How Data-Driven Storytelling Drives PR


For many B2B technology brands, data is not only a business asset, but a PR tool. No one should underestimate the power of data for storytelling. What we call a “data bureau” – the ongoing release of fresh and relevant information as part of a B2B program – can generate strong media interest in the absence of hard news. The data is often derived inexpensively from behavior surveys or flash polls, or it may already exist within the company’s own research unit.

Yet it can yield real insights for inclusion in a thought leadership program for key executives or a brand PR campaign. Sometimes it’s just another way to add a new dimension to an existing storyline.

Whatever the case, B2B businesses are in an excellent position to use data-driven storytelling as part of a PR strategy. Here are some compelling reasons why tech PRs should embrace the trend.

5 reasons to embrace data-driven PR

Data-driven pitches win points with journalists

Journalists look for pitches that are backed up by data in the form of charts, graphs, tables, or interactive infographics. It offers a clear story map and lends credibility to the pitch. In the last few years, as the news industry has been in flux, data-driven journalism has become the standard, as journalists forage for interesting data to either find a new story or support a current one. “Data-driven journalism is the future. Journalists need to be data-savvy,” said Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide WebSince there are now fewer journalists hustling to cover more beats and sift through more pitches, a tech PR team can win media relations points by offering readily packaged data-driven stories. Even better, media contacts will come to welcome and expect more relevant data-driven stories about your company over time — which amounts to a fruitful media partnership.

Data-driven stories support truth in media

“Good data journalism helps to combat information asymmetry,” said Tom Fries, Bertelsmann FoundationSince PR and journalists (as well as publishers and social platforms) are on the front lines of the war against false news, they value data-based storytelling. Although survey data can be poorly executed or even misleading, statistics add immediate credence to media stories. Once again, a B2B PR team can help journalists by supplying a consistent stream of reliable, compelling data-driven story premises.

Data-driven PR drives marketing engagement

data-driven PR in Tech B2B
Infographic from a 2017 article in MarTech Advisor

The overall PR/marketing trend is toward more content, and specifically more visual content. Given the documented power of visuals in the attention economy, it makes sense that data tables and infographics get shared and clicked more than plain text stories. Infographics also offer SEO opportunities for both the news outlet and the sponsor. Social sharing of graphics generates targeted referral traffic and earns links from niche-relevant websites. In other words, data-driven storytelling produces leads.

Data makes great thought leadership

B2B tech enterprise firms have a natural advantage in harvesting data for storytelling. For example, a marketing intelligence platform has built-in tools for generating incisive data-driven stories. An enterprise cyber-security firm should routinely conduct research surveys into business leaders’ security priorities and concerns – their packaged results not only inform the company’s R&D, but also can populate the company’s data bureau of thought leadership, with each media placement underscoring its expertise. The data-driven stories can be repurposed into various white papers, blog posts, and webinars, thus elevating the brand’s reputation as an industry authority.

In lockstep with the business and PR trends

In an increasing personalized marketing arena, data-driven PR stories can help create relevant content for highly targeted prospects. The well-documented trend toward individualized marketing using the ABM model demands more tailored content. Certainly marketing data analysis can help identify the targets. On the other end, rich visual content driven by data can help convert the lead. A PR team can design research surveys designed to generate content that appeals to high-value customers or partners. For example, if a new marketing software wants to attract more upwardly mobile marketing managers, it may design a survey on how millennials feel about location-based ads.

A good tech PR team should be asking what narratives are compelling, and what kind of data is needed to support it. They may even be sitting on existing data research that simply hasn’t been mined for relevant story ideas. Your next winning concept may be in a research study or consumer survey spreadsheet, and all you need to do it find it.

How PR And Content Marketing Can Work Together

Public relations and content marketing are powerful when they work together. This is particularly true for B2B PR programs designed to educate prospective customers and push them down the funnel to a point of purchase. But too often, the disciplines and even their teams are distinct. Many PR practitioners naturally prioritize the generation of earned media coverage over content creation because of its credibility and SEO influence. For its part, content marketing has become so popular that there’s a “lowest common denominator” effect, with mediocre or redundant content dominating and crowding digital channels.

But when they work in concert, PR and content marketing are a 1+1+3 situation. Here are some ways to enhance the collaboration and make it work harder.

