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The missing link: How does PR support content marketing?

Public relations and marketing are often seen as two sides of the same coin. But in reality, they have slightly different objectives though can be used to complement each other. In this article, we’ll look at the difference between PR and content marketing and answer the question: how does PR support content marketing?

What is PR content vs content marketing?

If you’re wondering what public relations involves, it’s any activity that creates positive publicity for a business. This could be getting coverage in the media, issuing press releases or running events. It is also the medium through which you can regulate your image and public perception, particularly in crisis mode.

As such, much of public relations requires building a network of media professionals or contacts who you can rely on to pitch ideas to, attend your events or coordinate interviews with.

Overhead shot of a co-working table with laptops

Content marketing is slightly different: it involves creating and distributing valuable content on a regular basis to attract prospects who might eventually become customers. This includes blog posts, social media posts and video content.

The main aim of PR is to create an image and maintain awareness of a company’s core values; whereas the goal of content marketing is to generate leads and conversions by providing something of value for free first.

Of course, as PR is a form of controlling your brand image and marketing your business, there are some natural overlaps. That’s why PR activity may be incorporated into wider content marketing or brand awareness strategies.

Why should I use PR?

With more and more businesses relying on digital marketing to get found, producing regular, engaging content is an important step when you’re trying to compete for business and consumer attention.

But effective public relations can elevate your business from operating only in the two-dimensional online sphere to being seen as a living, breathing and relevant company by showcasing how it functions in the offline world too.

For instance, a company that wants to champion sustainability or improving working conditions in third-world countries will get this message across much more strongly if it publicises it through a blend of offline activities (fundraising, awareness events etc) bolstered by online marketing (blog content, press releases etc) as opposed to only publishing a thought-piece on their blog.

Close up of runners legs in a fundraising fun run

PR activity can include:

  • Sponsorship (of events, product lines, digital content, NPOs or even people)
  • Holding events
  • Fundraising
  • Issuing press releases or making public announcements (such as about winning a contract, funding or launching a new product)

It’s also important to have a PR contingent in your business to deal with negative press. This could include a range of potential negative news stories:

  • Damage limitation to your brand if a story breaks about your company (e.g. due to an investigation)
  • Responding to customer complaints online
  • Managing publicity around business developments (such as mergers and acquisitions, staffing changes, redundancies)
  • Your response to social and economic factors (such as the COVID-19 pandemic or a recession)
  • You may even be called upon by the media to respond to external issues that affect your business tangentially, such as the closure, death or investigation of a business or individual you were once associated with.

As you can see, public relations is a multifaceted area and one that takes real skill to pull off. That’s why many businesses have their own in-house PR teams, work with a PR agency or a seasoned copywriter. Clear and sensitive communication is key and your writer must be able to expertly convey your brand message at all times.

So, how does PR support content marketing?

Content marketing is about generating, distributing and measuring content in order to attract a defined audience with the goal of gaining customer interest and trust. Public relations is about maintaining or improving your brand image.

PR is vital to showing your stakeholders at all levels – from customers to staff, board members to corporate sponsors – what you are doing and holding you accountable. This is true even if you’re not looking for funding or trying to break into new markets but just want your existing followers (and potential future ones) to be better informed of what you do and how it benefits them. This is all part of building your brand awareness.

Together, PR can also be used to complement specific content marketing campaigns, such as when planning to enter a new market or promote a new or existing product.

The real secret of effective public relations via content marketing is giving people something they can identify your brand with and share, not just for your sake but theirs too. This could mean others sharing your video about your work in underprivileged communities on social media because it aligns with their own values.

PR and content marketing example

One brand that is very good at balancing positive PR with content marketing is the Co-op.

Screenshot of Coop Twitter feed

On their blog, in their magazine and on social media, the ethical supermarket and services provider regularly posts about awareness campaigns and social initiatives they are involved in rather than just creating general sales-led content. These include campaigns to reduce waste, feed those less well-off and fight loneliness.

As a co-operative, they know who they are targeting – ethically-minded consumers who want to be part of something bigger – and their activity all helps to reinforce the message we have about them which is underpinned by their social media tagline: ‘A better way of doing business’.

Action points

To emulate this success, you might want to put aside part of your content marketing strategy to positive PR. Try:

> Feeding PR into your contet strategy: Schedule at least one post a month to champion the causes that matter to you or to put out a press release about recent PR activity. You might also need to set up ad campaigns for bigger projects.

> Knowing what organisation-wide PR activity is happening: If you have a PR or business development team that works to get you involved in a number of community events, liaise with them so that you can ensure their efforts are amplified by factoring this into your content schedule. Or maybe your customer service team is holding a fundraising event? Make sure they know to contact your marketing department who can promote this online.

This will have a cumulative effect of building a strong reputation that can sustain you even if negative press does come your way.

If you’re looking to implement a PR campaign, HubSpot has some great tips for executing an excellent PR strategy, including finding the right angle for a press release and creating a strong relationship with journalists.

Great content underpins your brand

As a business, you undoubtedly know you live and die by your reputation. And at the heart of anything you put out into the world is great content. Whether it’s a press release about your new product line, a series of blog and social media posts to raise awareness of your initiatives, or a simple tweet in response to a customer complaint, you should make sure your content is crafted with your core audience in mind, with sensitivity and that it is on-brand at all times. With those boxes ticked, you can ensure your PR-based content strategy will reap rewards now and to come.

Header image: Austin Distel on Unsplash

Embedded images: Marvin Meyer on Unsplash, sydney Rae on Unsplash, Co-op/Twitter.com screenshot

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.

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