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Content Marketing Has Been a Successful PR Strategy for Decades

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Marketers have long been great at creating new terms for things. Content marketing is now among them and refers to a new kind of marketing that's apparently really cool and revolutionary and is being applied by really smart marketers. There are even content-marketing gurus, summits, and whole books on the topic.

The thing is, the highly effective strategy of creating informational content that's valuable to prospects and customers has been with us for decades. If developing content-rich material and putting it online is new, then perhaps content marketing may be new.

However, I'm pretty certain that lots of very experienced public relations (PR) pros will be amazed to learn that they've been doing that kind of new promotion most of their careers. They just didn't know what to call it. Now they do!

In any case, demonstrating expertise, becoming an authority, providing "how-to" information, and speaking about subjects of interest or relevance to your market or "network" are a superb way of promoting or driving market engagement for B2C or B2B brands.

PR doesn't stand for press release


Effective PR pros are great at far more than dreaming up ideas for and shooting off press releases, although sometimes that's a perfectly good tactic to apply.

They've also been proposing and executing content-based tactics such as seminars (webinars), contributed articles (blog posts), whitepapers (online whitepapers), speaking opportunities, audio and video production (webcasts/podcasts), and even books for their employers and clients since the dawn of professional PR back in the late 1920s.

Yes, they were creating informational content to help promote brand awareness, preference, loyalty, and "engagement" way back then. Somehow old school has become new wave.

This isn't written as a history lesson, so I won't dredge up old examples. The purpose is to reinforce the clear strategic value of content development in support of a marketing or PR campaign.

Marketing and PR have always had an intimate connection. Marketing is or ought to be the brains of the outfit and figures out what's important to the market, whereas PR, which also offers up plenty of smart thinking, is the primary means of speaking to the market. It's marketing's most cost-effective voice.

PR brings greater credibility to brand messaging by including informative content of interest and of use to customers, prospects, and others. That content can take myriad forms. However, it's content-based promotion in support of a brand. Call it what you want. It's very smart... and has been going on for a long time.

Guide market thinking with content

Content marketing can have a direct product-marketing or service-marketing focus. But if all that management is thinking about is strictly product or service demand generation and sales leads, then it's missing a valuable opportunity to stand out and differentiate its brand from competitors by using another kind of content.

If demand and sales-lead generation is the only focus, thought-leadership content development will not be viewed as an investment in strategic reputation-building. The understanding that share-of-voice precedes share-of-mind, which precedes share-of-market, must be in place for a thought-leadership campaign to survive.

Content development supporting thought leadership is highly effective in building both share of voice and share of mind.

There are many techniques for creating thought-leadership content to communicate with your market. At its core, it's about advocating new ideas, often inspiring ideas or, at the very least, thought-provoking ones.

Content is focused usually on change—what's new, what's next, or what's not working but essential to the success of a particular interest group. Revealing new ways of doing something that traditional means have been unable to accomplish is another way of discovering potential thought-leadership topics.

What's wrong in your market? Can you express it and clearly recommend what changes are needed? If so, perhaps you have the basis for a thought-leadership campaign.

Can you discuss how a new product category will help make life easier for an industry segment? Note the focus on a category, not a brand of product.

Can you provide stories about why people should do something in a new way, perhaps with products or services like yours or the ones you're planning on marketing? That's one of the key paths to success that content-marketing PR can take.

Something old is suddenly new again

It's delightful that marketers are discovering that providing valuable information is a great way of attracting, engaging, and maintaining customer and prospect relations.

Just don't think that calling it content marketing makes it something entirely new. Do go ahead and apply it, though. It's a thoroughly proven, decades-old PR strategy.


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Ford Kanzler is principal at Marketing/PR Savvy, a public relations and communications firm. He can be reached via ford@prsavvy.com.

LinkedIn: Ford Kanzler

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  • by Roy Young Tue Sep 14, 2010 via web

    Two new factors contributing to the widespread adoption of Content Marketing are:
    1. digital media dramatically reducing the cost of production and distribution of content;
    2. buyers researching purchase alternatives online, for anything as common and routinely purchased by consumers as toothpaste to complex high-ticket item purchased every 10 years by businesses, like computer systems.

    Look for the soon-to-be-published research study from MarketingProfs on Content Marketing practices in the business-to-business space.

  • by Dusan Vrban Wed Sep 15, 2010 via web

    Actually, every day there's something in the web that people discover as totaly new, while it's totaly old in just a new media. Mosty because there's zillions of people that didn't go through any marketing school but they're WhateverGuru's or WhateverProfessionals.

  • by Joe Pulizzi Wed Sep 15, 2010 via web

    Hi Ford...thanks for writing this. Couple thoughts on my end:

    You are right, content marketing has been going on for a long-long time. Actually, John Deere is given credit for the first instance of content marketing in the states for their custom magazine called The Furrow (late 1890s).

    Yes, I've talked with many PR pros that believe this is their territory, and they may be right. Yes, many have been doing subsets of content marketing for years. BUT, most are VERY campaign based (as you note) and are simply not the central part of the marketing process.

    Content marketing is the philosophy that the story, or publishing, needs to be at the center of the entire marketing process. We are indeed all publishers, and our marketing departments are transforming into media departments. We communicate not around a campaign, but by building consistent and ongoing media channels (from us, not through anyone else) to attract and retain customers. It's not about getting coverage, it's about being the coverage.

    We may be splitting hairs, but I think there is a distinction here. Thanks for bringing this issue to light.

    Joe Pulizzi
    Junta42 | Content Marketing Institute

  • by Jim Barbagallo Wed Sep 15, 2010 via web

    Hello Ford,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post. And I couldn't agree with you more. When we spun out our new firm, 3Point Communications, we decided on content-centered public relations as our value proposition because we recognized developing content and then promoting it through the appropriate channels is what we have always done -- call it whatever you like.

    Jim
    3Point Communications

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