to that tactic and has created algorithms to outlaw basic, even lazy, word ordering. That’s made life harder for PRs, which has been an epiphany: we’ve had to become ever-more inventive when developing content strategies for clients.
The industry has thought up many ways of creating, cutting and displaying content for clients. The copy and images we develop has to be agile enough to cross platforms from monitors to mobile devices. Meanwhile, in a world full of noise, the message has to be interesting enough to gain that all-important share of screen.
As channels continue to proliferate, and more impactful and intelligent content is required, someone has to be at the centre of your strategy. PR is a natural fit. I’d argue that our professionals are the natural custodians of content. It’s our daily job to make messages from an often dry brand interesting to businesspeople and consumers.
Even before the advent of digital content strategies, we were devising copy-driven thought-leadership programmes to amplify organisations’ core messages through the right channels to reach their customers. That has now naturally extended into a suite of communications tools covering everything from tweets to videos that do exactly the same thing, but across a wider spectrum.
As external consultants, it’s PR’s job to challenge perceived wisdom within a business. That means honestly assessing and improving messages about what the organisation sells; selecting the right subject and spokesperson for the content job at hand; determining the right channels to use for maximum exposure and impact, and understanding the bigger picture to dovetail our efforts with the wider marketing plan.
The fact many PR professionals are ex-journalists means we are well-versed in the art of storytelling and can make sure the message sticks to the organisation’s ‘plot’, continuously supporting business goals.
There are many ingredients to a good campaign; one that avoids coming across as corporate spin through empty prose or abstract imagery, and is generally useful to the reader or viewer it’s meant to target.
Is the content imbued with a creative twist to help it cut through the clutter? Can it be replicated across channels, if required, from social media to seminars? Is it available to view in all of the right places? Does it have senior buy-in at the publications running it? Can they promote it for you?
Any PR consultant worth their salt will be able to answer these, and other, crucial questions and provide winning content accordingly. On our office wall is another famous quote from Bill Gates: “If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on PR.”
In all honesty, that wouldn’t buy you much more than a sentence these days – but you can be sure it would be targeted, succinct and impactful content.
Susanna Simpson, founder and managing director, Limelight