Have joint planning sessions

This is obvious, but many agencies outsource heavy content production, and it’s easy to lose something in the process. Whether handled internally or outside a PR agency or department, it’s helpful for the teams to plan and brainstorm together so that each can learn from the other. We believe at least one team member responsible for content should be on every major client briefing.

Unify PR and content under a singular theme

In many cases, the narrower, the better. Broader topics may seem easier for informing an editorial calendar, but a more targeted theme often works better for attracting true prospects, not just browsers. Long-tail keywords are rarer than the broader, “fatter” terms, but they are far more likely to attract serious prospects. So, while a keyword like “business software” turns up in thousands of searches, “DIY marketing automation software” will likely be a better term.

Never discount earned media

It’s still extremely important for any B2B or consumer content marketing program. Backlinks from top-rated domains major newspapers or news sites boost SEO to high levels, and a good content marketing program can amplify glowing earned media like product reviews  or feature stories.

Start content well head of a key launch or event

In pharmaceutical PR, they call it “conditioning the market.” A campaign will raise awareness about a set of symptoms or a condition through heavy content marketing (my favorite example is Glaxo’s “restless leg syndrome” effort), then follow it with a PR push to generate earned media for the launch of a new drug. Similarly, even companies that lack the deep pockets of a pharmaceutical giant can do an effective job with a content program that sets up a common or emerging business problem, to condition prospective customers for the announcement of the solution.

Don’t be afraid of long-form content

Like the narrower topics and keywords, this one is counterintuitive for many PR professionals. Yet Google ranks longer content more highly than short posts. A top-ranked piece of content is typically more of more than 2000 words. More importantly, a high-quality white paper, study, or other long-form content can be used for months or even years to attract prospects, as long as the topic is reasonably “evergreen” and it’s promoted properly. It can also be remarketed in shorter chapters or posts, which offers the best of both worlds.

Let influencers be a bridge

Influencer marketing is one way to build a connection between the earned media relations of a PR program and a content marketing outreach. A white paper or ebook that offers insight and ideas from industry figures like analysts or bloggers can help build relationships with those very influencers while heightening the credibility necessary to generate earned media mentions.

Use data to inform the editorial calendar, but not the content

Particularly in technology PR, people are brainwashed to think that blog posts and articles should be packed with data the way we might pitch a reporter on a new trend. Relax. As PR and content professional Frank Strong said,”Eyeballs glaze over with data, but most people remember stories.”

7 Tips For Curating The Best PR Content

It’s no secret content is king when it comes to PR campaigns, but what are the basic rules for curating a body of content that will have the most impact on your business or brand? Curated content can include original content — written and visual pieces created by you — contributed pieces, or, most commonly, content that’s gathered from around the web. Some would argue curated collections are how most people discover content today, so curating is a valuable skill for any PR professional.

Here are some of the basic rules for maximizing your content curation practices.

Basic SEO optimization is a must. It doesn’t take a technical genius to understand basic optimization these days, so it’s crucial to build SEO in at the foundation level of all content. Quality and relevance are more important than sheer volume, as we covered recently in this post, so taking the time to produce high quality content should always be the first priority.

Content should be relevant and valuable. The best curated content is personal for the reader or viewer, so know who your target audience is and only share what’s relevant to them. Start with asking what questions those audiences face, and develop categories that address those challenges. Value also comes from consistency; your voice as a content curator becomes more credible with consistent sharing, so establish a schedule that works, and stick with it.

Add your own perspective. Framing the content you’ve selected helps add more value for viewers by telling them why they should care. It also helps establish you as an expert source for great content they’re unlikely to discover elsewhere — something that keeps readers coming back for more.

Make good use of visuals. It’s hard to overemphasize this point. Some stats show people are 80 percent more likely to read content that’s paired with colorful visuals. Don’t neglect visual appeal by letting graphics get sloppy. Again, investing in quality here can go a long way. There’s also a trove of online resources — many of them free — for stock photos and graphics to tap into, eliminating many hurdles to using strong visuals.

Use all your distribution channels. These days it’s less likely for content to be discovered organically. With so many distribution platforms in use, it’s important to be aggressive and systematic in spreading content appropriately on all. Find out what strategies work best on each platform, as they’re not all the same, and develop a system for sharing on each.

