Picture content strategy and PR in battle. In your mind, are they going toe-to-toe? Or are they hotfooting it together to share a big victory?
Too often, people assume that developing a content strategy and landing media placements are siloed approaches. However, they’re far more successful when they work in tandem. That way, your company can net the benefits of both practices — and secure win after win for your brand.
Still, this is more easily said than done. Content marketing and PR aren’t identical; they have critical differences in their respective audiences, goals, metrics, and types of content. To truly combine them, it’s necessary to understand why they complement each other and how you can use both — in addition to powerful SEO tactics — to achieve your objectives.
Content marketing strategies and media relations strategies serve different but highly complementary purposes.
A content strategy framework involves the creation and deployment of valuable content pieces designed to engage specific audiences and achieve certain marketing objectives. Each of these pieces educates or entertains readers or viewers. For example, Spotify leverages user data to create personalized and engaging marketing with its extremely popular “Wrapped” campaign, which provides users with personalized statistics about their listening habits. How-to videos exploring brands’ newest products and posts on X (formerly Twitter) sharing important data points are other common examples of these content pieces.
Now, a public relations strategy can teach, too. But its purpose is more niche. Generally, PR involves managing a company’s reputation and relationships. Though it can be proactive like the content strategy, it has a reactionary component. When an external event happens that threatens a brand’s integrity or its broader industry, the natural reaction from the brand might be a quick — yet thoughtfully pulled together — media release. For example, when Southwest Airlines faced operational disruptions that led to massive flight cancellations in 2021, the airline’s media response included apologies to customers, explanations for the disruptions, and measures it was taking to mitigate the situation and assist affected passengers.
Want to learn more about the purpose of PR and how it has shifted over the years?
Again, the components of a content strategy and media relations strategy have a lot of intersecting points: They’re both forms of communication and outreach. They’re both engineered to position a business in the best possible light. And they’re both a way to connect with stakeholders.
But a content strategy and a media relations strategy are different in some key ways:
Marketers like to tailor their content strategies to particular prospects or customer segments. For instance, a pet food company working on an article about the best diet for puppies might target the information to new dog parents.
PR efforts often have a more expansive audience. They’re painting with a broader brush to shape public perception of the brand. For example, Burger King’s successful 2020 “Moldy Whopper” campaign, which featured a Whopper burger decaying over 34 days to highlight the company’s removal of artificial preservatives, aimed to reach health-conscious consumers globally and earn attention on social media.
A good content strategy framework is all about fleshing out and distributing consistent, pertinent content to engage target audiences. Typically, the content supports other marketing goals, like lead generation and brand awareness. Some content might be designated as a way to increase website traffic. Other content might be meant to drive leads or build brand authority.
PR strategy goals can be different. They ordinarily center on resolving immediate or possible crises, managing brand reputation, solidifying the brand’s identity (e.g., as a market leader, an innovator, an advocate for sustainability, etc.), and building inroads with stakeholders and the public.
The performance of all content — including media placements — needs to be measured. But the metrics you monitor for content marketing and public relations will likely be different.
It’s not uncommon for blog posts, articles, and videos to be measured with metrics like views, likes, comments, and conversions.
Successful PR campaigns are often marked by impressive media coverage, stakeholder perception, or crisis response effectiveness. You can generally measure the success of your PR efforts by determining how well you got in touch with your target audience or demographic, how wide your reach was, and how aligned with your brand voice everything was.
All content is permanent to some degree. Content created as a component of a content strategy is ideated to be sustainable — it’s usually meant for the long term as well as the here and now.
PR efforts are more transitory and immediate. A reactionary press release doesn’t have the same evergreen intentions as a podcast on a topic related to a brand’s mission. For example, consider Airbnb’s response to refugees fleeing Ukraine in 2022. The company used a media relations strategy to discuss its efforts to help people who were displaced. While this response might shape public perception for the long term, the content itself isn’t evergreen; it’s tied to a specific event at a specific point in time.
