Back in 2007-2008, when Twitter was really taking off, the PR industry faced a pivot point. It was no longer effective to cold email as many relevant journalists as possible. Going to lunch with them helped, but it was not scaleable.
With the onset of social media and the ability to go directly to the source, journalists had a whole new world of information at their fingertips. Although the Internet had already been around for 19 years, the playing field changed dramatically — it was the very beginning of the “everyone is a publisher” era.
Rather than panic, PR practitioners had to quickly adapt their strategy to the fast-changing industry. They had to shift their objectives from “find a hook and email as many journalists to write about their clients as possible” to “find where their audience is, build meaningful relationships with them, prove value with relevant and interesting content, then pretty much deliver it to their doorstep.”
However, no matter what the PR strategy was, the overarching business goals remained the same:
- Gain awareness
- Establish thought leadership
- Build a relevant and loyal community or brand ambassadors
- Recruit new customers
What PR practitioners found was four key elements to getting their stories out there:
- Tell a story
- Help journalists stand out among their competitors
- Create captivating content that customers and journalists are going to find valuable
- Do extensive research to find where the audiences are, and distribute your content there
In other words, they began doing content marketing. There are several other ways content marketing has changed the way we “do PR.” Here are a handful of examples:
1. Now, everyone is a contributor
If you take a look at Entrepreneur, Inc, Fast Company, The Next Web and several other popular publications, you’ll notice that many authors are actually contributors — Founders, CEOs, CMOs, Community Managers, and so on.
As long as your content is high-quality and not overly promotional, publications will often consider well-written, fresh content with open arms. Just make sure to check out their contributor guidelines before submitting a piece.
Working for a startup, I’ve even reached out to these contributors to consider featuring our product in a future piece.
2. Publications want to publish thought leaders
In other words, publications want to publish work by people with large followings. That’s not to say they don’t care about quality over quantity, because most do, but it’s helpful for them to know that you’ll be sharing your piece on their site with your 50k followers, for example. After all, publications need customers too.
3. Company blogs are becoming mainstream publications
Have you ever looked to Buffer, Contently, GrooveHQ, or Crew’s blog for tips, tools, ideas, inspiration, solid business advice, or best practices? Whether a novice or seasoned content marketer, the answer is probably “yes.”
Companies are leveraging their blogs as media outlets to distribute valuable information with the end goal of driving traffic to their site that they can then convert to qualified leads, and eventually customers. It’s a possibility that being mentioned on some of these blogs could have a higher return than in mainstream publications, depending on your audience and goals.
In other cases, companies are simply looking to build credibility and thought leadership within their field. Even the big dogs have skin in the game, with corporations like GE hiring journalists to develop and publish content for them on their own branded sites.
4. DIY distribution has become not only “a thing,” but a necessity
So you have this great post outlining everything anyone could ever want to know about content marketing, now what? Just because you’ve published a post on your blog, doesn’t mean Google’s magic elves will do all the work to drive flocks of people to your site. You have to do the leg work.
Promote your content across social more than once (without being obnoxious). Post it to relevant forums, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, share it in your newsletter, send one-off emails to key influencers who would find it interesting, etc.
Pro tip: One best practice is to send your piece to an influencer for edits or recommendations before publishing, giving them credit for their help in the published piece. Not only does this improve your article, those influencers are also now more likely to share it with their followers.
5. We’re not afraid to toot our own horns
Sharing your own press coverage, although totally innocent, can sometimes feel arrogant or braggy. But when we spend hours researching and producing a piece of content, we’re not only excited, we’re proud to share it across channels, multiple times.
Don’t be afraid to promote your own work. Buffer does. A lot. Just be sure to include a mix of both promotional content and engaging content, answering questions and thanking community members for social shares and other contributions.
6. Syndication + guests posts are great alternatives to earned media
Perhaps you don’t have anything overly newsworthy to share at the moment, but you do have a really great blog post that’s not seeing the traction you would like. Send it to a relevant publication whose readers are going to love it for syndication.
This is a win-win situation: editors are handed high-quality content they can simply plug into their backend, and you are published in a high-traffic site. Just make sure to link back to your original post so that readers know where to discover your other great pieces of content.
As you can see, as our communications (and lives) become increasingly digital, the lines between traditional public relations and modern content marketing continue to blur. This is a good thing. It presents us with an opportunity to be creative in how we tell and share our stories with our audiences.
What do you think? How have you seen content marketing change the way we do PR?