Take advantage of tools for curating. Finding great content to share is a snap when you’re plugged into tools that do most of the heavy lifting for you. The top two on this list, Pocket and Twitter Lists, are also our top choices for basic online tools that help find and catalogue the best content that’s most relevant to our work.

Create opportunities to engage. Make it very easy for readers to engage with the content being shared. Sometimes a simple call to action or invitation to share opinions is all that’s needed to get a conversation started.

8 Painless Ways To Write For SEO (Without Sounding Like A Bot)

By now most PR agency professionals know that Google algorithm changes over recent years have been a boon for PR by rewarding content quality over keyword-stuffed news releases or shady backlink schemes.

That’s great, but the importance of SEO in PR and content marketing and the growth of branded content means that we must learn to write for SEO. The first time I sat down to write 30 pages of SEO-enhanced web copy for my own site, it felt like a straitjacket – restrictive, un-creative, even false – the opposite of what high-quality content should be. But as I gained experience and knowledge writing for SEO and working with a great team of experts, I picked up tips and skills that are now second nature.

Here are some ways to write blog copy and other digital content to maximize searchability without sounding like a machine.

Focus on relevance

Answer questions, solve problems, and offer truly useful information. If you focus on what type of information people are likely to look for online, the keywords will follow more naturally.

Write naturally, using synonyms and word variations

Repeating the same word too many times in the first paragraph of  your copy will not only cause you to be downgraded by search engines, it will probably turn off readers, because it sounds terrible. Use synonyms, related terms, and grammatical variations just as any good writer would. Don’t worry, the search engines have learned that “top PR agency” and “best public relations firm” are virtually interchangeable terms.

Write for the long tail

Writing to focus on the “fattest” or most general keywords is tempting, but it can be a tricky proposition. Those huge keywords are nearly impossible to own. Instead, try for the long tail by means of more specific phrases. It’s roughly the difference between a search term like “content marketing” and a phrase or question like “how should a B2B company get started in content marketing”?

Pay attention to headlines and subheads

This is still the toughest part for me, because I like wordplay and obscure titles that don’t contain obvious search terms. But for maximum clarity with search engines, your headline should contain your most important keyword, and you should have subheads for clarity and readability as well as SEO.

Make it shareable

The social sharing factor will only grow, so writing with an eye toward making it as shareable as possible is a worthy goal. What does that mean? There’s a great deal of good information about how to ensure your content is shareable, including my colleague Michelle’s recent post targeted to PR professionals.

Make the length appropriate to the topic

First we’re told to write short for the growing number of visitors who access content via mobile device. Then we hear that Google likes longer content (i.e., 1500+ words.) Here’s my rule: write what the topic demands, as long as it’s 300 words or more. Don’t pad, but don’t cut it short if you have valuable material to share.

Remember that images drive SEO

Images are more important than ever, mainly because they’re eye-catching. But don’t forget that alt text is a factor in searchability. Most SEO experts agreed it’s a good idea to rename the image file to include your keywords and to put them in your image title, alt text, and description.

Create new content regularly

This is probably the most important rule in writing for SEO, because even a killer post will eventually fall off the first page. The point is to show the search engine – and, more importantly, visitors to your site or  blog – that someone’s home.

An SEO Content Refresher For PR

It is more important than ever to integrate a rich content marketing program — one that focuses on search engine optimization — into public relations campaigns for companies and brands that want to grow. But as the strategy becomes more and more prevalent, the rules are changing, and communications pros need to constantly refresh themselves on what’s new, what’s still true, and what’s coming down the pipeline. Here are some recommendations to consider.

Remember the “Golden Rule.” SEO writing is becoming more of a science, but it’s still writing, and the golden rule of good writing is always about the reader. The golden rule of website optimization is to think about “the user first — NOT the search engine,” according to SEO copywriting guidelines from Vector Media Group.

Consider ROI, not just keyword rankings. Since its emergence and expansion over the past 10 or so years, SEO has focused on keyword rankings as a means of measuring how well your site is doing. Today some marketers are calling for more of a focus on return on investment and hard metrics, instead of page rankings, and the sophistication of today’s web technology makes pulling these kinds of metrics a snap. For example, a product placement in a major, top tier publication might win a company thousands of clicks, but no conversions, while a much smaller, niche blog might yield more actual leads because of its hugely engaged audience. Knowing which one is which helps focus precious resources and maximize results.