This isn’t to say that PR pieces can’t keep producing terrific returns. A media release containing proprietary data could be valuable for many years as a resource. A real-life example of this is Google’s “Year in Search” report, which provides insights into the most popular search trends over a given year. This data, which comes from billions of Google searches, is proprietary to Google, and it often includes insights into consumer behavior and top-trending global and regional search queries. This becomes extremely valuable for anyone who wants to understand consumer trends, societal shifts, and the impact of global events on public consciousness. Over time, this data can even serve as a historical record of public interest and behavior.
Variety is certainly the spice of content strategy! From articles and social media updates to infographics and podcasts, content comes in tons of flavors. This allows marketing teams to choose the content type that’s best suited (and apt to be seen as most valuable) for the audience, the channel, and the topic at hand.
Common PR content, on the other hand, includes press releases, Q&A-style interviews, features, and crisis communications pieces. Though they might incorporate storytelling, their structure is less varied in order to manage narratives and control information flow.
The bottom line is that, yes, content strategy and PR strategy are different. But they need to work together. If they don’t, you’ll miss out on the benefits of having a balanced approach to your content distribution.
Besides, integrating PR and content strategy efforts is a great way to align your messaging, create content that appeals to a wide range of publishers, showcase your thought leadership, tell your brand story, and get measurable ROI.
You can accomplish this by establishing shared goals, getting content marketers and PR strategists in the same room for joint planning sessions, and using a centralized calendar tool for transparency. You should also establish a cadence for regular communication and a flexible strategy for consistent messaging that ensures a unified and effective approach to brand communication.
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Social marketing technology company Heartbeat did this and achieved great success with its content campaign that included press mentions. Due to its comprehensive content marketing strategy that was working alongside its PR efforts, Heartbeat was able to secure press interest. The company landed new clients and increased creator sign-ups on TikTok because its content and PR messaging was so coordinated and compelling.
Once you’ve integrated your content and PR strategies, it’s time to start actually creating PR content. While all the work you’ve done up until this point is essential to crafting successful PR materials, there are questions you can ask yourself to make your efforts even more compelling:
A newsworthy angle is critical to any PR content. Maybe you have data, expert commentary, or visual content to share. Or your organization (or a member of it) received an award or honor.
For example, inclusion in the “Forbes 500,” “Best Employers,” or “Most Innovative Companies” lists can provide significant PR boosts because they’re well-regarded and indicate a high level of achievement in business.
Whatever it is, be certain that it’s legitimately something people would want to hear about.
Even if you know your brand’s core messaging and values inside and out, you won’t get much traction if you aren’t aware of the preferences of the people and media you’re pitching. Remember: PR content doesn’t get “out there” until someone picks it up. Your pitch has to be compelling or you’ll have trouble getting your PR strategy off the ground.
Do your homework and then construct individualized pitches. Journalists and editors appreciate getting valuable, interesting PR topics geared toward their liking — and there’s no better way to build and maintain relationships with them than to make their lives easier!
To accomplish this, pay attention to the audience and “beat” of the journalist or outlet. This will make it easier to align your content to what’s considered truly newsworthy to the person you’re pitching to. You should also pay attention to publications’ editorial guidelines, deadlines, and calendars. These can often be found on their official websites and media kits, but it may also be necessary to reach out to the editorial team.
You should have PR-related KPIs set for all your campaigns. Depending on your goals, these could include media impressions, media coverage volume, social media engagement, and website traffic.
For example, if your goal is thought leadership, a useful KPI to track would be the number of mentions of your brand, product, or campaign across various media outlets.
Tracking is vital. If you don’t monitor relevant metrics, you’ll have no way of knowing whether your media is hitting the bull’s-eye or missing the mark by a mile.
As a reminder, you’ll want all your PR efforts to be in sync with your content strategy. Doing so aligns all parts of your marketing, advertising, and branding efforts and ensures your core values and messaging are the foundations of every piece of content.
Conversely, failing to do so could lead to inconsistent messaging, less audience engagement, impaired SEO performance, and weakened credibility.
