Own the media, own the conversation

Posted: June 20, 2014

The chase is on. As brands head from offer-focused communication towards an approach that hones in on engaging customers, the appetite for content increases.

Good marketing isn’t about ticking the channel boxes anymore. We hear businesses boast about their Facebook fans and Twitter followers. But social media is nothing without good content.

Narrative illustrationsThe same goes for company websites – if you just paste your company profile, you’ve ticked the info box, but how do you capture visitors and draw them into engaging with your brand? Content! Even Google knows a good story when it sees one – the algorithm has changed from SEO as we once knew it to Google Panda and Penguin, able to rank content on the web according to quality.

Ad agencies, direct marketers, social media agencies, website fundis … they’re searching gimlet-eyed for content gems. So what about PR? Where does content fit in to public relations?

First off, let’s make the distinction between traditional PR and content marketing. Because they’re not the same. Far from it. Public relations is about managing and dispersing the information from an organisation to its public. It’s the brand telling people what the brand wants to communicate. Content marketing starts from the opposite pole. It’s telling stories that customers want to hear.

Sharp PRs have realised that being a company loudhailer is simply not enough. Under financial pressure, consumer media is crying for content, business-to-business media is begging for it, readers are demanding it. So this begs the question: where is PR heading?

Firstly, they’re diving into brand-owned media. It makes sense: that’s where the big audiences lie. As the number of consumer publications has fallen, so brand-owned publications have risen, not just in print, but digital media assets as well. Rather than face a shrinking violet, PR agencies are gleefully watching their world get bigger as more opportunities and audiences present themselves.

But I think that the future of PR lies in playing a supporting role to content marketing. There will always be a place for the good old press release and media launches. In addition, editors and content managers want stories. Customers and potential customers want content and experiences they can engage with. They want to be captivated by content that informs, inspires and entertains them. Above all, they want it to be relevant to them.

The difficulty for PR is that once the story’s been let loose it’s subject to the whim of content managers. Who’s to say that in a feature on food shelf-life intended to promote Tupperware, the editor won’t drop the brand name or add competitor brands.

As story generators, PR helps feed the ravenous content beast. Content marketing empowers brands to own their own media so they’re not at the mercy of editors beyond their control. Ultimately, he who owns the media, owns the customer conversation.

Robyn DalyRobyn Daly is the content director for Narrative, a specialist content marketing media company.

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