Design for the mobile user. The trend toward viewing pages on mobile devices only grew in 2014 into 2015. Smart phone  screens are getting larger and larger, further ingraining our habit of viewing sites on mobile, rather than at our desks. Most publishing platforms today include basic mobile optimization, making it easy to accomplish, but it’s still good to keep in mind during the content creation stage and make sure your site pages are optimized not just for SEO, but for mobile.

Write for the “long tail.” While web pages are typically optimized for up to three keywords, other key phrases can be included thoughout the copy to pick up on “long-tail variations,” which are the types of phrases users enter into search engines, according to our friends at Vector. For example, “affordable art” might be a main keyword, but people are more likely to search phrases such as, “the best place to buy affordable art,” as well other closely related terms.

Connect content creation to distribution. This piece of advice comes via Forrester analyst Ryan Skinner, who argues that the emphasis on high quality content as a content marketing strategy often leaves marketers with great content that nobody sees. Ramping up distribution, Skinner says, “improves content’s quality, as the feedback cycle accelerates.” He also pays homage to the now-famous quote from Buzzfeed’s Jonathan Perelman: “Content is king, distribution is queen, and she wears the pants.”

But high quality, original content still applies. All that said, high quality, fresh content still earns its keep in an SEO, mobile-ready world. Useful, well-written, relevant content is more likely to get read and shared than content that sacrifices quality.

What PR People Know About Content Marketing

From PR agencies to corporate SEO teams, everyone’s doing content marketing – or more accurately, content creation. These days, it’s increasingly hard to make content stand out. The challenge has grown more acute with the advent of what Mark Schaefer calls “content shock” or the explosive growth of the content supply without a corresponding growth in its consumption.
Schaefer argues that the content war will be won by deep-pocketed companies who can pay to saturate specific markets or channels, leaving smaller operators struggling for attention, not matter how high the quality of their material.

Why Search Favors PR-Created Content
It’s a valid concern. But as communicators, there’s a lot we can do to stay competitive, and recent trends favor content creators who are trained in PR, journalistic writing, blogging, and multimedia. Here are some proven PR techniques that can be adapted to market the right content to the right people.

Collaborate. Brands that don’t compete, or brands and third-party resources, can work together to create a 1+1=3 outcome when it comes to service journalism or content that addresses topical issues or solves problems. For a financial institution who wanted to reach employers, we joined with a top-level human resources organization for a study on financial wellness. The result was a seminal piece of long-form content relevant to corporate recruiters and HR executives and branded by our client company. Best of all, we reached a “captive” audience of HR professionals through the group. This is classic PR strategy, of course.

Or, crowdsource a new piece of content by getting participation from every member of an industry team or each player in a trade association or group. Those featured have a natural incentive to promote the content.

Continue the conversation that someone else started. A topic like “content shock” is a trend that offers opportunities for ongoing conversations and iterations. Don’t worry about being the first to come up with an idea, just be sure to share your own experience or offer an original take on it, in classic interview or op/ed style.

Get emotional. I like to blog about what frustrates me, or to explode myths that PR people complain about, because I know I’m not alone. Others get excited about a new idea or learning, or an inspiration triggered by a conference or even an ordinary conversation. If you can get mad, get excited, or trigger curiosity, you’re halfway home. This study of most shared New York Times articles shows a correlation between emotion and virality. But you knew that.

Borrow influence. Borrowing interest from a better known person or entity has been in the PR toolbox since the age of the spokesperson media tour. Today, it’s more likely to happen through sponsored blog content or a YouTube video, but it’s extremely compelling and only growing in clout. For a crafts retailer, we created a series of branded DIY projects for design and parenting bloggers. The bloggers aren’t necessarily household names, but the access to a loyal audience of home-design-oriented shoppers has added a new dimension to our content plan.

Repurpose. Analytics tells us what’s working, which can inform future content efforts. The post that was widely shared two years ago can probably work again, particularly if tied to a new industry development or story that hit recently. Good content can be made newly relevant by linking it to what’s happening in the news, or to water cooler buzz. If your topic is crisis management, you’ll have fresh material nearly every week, from Zzzquil’s ads to ‘Deflategate’.