To prevent this from happening, make sure your content and PR strategies both contribute to accomplishing any goals they share. You can even use PR wins to inform new content and vice versa. You can also use an editorial calendar to align the time frames of both strategies so that each does what it should, when it should.
Your recipe for media relations strategy success doesn’t end when you’ve harmonized it with your content strategy. Your final move is to give it an extra lift through SEO and backlinks.
SEO enhances content discoverability, credibility, and promotion through the targeted use of specific keywords. By including relevant keywords in media relations and PR initiatives, you’ll achieve the widest reach for your energy and investment, thanks to a discoverability boost.
When your PR content isn’t well-optimized, it’s less likely to rank highly in search results. You certainly don’t want your PR efforts to be hard to find. And buried content is basically dead content. A recent report found that the top three search results garner almost 70% of all clicks, with all subsequent results receiving significantly fewer. Therefore, you’ll want to leverage SEO so that your audience and other stakeholders are more likely to see your content and increase their trust in your organization and its thought leaders.
Take LaunchCode, for example. With a combined guest posting, PR, and SEO strategy, we helped it boost its keyword rankings. Between 2020 and 2023, its ranked keywords rose from 3,560 to 14,328 — a huge success!
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Backlinking is an important component of SEO. A backlink is any link that goes back to one of your owned pages, such as a product page, a landing page, or a blog post. Though you can buy backlinks, earning them is far more ethical and leads to better results because Google and other search engines are quick to penalize sites that purchase backlinks. (Side note: It’s easy for Google’s advanced algorithms to spot spammy backlinks. Don’t think you can fool the giant — you’ll only get squashed.)
Earning backlinks takes time and patience but sets your site up for long-term authority and credibility. Plus, if you’ve carefully constructed your PR pieces according to the information above, you have a better chance of reputable websites linking to your content. When organic backlinking occurs via digital PR, it sends a positive signal to search engines — and users — that your PR content is reliable, high-quality, and authoritative.
What are some ways you can entice other sites and journalists to give you a little backlink love?
Avoid fully relying on AI software to write your PR content because it won’t have the storytelling capabilities that humans have and may include errors. For successful digital PR, your content needs to be eye-catching, exclusive, and well-written. AI can help get you started, but it can’t achieve all those objectives.
You have to know the interests and pain points of the audience you’re trying to reach. If your PR messaging isn’t appropriately targeted, you’ll have little chance of getting a backlink. The same goes for any PR content that isn’t exclusive or doesn’t carry a unique perspective. Unique insights tend to attract more backlinks.
Every time you get in touch with an editor at an online publication or a journalist, demonstrate your professionalism with a personalized pitch. Though you can use some standardized content, such as how you communicate the value and benefit of backlinking to your site, be sure that you’re not sending generic emails, texts, or DMs.
There are plenty of outreach tools and platforms on the market to help you effortlessly manage and track all your content deployment, including content that’s part of your digital PR or backlinking strategy.
For example, comprehensive solutions like Cision and Prowly give you access to analytics, press release distribution, databases full of media contacts, and other essential features. More specialized software like Meltwater, which focuses on media monitoring and social listening, can help refine your approach, and platforms like PR Newswire allow you to quickly distribute company news and announcements to a very large audience of journalists and news outlets.
It’s critical to leverage these technologies to have success with PR. Sloppy organization will only lead to lost opportunities to build relationships with website owners, editors, bloggers, creators, and influencers.
Think of your company as a machine where all systems and parts are interconnected. What happens in sales affects the finance department. And when trouble brews in shipping, the customer service department feels the heat.
In the same way, your content strategy and your PR strategy are intertwined. The sooner you lean into this fact, the faster you can build your brand visibility and reputation with all your content and PR deliverables. You’ll generate more SEO and backlinks, and that will give your business added clout.
Still not sure where to start? Need someone to help you see the content and PR strategy possibilities you may be missing? Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help make all your content efforts go the extra mile!
I'm the president of Intero Digital's Content & PR Division. Intero Digital is a full-service digital marketing agency whose Content & PR Division helps businesses improve their lead generation, SEO, sales enablement, and thought leadership — all powered by content marketing and PR.