Gartner predicts that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without ever interacting with a human being. This underscores a profound shift in the buyer’s journey where much of the responsibility for identifying, attracting and converting potential buyers has shifted from sales, to marketing and PR. Relationships that were once developed one on one, between the buyer and the sales rep, are now being developed through the practice of content marketing. Content marketing can be an effective strategy for helping potential customers come to believe that a brand understands their needs and can be trusted to provide solutions.
Many brands have become experts at churning out content. They’ve got blogs, case studies, ebooks, videos, non-branded websites, and more. But sadly, many of these assets never reach the audience for whom they were created. Simply generating lots of quality content is not enough. An effective content marketing strategy requires PR. In fact, PR can be a brand’s content marketing strategy. Here’s why.
Only Visible Content Matters
Philosophy majors may disagree about whether a tree falling in an empty forest makes a sound, but there is no argument about whether unseen content makes an impact on business outcomes. To get eyeballs, content must be published on a channel that has a significant audience of potential customers or it must be linked to by people who influence that audience.
Great Content Relies on Storytelling
“Look how many times our data sheet was shared!” said no one, ever. Great content isn’t about products or companies, great content is really just a story about people solving problems. It connects to the larger trends and conditions that impact the decisions of buyers. This kind of story telling is familiar to PR pros because it's essential to garnering earned media. It’s what we do.
Not All Content is Equally Credible
Pretty much anyone can put pretty much anything on the internet these days. (We’d all be in trouble if we believed everything we read online.) One way that people assess the credibility of content is to consider the source. Third parties are considered more objective and lend proof that at least some filter has been applied. In fact, a study by the research firm Neilson found that 84% of consumers trust earned media and word-of-mouth recommendations above all other sources of marketing.
Brand Awareness is a Major Goal of Content Marketing
Spiceworks recently did a study that revealed brand awareness as the third most mentioned goal of content marketers behind only lead generation and market education. It took the place of last year’s number three goal, customer acquisition. Brand awareness, of course, is also a major goal of PR, so there can be little doubt that the strategies are intertwined.
Social Media is Media After All
As some recent, high profile social media missteps have proven, too many brands have lost sight of the fact that social media is media. It's often the public face of your brand. PR professionals are uniquely positioned to leverage the power of these networks and respond thoughtfully to unexpected situations and negative feedback. They are also the right people to make social connections with influencers, journalists and others who are in the position to share your story.
PR and content marketing are deeply connected. Brands that recognize this and develop a cohesive strategy that leverages excellent content assets and the talents of PR teams and agencies will have the most success.