Focus on earning links, not building.  This will seem absurdly obvious to the PR professional; earned media content has value! Google algorithm updates over the past year have handed a giant advantage to content creators trained in PR and journalism, and who can generate those high-quality earned media placements with regularity. Keyword-stuffed press releases and spammy backlink scams are out; earning links to credible media outlets is back – even though it never left.

Ask The PR Pro: How Does Your SEO Grow?

We have entered the age of sophisticated and strategic content marketing by savvy PR agencies. However, there are still marketers in the SEO “stone age” who rely on tweaking keywords and links in the hopes of landing higher search listings.

If you find yourself in the latter (and lacking) category, there are some important takeaways here. Read on for some news you can use to step up your content marketing and thus, your SEO. The trick is to help your prospects find you through high-quality, shareable material.

Whether they market ad tech, consumer products or anything in between, to be successful with online marketing, companies need to put themselves in the shoes of their target audience at each point on their journey, from awareness to engagement to relationship.

Here are three “idea-starters” for questions you can answer to fuel a more meaningful and results-oriented conversation.

Ask yourself this: what are your prospects’ pain points? Get creative in how you demonstrate understanding of your prospects’ needs.  Take them through a problem to a solution.  Research your typical prospect’s pain points and illustrate concrete PR solutions with case histories and proven communications counsel. Tell a story, even if it’s an amalgam of several anonymous clients. Consider crowdsourcing questions with your social networks and communities to provide more robust content.

What do existing clients need?  New client acquisition is more expensive than retention, so consider creating, optimizing and socializing content that will help, inform, and entertain your existing customers. Incorporate quotes or anecdotes from those with whom you have longstanding and successful relationships. This personal touch serves to promote the work you do together and can strengthen the relationship. You can start by surveying some existing clients to find topics of interest to them.

What does industry media want to know? PR pros know that nothing says credibility like the word of a  journalist. Media visibility is key to increasing awareness, differentiating a company, and establishing a leadership positioning. At times it can even help in lead development.  Journalists look for data: reports, surveys, analyses. Provide these in a compelling, visual way by including images and video to keep content such as this from being too dry. Be sure to provide links to corporate content and social media platforms.

Demonstrate a continuing understanding of your ideal client and what they need, and strive to create content that is both meaningful and intriguing.  That’s half the battle!

7 Myths That Undermine Content Marketing Success

The value of content marketing has been increasingly recognized by marketing and PR professionals. It seems clear that, over the long term, it can enhance brand awareness and even drive demand. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 60% of B2C marketers say their content marketing budget will increase in 2014.

But there are barriers to creating and sharing excellent content, including popular myths and misconceptions that should be dispelled. Here are a few of our favorites.

Content marketing replaces PR. Not really. Although there’s been a lot of talk about one supplanting the other, earned media is still powerful. Content typically fits nicely into a strategic PR program, not the other way around.

When it comes to content, more is better. This may have been true once, but it’s not now. Google algorithm updates favor high-quality, original material over quantities of keyword-stuffed posts. But even beyond that, wouldn’t you rather share well designed content that you’re proud of?

Snappy social media updates can replace hard-to-create content. Not necessarily; it’s not an either-or situation. Long-form content is making a comeback, actually. But the larger point is that content should be sized to solve problems, engage prospects, and share insights. It’s hard to believe that those goals can be accomplished in a simple Facebook campaign.

Quality is secondary, since SEO is everything.  Ouch. SEO is important, yes, because the point of marketing your material is often to let customers find you through the right keywords. But a visit to your site or community is only the beginning of the marketing process. It’s valuable content that truly engages prospects and incites them to action.

We don’t have time to create it. This is one we hear a lot. Yes, creating quality content is a commitment of time and resources. But chances are you’re already spending time on marketing initiatives that may not be generating a strong ROI, or enabling customers to find you. Many clients are surprised that, once the overall strategy and distribution plan is set, the actual content creation is not very time-consuming at all.

If you create it, they will  come. Not true. Putting it out there is a great first step, but without a real content strategy, defined audiences, and well-populated social communities, you can easily fall short. Mitch Joel’s post on the importance of content distribution really hits home here.

