Companies used to rely on sales language and promotional content to engage their audiences.
Canned press releases and email blasts to media outlets kept people updated on what companies were up to, and no one relied much on brands for entertainment or education—just the facts and an occasional pitch.
Today, that dynamic has changed. Consumers demand more from branded content than ever before. Where press releases and promotional material were once the norm, industry insights and content marketing have taken hold. Audiences don’t have the time (or interest) to spare for blatantly self-promotional sales pitches. What people crave is genuinely interesting and educational content from industry leaders with the clout to earn their attention.
This shift hasn’t eliminated the role of PR. However, it has changed the relationship between PR and marketing. Once divided by a departmental wall, PR and marketing now share similar motivations and tactics—and neither can reach its full potential without the other’s help.
Marketers, for instance, lean on the channel expertise and media connections of PR departments to position content in the best light. PR professionals, meanwhile, need guidance from marketers to move away from dry or sales-oriented pieces and toward engaging, high-quality content that provides more value to hungry audiences.
That’s not to say that the old functions of PR have died out. PR professionals still have a crucial role to play in communications with consumers, business partners, investors and other stakeholders.
To make the most of these changes and fulfill (or exceed) audience expectations, PR departments should consider five lessons from marketing:
1. Build your brand as an industry leader.
PR professionals lean on their contacts in media to spread messages. Those relationships don’t appear out of thin air, though. They require trust. To earn that trust, take a page from marketing’s book and use industry insights and commentary to develop your brand as an expert.
When people can search your name and see that not only are you a real person, but you’re also an expert with valuable information to share, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say. That goes for publication gatekeepers as much as it does for readers.
2. Focus on audience alignment.
Publication editors everywhere hate pitches with irrelevant content. According to “The State of Digital Media 2018,” 56 percent of editors say the biggest reason they reject content is because the content doesn’t fit their audiences. Rather than pitch to everyone at once via a one-size-fits-all approach (and tarnishing relationships with editors in the process), tailor content to the target publication’s audience to increase the chances of acceptance and improve relationships with the editor.
While PR professionals deal more with traditional media contacts than marketers, the principle is the same. Editors want content that their audiences want to read. Pitch them that content, and they will be more likely to provide favorable treatment in the future.
3. Prioritize value to readers.
This might sound counterintuitive to PR professionals, but shameless self-promotion is the quickest way to lose the interest of audience members and media professionals alike. Sure, the latter might publish something that briefly mentions your company in a forgotten corner of their website, but they won’t treat that content as a valuable commodity to share, promote and use after its initial publication.
Instead, include benefits to end readers in all the content you pitch. Talk about how people can use new features. Address the problems your company is solving and focus less on how great you are for solving them. Audiences know who’s behind the content; there’s no need to rub it in.
4. Develop mutually beneficial relationships.
Consistency breeds quality. Don’t ship one-off pitches and quotes to contacts and then ghost them after you land a piece of published content. Build relationships with media outlets and publication editors by providing quality content and access to new sources on a consistent basis.
Pitch recipients know you want coverage, but they have an obligation to provide their audiences value each time they publish. Give back at every opportunity to set the stage for long-term, mutually beneficial relationships in which each side sees the other as a valuable partner.
5. Distribute content intelligently.
The key to content marketing is the same as the key to good PR: Get the right content in front of the right people. Develop a distribution network made up of media outlets and editors in places where target audiences are most likely to go—and don’t forget that your work isn’t over once your content goes live.
The point of your pitch isn’t just to get published; it’s to make that published content works toward your goal. If your audiences never see your content, they can’t engage with it or begin to trust you. Focus on distribution to make the most of every piece of published content.
Kelsey Meyer is the president of Influence & Co., a company that specializes in content marketing.