Remember the movie “Jerry Maguire?” You’ll probably agree that one of the most memorable scenes (aside from Tom Cruise screaming, “Show me the money!”) is when Jerry tells Dorothy, “You complete me.” Sigh. Cute, huh?
Well, I hate to ruin the romance, but the same can pretty much be said about thought leadership, content marketing, and PR. These earned and owned practices complement one another wonderfully and, when executed the right way, complete a cohesive marketing strategy that drives results.
But before these practices have a chance to “complete” one another, they have to get acquainted: What do they do, exactly? What are their goals? Only then can they come together to create a powerhouse strategy.
Earned and owned media are different types of content that need each other to work best. Relying on earned press or guest content alone to drive sales won’t get you very far if you don’t have content published on your company’s online assets — like your website, blog, or social media accounts — to back it up.
And while it’s free to place content on your blog and build followers organically, earned media can bolster those efforts. It gives you the opportunity to tap into new audiences, benefit from publications’ search rankings, build your industry influence, and obtain that stamp of approval and validation that comes with earned media.
To get these two in sync, start by creating high-quality content that speaks to your audience. Pump the brakes on your sales pitches for the time being — your focus here should be on addressing questions and pain points. Position yourself as a resource for education and entertainment, and build your army of brand advocates.
When every piece of content you own isn’t a sales pitch in disguise, you’re in a much better place to build links through the media you earn, such as press mentions and guest posts you write. That way, when readers come across your company’s recent PR mention or your CEO’s latest article on a reputable publication, they can find their way back to your site through links that take them to solid pieces of content.
We know that earned and owned media make a great pair. But how do content marketing, thought leadership, and PR meld to make one heck of a strategy?
Content marketing is the overarching practice that drives your efforts, whether you’re using earned media, owned media, or (ideally) some combination. They’re both vital to growing your sales pipeline and converting leads into clients. A content marketing strategy helps you use both types to accomplish those goals effectively.
Content marketing can take several forms: guest content that you contribute to online publications; written, visual, or interactive blog content; email; PR opportunities; and social media posts, to name a few. Your content marketing strategy should include a variety of those forms.
Ah, thought leadership — love this term or hate it, it’s not going anywhere. Thought leadership falls under the content marketing umbrella because that’s how subject matter experts often build their influence: through content. The difference is that this type of content isn’t necessarily tied to the part of your content marketing strategy that promotes your company or directly addresses a prospect’s objections to working with you.
Thought leadership is focused on an individual within your company and his or her experiences, expertise, and insight. It’s just as important as the blog posts, videos, and social content you publish because it shows that you are the expert and that real humans exist behind your brand.
People want to work with (and buy from) the best in the industry; thought leadership content shows them that “best in the industry” means you.
PR is an effective form of earned media because when someone else sings your praises or covers what your company is up to, you gain instant credibility. We’re a content marketing company, and we can’t deny how powerful PR and press mentions are. When an influencer writes about Influence & Co., we see our traffic increase, and we often use it as sales enablement copy. Plus, it’s awesome to see that stamp of approval for all the work we do.
But because we’re also using a content marketing strategy, we can better leverage those PR opportunities. If we were to use only that PR and forget the content on our site and our guest content, how would we back up the praises that influencer sang in his press mention?
And vice versa: If we’d neglected the content on our site and never guest-contributed a single thought leadership article, the chances of our being mentioned in the first place would have been a lot smaller. That’s why they all need to work together.
One of Influence & Co.’s top online lead sources is an article in Inc. that mentions us as one of six content marketing companies dominating the industry. It was such an honor to be included on that list, and it has served us well as a great jumping-off point for marketing professionals who are scouring Google for companies to vet.
Because that article links to our site, readers have the chance to look around and see what we’re about — and because we’ve invested in content there, we’re able to receive contact forms and get people on the phone with us.
Another top lead source for us is our CEO’s column on Forbes. John contributes content to Forbes each week, and through those articles, he can comment on industry trends, serve as a resource, and showcase his (and our company’s) expertise.
Readers who enjoy that content continue to read his posts, follow him on social media, and visit our website. There, they can check out our blog, download gated content, subscribe to our email lists, and more so that we can continue delivering valuable content to them and nurture them to a sale.
See how nicely everything comes together?
This is how we integrate PR and thought leadership into our content strategy, and it’s how we help our clients, too — whether they’re working with a PR firm already or they’re using our PR partnership services.
So the next time you’re wondering why you need thought leadership content if you’re using PR or you’re struggling to explain to your team how these practices work together, remember “Jerry Maguire.” Content marketing, thought leadership, and PR complete one another — you’ve just got to have the strategy to make it work.
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.