Blurred lines: Content marketing starts with good PR


Content marketing has risen in popularity over the past five years, so much so that there is a Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and huge conferences dedicated to exploring the approach.

So, what is content marketing? According to CMI:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Bottom line: content marketing means useful, interesting, authentic content is at the core of your marketing strategy.

I recently attended Content Jam in Chicago, which featured 300 marketers and 14 speakers during the two-day conference. Here are three key takeaways:

Be opinionated and original

Did you know that 75 percent of articles have zero external links (meaning, nobody is linking to them and they are floating out there alone on the internet)? How can you avoid your content getting lost?

Andy Crestodina’s session on analytics and optimization opened my eyes to data on what kind of content is worth your time. The best content, Andy says, contains strong opinions or original research.

“If you want to create content that achieves a high level of both shares and links then you should concentrate on opinion forming, authoritative content or well researched and evidenced content.”

Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media Studios

From a PR perspective, this makes total sense. At Martin Waymire, we help our clients express their stands on issues through op-eds, editorial boards and other content.  Research is the first step in our proven process and something we recommend to all clients to help them more clearly define and fortify their positions.

Get scrappy with good strategy

With all the different channels out there to feature content, it’s easy to fall into the trap of checklist marketing — trying to do everything without a good understanding of why you’re doing it or who you’re targeting.

Presenter Nick Westergaard stressed that getting scrappy with your content — doing more with less — starts with asking the tough questions: Why are we doing this and who are we trying to reach? Are we creating a Facebook page for community building, customer service or branding? Is this where our customers will be?

It’s easy to become too channel focused. At Martin Waymire, we start with research and develop a strategic communications plan based on that research, which usually involves strategies on multiple channels, all aligning with the overall goal of the plan. This plan helps us choose the right channels to reach the right audiences, instead of creating an Instagram account just because we can.

It’s all about trust

My big takeaway from the conference: There is a huge overlap between PR and content marketing.

Keynote presenter Robert Rose closed out the day asking attendees, “What do you really do?” Sitting in a room amongst other communications professionals and content marketers, I realized how blurred the lines between marketing, advertising and PR have become.

Rose says the 1960s to 1990s was the “Marketing Company Era,” 1997 to 2015 was the “Relationship Era,” and we’re now entering what he calls the “Experiences Era.”

Marketing has changed, and it’s evident in the evolution of the customer relationship. Digital media has changed the way people relate to brands and organizations — it’s more personal than ever. And now people connect more to the approach brands take with their content, rather than the products themselves.

But if people don’t trust a company, the content approach doesn’t matter. In public relations, relationships are key, and the foundation of a good relationship is trust. If an organization isn’t honest and genuine in its activities, regardless of what content it produces, the public will see through it from a mile away. That’s the beauty — and the risk — of content marketing: You can’t fake it.