Both content marketing and PR (public relations) suffer from a series of misconceptions, and it is not difficult to see why people either have no definition for the terms, or even think they are the same thing. The most common of these misconceptions is that PR is just about media relations and coverage, and content marketing is only about SEO. Each of these assumptions is wrong, and in order to put them right, the first step is to define what each of the disciplines is.
Content Marketing: The purpose of content marketing is to place information and relevant content in places where a pre-defined target audience will find it. The point of the content should be to increase the knowledge of the person reading it, and to encourage them to take further action to find out more. This is normally done by following a link to a specific website, but at the very least, the content should be good enough that it is taken on board by a reader and may be followed up at a later date.
Public Relations: Public relations has been with us for thousands of years, and the ancient Indian, Greek and Roman civilizations all used it to one degree or another. The basic purpose behind public relations is to so manage the flow of information so that a business, service or organization is held in a positive light by the public. Whether it is as the best in their field, the cheapest, or the most innovative, the strategy behind PR is to use acts of charity, media releases and other methods to promote this cause. The eventual aim of PR, like content marketing, is to encourage consumers to use a certain brand or service. Public relations also has another quite specific area, and this is in crisis management. If companies hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, they bring in a PR team to put a more positive spin on things, and douse any inflamed situation.
In short, PR could be described as subtly pulling consumers towards a business or service and maintaining a certain brand image; whereas content marketing could be described as subtly pushing consumers towards that same business or service. The emphasis here is definitely on the word subtle, as both techniques are never as blatant as out and out advertising.
Another difference between content marketing and PR is how the effectiveness of either is measured. Arguably, it is easier to measure the effectiveness of content marketing than it is PR, as the only hard statistics to come from PR are those stating how many media placements or press mentions there were. The engagement of the consumer can neither be measured nor taken into account. This is not the case with content marketing though, as there are a range of KPI’s that can be analyzed.
When placing content on other people’s websites or blogs as part of a content marketing strategy, it is vital to ensure that there are some backlinks to the website of the business or service being promoted. Not only does this provide some SEO value, but it also provides a means of tracing who has followed the link by analyzing this referral traffic in the main website analytics. This will in turn give an indication of how well a content placement has performed.
Similarly, the same analytics can be applied to content which has been placed on a host site. In addition to being able to see where a site visitor has arrived from, it is also possible to show how long they spend on each page, if they left comments, which other pages they visited and so forth. This type of analysis is extremely useful for many reasons, including seeing how to best convert site visitors into customers.
In a world where consumers are increasingly savvy to the point that they block banners on websites and skip ads on television, content marketing is gaining ground as a valuable tool for companies to promote their products and services. It should not be mistaken for PR, but instead used to its fullest potential in engaging consumers through informative, well written content in order to help increase sales and revenue. Content marketing is used by large multi-national companies as part of their overall marketing strategy, and the validity and theory behind it is as equally applicable to smaller scale entrepreneurs and website owners.
Richard McMunn is a writer for How2become; a leading career and recruitment specialist for public sector careers. For the last 8 years How2become has helped numerous people prepare for and pass tough recruitment processes and assessment centres in order to secure their dream job. You can also connect with How2become on Google Plus.