Digital marketing is changing rapidly. It’s impossible to be serious about a marketing strategy today without having a plan that incorporates multiple channels of social media, offers value to the consumer beyond a hard sell, and takes advantage of new and old media sources of amplification.
Jodie Harris for State of Digital offers some useful advice about how to distinguish between marketing roles in the digital sphere: “Content marketing is how you create a story, social is how you engage, and PR is how you tell it.”
Regardless of which side of things you’re on, it’s important to keep your eyes on the prize and consolidate ownership of a PR strategy. Content marketing strategies can inform PR, and PR can inform content marketing. Ideally, the two areas fuel each other to create an effective one-two punch that helps you attract people to your brand and gets people talking.
Here are six ways that digital content can fuel your PR strategy.
1. Digital Content Gives You Something Tangible to Work With
At its core, digital content is about creating media that brings value to your brand by being something that people want to engage with. It has to be useful, which is to say that it needs to have some sort of value to people outside of discussing your product or business.
You’re not just looking to convert potential buyers—you’re also looking to build trust with the people who may come to your content for other reasons. Three main things make for useful content. It needs to be topical, unique, and easily shareable. When planning new content, always ask yourself: what value does this offer to the consumer?
Good content is solid gold for a PR person. Suddenly, you have something to work with beyond a press release and a brand’s story. You can use quality content to convince influencers to pay attention, because if it engages an audience the chances are good that it’s useful to them, too.
Harris finds a great example in Louis Vuitton’s Art of Packing YouTube video. It was topical for the Spring travel season, useful advice, and tied into the brand. It was easily sharable and engaging, something that people would want to watch. All of this made it easy for the PR person to do their job and get it placed in a number of write-ups and blogs.
2. Digital Content Can Be Its Own Story
Sometimes digital content itself can tell such a compelling story that it sells itself, that it becomes the story.
Buffer is a social media management company founded on a core value of transparency. Their website not only publishes the formula they use to calculate salaries, but they go a step further and publish exactly how much each person is paid. Naturally, it’s gotten them a little bit of press coverage.
Big, bold, unique content like Buffer’s helps make PR happen naturally by making the story the center of attention. Even if it’s something as simple as responding to positive reviews in a unique way, the key is to be sure that you put your business at the center of the story. You can then use content marketing tools to push positive reviews and other earned media to specific, targeted customers.
3. Taking a Newsroom Approach
With the recent news of Gawker declaring bankruptcy, it’s more important than ever to think about the potential that digital content marketing has to help fill the gaps. As traditional news sources shrink, people are getting more and more of their news from social media.
As PR Week notes, we can already see PR agencies responding to the situation by hiring journalists to head up their content divisions. These new hires are bringing their editorial skills to bear on content marketing strategies, resulting in more topical, relevant, and sharable material.
“It’s important that clients understand that newsrooms aren’t a physical space or a collection of people only,” notes Narenda Nag, regional director of integrated planning and digital at MSLGROUP, “but a shift in thinking on their parts as well as ours.”
Again, the key is to make the content useful—you won’t gain much trust if everything gets too sales-oriented.
4. Digital Content Can Tell Your Story in a More Engaging Way
The old adage about how much a picture is worth is definitely true in PR, and it offers a major opportunity for digital content to help. Sharp visuals can effectively build your brand, and get you a lot of coverage.
A YouTube strategy like Red Bull’s offers something unique, and can also fall under the category of the content itself becoming the story. It’s easily embeddable in any coverage generated about it. An Instagram feed like Ellie’s Bakery in Providence draws followers on social media while simultaneously offering an array of standout visuals to bundle with a PR pitch.
5. A Way to Take Control of the Story
The “get out in front of it” approach to bad press is one of the oldest PR tricks in the book, but digital content offers some powerful tools to help.
It’s important not to get overly focused on erasing every bit of bad coverage. “Smart brands,” Fast Company advises, “allow customers to post negative, as well as positive experiences, in social media.” A company that has only perfect reviews is a little suspicious—a few negative reviews can actually lend credibility to the positive ones that you have.
At the same time, by creating the right content, you have a way to take control of the narrative. There’s a variety of approaches, including drowning out the bad with the good, or issuing your own persuasive rebuttable, backed up by facts. There are even companies that have used content marketing and SEO tactics used to salvage an individual’s reputation after an out-of-context photo went viral.
6. Working Backwards
If you’re doing a great job creating useful, unique, and timely content, you’re going to start building an audience. As that process continues, you’re going to start getting information about who your fans are, how they got to you, and what other interests they might have.
With our PR hats on, we can work backwards from that data to identify new avenues of promotion and strategies. If half of our blog hits are coming from Cleveland, we might want to look at some influencers based in Ohio. The data can also make pitches far more persuasive, which makes getting earned coverage a whole lot easier.
What You Can Do Right Now
Digital content marketing and PR don’t need to be at odds, and bringing them together under a unified strategy can yield powerful results.
- Use digital content to augment pitches.
- Create content that can become the story on its own.
- Take a newsroom approach to be relevant and timely.
- Use strong visuals to grab attention.
- Use content to take control of bad press.
- Work backwards to find new PR strategies.