Anything worth sharing is proprietary. Some companies fear disclosing trade secrets through white papers, bylined articles, or the like, but for content to be relevant to most prospects, its subject matter extends beyond any one business or sector. And if it’s really that exclusive, how much better would a real consulting relationship be?

Want more practical tips on content marketing for PR professionals? Here’s a tipsheet with 10 great ideas.

PR Pros In A "Content Frenzy" (or "Blurred Lines")

“Content is a shitty business. You listicle-making sheep are following us off the cliff!”
– Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine

Despite Jarvis’ colorful warning to the crowd of PR professionals at the Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum, dubbed “Content Frenzy,” we PRs came to listen and learn at the feet of the media and content pundits. The forum’s subtitle, “Holy Grail or Spam-a-lot?” pretty well sums up the PR dilemma.

We’ve drunk the content Kool-Aid. No one doubts its potency, nor PR’s ownership claim, given our     storytelling DNA and earned media chops.  But literally every second brings a new flood of the stuff — tips lists, cat videos, white papers, parodies, infographics, you name it. We’re in a frenzy to make our content bigger and stronger, but with so much out there, how to go beyond the listicle? How can we make ourselves and our clients heard?

“Content Frenzy” brought together big names in media, platform technology, corporate communications,  research and analysis. Make no mistake, the listicle has respect. In fact, when BuzzFeed’s Eric Harris recited stats about its astounding success with native ad content, the envy on the podium was palpable. Some of us didn’t realize that BuzzFeed now has more employees than Forbes – itself no slouch in going native.

The audience was made up of professional communicators, but the words “public relations” were rarely mentioned. Far from being a sign of PR’s marginalization, I think that fact signals that the lines between public relations and content marketing are truly blurred.

Here are some of my takeaways from the lively panel discussions.

It’s about the consumer, stupid.

“Messaging is dead,” says Jarvis. Of course we communicators spend enormous amounts of time on messaging, and we will continue to do so, but the point here is that our content should be driven by its consumers. What do they need? What solves problems? Makes them laugh? It’s about relevance and relationships. Above all, it’s about trust. And don’t even objectify them by calling them an “audience.”  The new world of individualized content calls for a fresh mindset and even a different vocabulary.

Content is visual.

Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter Group, who’s created some excellent white papers on native advertising and other hot topics, noted that pure text content is “flatlining” while multimedia  – videos, photos, images, are rising.  Amy Webb of Webbmediagroup spoke about something called “anticipatory computing” delivered by an app called MindMeld that she believes will transform the very definition of content. I don’t understand it either, but it seems to build on Jarvis’ call for big data to get “smaller” in a more highly individualized path to the consumer’s screen.

Success must be earned.

One of the biggest laugh lines was in response to a client or advertiser asking, “How do we create a viral video?” The answer: “Shut up.” Meaning, there is no surefire formula, and certainly no commercial recipe for creating compulsively shareable content. The panel on humor, “Punked, Parodied, and Brandjacked,” with Funny or Die’s Chris Bruss and satirist Tony Hendra, was a fresh reminder of how risky – and how powerful – humor and entertainment can be in overcoming resistance and even changing perception. Rather than a data scientist, Chris Graves suggested we should all be hiring comedy writers. That’s no joke.

Content = commitment.

Someone pointed out that 2013’s shining example of real-time marketing, the Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” Twitter ad (yes, I’m sick of it, too) was actually the 101st piece of content created by Oreo’s content team. The point, I believe, is that it was less lightning in a bottle than a case of a brand that was well prepared for the opportunity due to its prior commitment to creating relevant content well and continuously.

Know your core competencies.

For PR professionals, content creation is natural. Lieb poetically calls it “the marketing of attraction” and gives us communicators points for understanding earned media and storytelling. But there’s a risk here for companies and particularly for agencies. Most seemed to agree with Text 100’s Aedhmar Hynes when she explained her firm’s decision to focus on what it does well, as opposed to hiring software developers or building tools that may be better rented, or obtained through vendors.

So, who’s doing it right?

