If Content is King, PR is Queen

Written by Fresh Egg - 20 Dec 2012

Fresh Egg If Content is King blog series bannerIf your roots are in traditional marketing you will recognise the acronym ‘PR’ as an abbreviation of ‘Public Relations’. However, if you’re reading this as an SEO, the term ‘PR’ will most probably mean something quite different … to do with a man named Larry.

Whichever side of the PR fence you sit, this twelfth, and final, instalment of the ‘If Content is King’ series will explore how PR and content go hand-in-hand, how a PR approach can benefit your digital marketing campaigns and ultimately, how to get started.

What is Public Relations?

Wikipedia defines Public relations (PR) as:

The practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.

The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.

PR has many different benefits and can be delivered using many different vehicles. PR really is about thinking creatively in order to secure that valuable exposure – or in a crisis comms situation, to put a positive spin on events!

Importantly, PR tends to focus on editorial content, that is, content placed on its merit – your earned media. Earned being the ‘keyword’ here – gaining that exposure takes effort; we’re not talking about ‘quick wins’.

As a PR professional, or ‘outreach specialist’ as the search industry might define this role, these experts are broadly responsible for:

  • Building long-lasting relationships with key influencers, be that journalists or bloggers
  • Coming up with creative content concepts to support campaign objectives
  • Understanding the target audience and how to reach them
  • Securing ‘column inches’, or perhaps the search world equivalent of ‘links’
  • Brand awareness and reputation management

Why bother?

Whether you’re working in traditional PR or online PR, you need to tick the boxes above. In doing so, you’re setting the foundations for not just the success of your current campaign, but all future activity. Spend the time investing in a relationship with a journalist now and it’ll pay dividends for months or even years to come. Conversely, take shortcuts and send irrelevant content to journalists with poorly targeted messaging and you’ll quickly see doors slam shut.

Equally, if you don’t understand your audience, how can you be expected to create content that will engage them? You’re shooting around in the dark and pretty much guaranteed to fail.

Traditionally, PR is based on editorial content, which is published free of charge. Yes, free! The hard work invested in securing that coverage pays off with exposure to your target audience and the many benefits that brings – perfect! So what type of content do you need to produce to get this free coverage?

Content for online PR campaigns

Creativity is the name of the game – albeit targeted to meet an objective. One of the things I relish about working in PR is the opportunity to think ‘outside of the box’ and break the rules.

If I told you I’ve carved letters into a selection of seasonal veg for a front cover pitch you’d probably laugh, but the image said it all and that front cover was in the bag. Then there was the early morning start at the rural railway line where we built a cardboard box ‘smash-wall’ on the tracks for a steam train to burst through to launch our campaign alongside interviews and interactive content for local radio.

I’m not sure sculpting veg or working with steam engines falls into black and white theory, but they were both off-the-wall, creative ideas that achieved the desired effect. Crucially, we had an objective in mind, we understood the audience we needed to target, the messaging we needed to get across and therefore the optimal verticals through which to publish that particular content.

Consider the scope of your content too. With perhaps just a little tweaking, one concept can work effectively across a variety of different platforms, e.g. as a press release, an interview podcast, a video, onsite copy etc. Make the content work hard for you.

Who should I engage with?

Ideally you want to garner relationships with the key influencers in your industry, whether that be journalists, bloggers or thought-leaders.

Once you’ve identified who these people are, create your hit list of primary and secondary targets and work through the list logically ensuring a targeted, personalised approach.

As mentioned earlier, this is not ‘quick win’ territory, this process takes time, but it will pay off. When researching your key influencers, spend time looking at not only which subject areas they’re interested in covering but also how and when they like to be contacted and what deadlines they’re up against. While there’s no hiding from the fact that these relationships are for business purposes they deserve respect and due attention.

Getting started

Here’s a broad checklist for you to consider before you launch into online PR:

  • What is the campaign objective and can PR be used to support it?
  • Plan your campaign activity using all relevant verticals
  • Understand your audience and your key messages
  • Create a hit list of key influencers and craft your content specifically for the audience/s
  • Use a targeted approach to pitch your content to those influencers
  • Consider how you will track and measure the success of your campaign before you begin

Remember not every attempt will offer rewards despite your best efforts. The media landscape is vast and every day you’ll be competing against hundreds of other agencies and PR professionals trying to get their stories on the news agenda. Even if you’re on a promise, the news agenda must remain agile, and if a big story breaks, you may be the unfortunate one that gets shunted.

Having said that, there’s plenty of opportunity to get good quality content placed on target sites but relationship building is key to ensuring the flow of information gets from you – the brand – to the public. Whether you source contacts from a media database, social media or at a networking event, there’s many different ways to get in touch with those that hold the key to your content success.