Companies used to rely on sales language and promotional content to engage
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
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.
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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
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
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.