News Corp’s Raju Narisetti repeatedly mentioned GE as an example of a corporation that gets it, citing its partnership with The Economist in a series of daily journalist-developed editorial pieces that has been called “a marriage of advertising and insight.” Other role models are Red Bull and Coca-Cola, both of whom are actually able to monetize their owned content.

But my biggest takeaway and favorite piece of advice – beyond the listicle sheep warning – was from Anthony Surratt of Time Warner Cable, who pointed out that we communicators have a tendency to overthink things. Maybe we should stop worrying about definitions, metrics and semantics and just focus on customer needs. Surratt was joined by Michael Brenner of SAP, whose advice was simple. Just try to help your customers, and the rest will follow.

For more practical tips on creating content for PR pros, we prepared this tipsheet.


PR and Content Marketing: Made For Each Other

Earlier this year, the Aberdeen Group published a report titled “Publish or Perish:  Content Marketing is the New PR.”  It posits that public relations is being disrupted by the growth of content marketing. As content becomes THE critical tool for brand recognition and credibility, the report implies, it is the new PR.

Content Marketing as New PR Trend

True, content’s kingly status has upended the traditional PR toolbox and even our approach in some sectors.  Adding to the mix, Google’s ongoing algorithm updates have outdated massive link-building in favor of…what else?  High-quality, original, shareable content.

But we’ve witnessed this trend toward a new PR for some time.  It’s been fueled by the contraction of the traditional media universe and the rise of social media, which fosters sharing.  So, although the minority of PRs who are still steeped in traditional tactics might be threatened by the changes, most welcome the new PR.  It’s less a disruption and more of a “quiet revolution” according to Aspectus, which calls PR the “engine room of content marketing.”  Well said.

PR, SEO, and Content Are the PB&J of Online Marketing

Though each has a distinct goal, they belong together.  PR pros are trained storytellers who understand paid, owned, earned, and shared content, and how they work together to make the bigger picture greater than the sum of marketing parts.

In fact, the most powerful content marketing programs are well integrated into PR plans.
Lee Odden has a good post on breaking down silos and making the business case for blending PR and content marketing, creating the New PR.  But assuming that case is made, here are some basic steps to make that relationship more seamless.

Involve PR in content planning.

Not all stories are created equal.  What works well from a digital marketing perspective can become more promotable as earned media with a little foresight.  Sometimes a tweak is all it takes.  A white paper about fostering innovation, for example, can benefit by swapping an overexposed brand like Apple or Google for a newer example like Uber or Buzzfeed. Or, an e-book topic can get a ripped-from-the-headlines twist that makes it more topical for a journalist.

Align with simple tools.

An editorial calendar that’s tied to sales and marketing events and goals (product launches, conferences, etc.) is very useful for New PR content planning.  Obvious?  Yes, but many of us don’t do it, or we fail to update it as things change.

Solve problems.

It’s a nuance, but the typical op-ed or byline is just that—an opinion piece, usually by a senior executive about a relevant issue.  But the “how-to” strategy of offering educational information or solving a problem through expert advice has long been a staple in consumer PR.  The same principle is effective in the B2B area, too, and it can help make content both more marketable and more marketing-oriented.

Repurpose, reuse, and reuse again.

It can start with the simple use of publicity placements in direct marketing efforts.  But bear in mind that the broader your content portfolio around a single theme or message, the higher your inbound marketing batting average.  A webinar can be adapted into a blog series, a speech easily morphs into a bylined trade or business article, and a survey report can become an infographic.  After a while, this happens naturally; one colleague uses lengthy CEO blog posts as a source for pre-approved commentary suitable for relevant industry blogs.


The SEO landscape will always change, but it’s often effective to identify one or a handful of top keywords and work them into content across all marketing groups.  The more “ownable” the terms, the better.  If the editorial calendar has been properly planned, they will integrate easily into shared and owned content, from social media profiles to press releases and slideshare presentations.

Impose a story structure.  

Formulaic stories = boring content.  But just as in a good novel or news story, structure, including the beginning, conflict/drama/problem, resolution, is key.  It pays to study the structure of the most effective brand journalism and marketable content and develop one that works for your narrative in the New PR.  Ideally, your customers, employees, and clients are an integral part of telling your brand story.  Implied third-party endorsement makes for credible and powerful content, and it just happens to be the essence of great PR.

This post originally appeared in MENGBlend.

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