Remember when you were a kid looking for shiny rocks, or maybe frogs? Sometimes, a cool one was right in front of you... and you still missed it. Other times you'd step back... and suddenly there it was! That can be such a great feeling.

Today, as a marketer, you might have in your hands the keys to a treasure chest of great content... but you just need a little help finding the lock.

PR people—whether in-house or external—often excel at creating content. Their daily work can yield a ton of information for blogs, social media posts, email alerts, newsletters, etc. So I'm often surprised to hear marketing managers describe what their PR people do—but not mention them as content resources.

Stepping back and looking at things a little differently can help you find treasure you didn't know you had—without weighing down your team or running up the bill. Here are some of my personal favorites for finding content gems.

Awards nominations can be a gold mine. Entering awards that media outlets host or sponsor often guarantees earned-media coverage for the winners. Plus, those questions on the entry forms about a person's background or community activities open up entirely new avenues of information. They take a lot of time and effort to complete, so you want to get the most from them that you possibly can.

Circulating completed and approved entries to marketing, social media, and content creation staff can spark all kinds of excitement:

  • "I didn't know Alex launched a nonprofit. I could write a blog post with what I have right here!"
  • "Louise closed that many deals last year? That's a great 'would you believe' item for the Facebook page!"
  • "These regulations Reggie's researching look pretty big. Maybe we should do a webinar or email alert..."

The process works the other way, too: If the awards entries are prepared by the marketing team, share the entries with the PR folks. The details in an entry for one of my clients gave me the information I needed to land her a great TV interview.

Is PR hiring a photographer or videographer for an upcoming event? Those professional-quality images—whether of a new office, sales event, or a client reception—could go into a photo stream, YouTube channel, blog, or newsletter. Just be sure the photographer understands the game plan ahead of time, in case her contract doesn't cover it; and if you plan to use the shots in a sales brochure or presentation, be sure the subjects sign photo releases.

The best PR people craft juicy email pitches to reporters. The objective viewpoint and down-to-earth wording of those pitches could be very valuable in other contexts; sometimes their clever turn-of-phrase can be just what you need to make another project sing.

Most PR teams listen in on media interviews with company executives to provide back-up, monitor the messaging, and maybe just stay up to speed. Touch base with them afterward and ask what came up that might not make it into the story but would still interest your target audience. Once the story comes out, that unpublished information could inspire a blog post, podcast, or eye-catching infographic.

PR firms monitor media coverage, but you can ask them to also look for information about an emerging trend, even if it's not specifically about your company. When something good information comes up, make sure the social media team knows to post a link on Twitter or Facebook. You can also circulate the information to executives who blog or use LinkedIn for business development: Many who would be reluctant to post status updates or discussion items about themselves are more than willing to spread the word about something that would interest their contacts. Ditto for the HR folks looking for items to attract good candidates.

Hopefully, you have somebody who spends a lot of time refining the messages and graphics for compelling presentations. As long as the information in those presentations isn't confidential, there's no reason that the best bits shouldn't see the light of day in another format. Post an edited version on SlideShare, or sculpt it into an e-book for business development.

Also, don't be shy about asking what else your PR agency can do, and what the cost might be. One new client recently asked me to suggest someone who could write the text for the website that the client had started developing before we came on board. It was perfectly natural for my agency to pick that work up, since the messaging we were crafting related just as well to the client's Web presence It was great for us, since we got more work, and great for the client, who saved a considerable amount of communication time. (Entrepreneurs, especially, can benefit from having the same team on multiple, related projects.)

That's not to say you should dump more work on your internal PR folks, or run up the hours on your PR contract. The issue isn't about making anyone work harder; it's about making use of what you already have—and getting the good stuff to the people who need it and will appreciate the help. Knowing what questions to ask, and when to ask them, can save money and time, and it can get ideas flowing like never before.

One final suggestion: people may resist sharing information if they think someone else will get the glory for it. So be sure to give credit where credit is due, even if you go a little overboard. Acknowledgment can go a long way toward keeping the lines of communication open—and the creativity humming.

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Buried Treasure: How to Find Great Content Right Under Your Nose

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image of Terri Thornton

Terri Thornton is founder of Atlanta-based PR firm Thornton Communications. A former TV and radio reporter and producer, she also contributes to PBS MediaShift, and she is a freelance editor for two accounting publications.

Twitter: @TTho