I feel a tad like a broken record, but for consistency's sake: Public relations as we know it has changed. It's not on the way out or being replaced by anything, so don't worry. But it does work differently, and to be effective in PR today means knowing how the practice has evolved.
Modern PR is no longer defined solely by power suits, templated press releases blasted to anyone with an email address, or busy people running around planning and generating buzz events.
Public relations today plays nicely with marketing and the various tactics you're using as part of your content marketing strategy. PR doesn't (or, at least, shouldn't) work by itself, in another department, as an entirely separate approach. Instead, it works alongside marketing to amplify your message and make both strategies more effective than they ever could be on their own.
Understanding what PR looks like today, however, is only half the battle. The other half is knowing exactly how content works to fuel a modern PR strategy.
Press releases, press mentions, guest-contributed articles — these are the content elements of a great PR strategy. These pieces are distinct from one another, from who writes them, to where and how they're placed, to what goals they're designed to achieve. They each serve a purpose, and if you're only implementing one type and calling it "modern PR," then you're going to have a hard time.
For example, relying only on press releases is going to be tough when you're not doing something newsworthy every day. And relying on guest-contributed content exclusively is going to make it hard to benefit from the third-party credibility of an outside mention that sings your praises.
For your PR to be its most effective, you need to rely on the right types of content. Here's how these three content elements contribute to a solid PR plan:
What they are: A press release — sometimes also called a "news release" or "press statement" — is an official statement issued to news and media outlets on behalf of a company to announce a milestone, award, event, or other achievement.
Press releases answer the big who, what, when, where, and why questions right out of the gate. They also usually include a quote or two from someone at the company and conclude with basic company and contact information.
What they do: Press releases are an excellent go-to tactic when your company has done something newsworthy and wants to spread the word. They're good for generating interest and excitement around an event or development, and because they're simple to create and distribute, they're pretty cost-effective.
What they don't do: By nature, press releases are extremely promotional tools used to highlight individual events and accomplishments. This makes it difficult to use them as a long-term, trust-building tool that helps you consistently engage your audience over time.
What they are: I know "press mention" sounds a lot like "press release," but these two tactics are definitely not the same. In fact, they could hardly be more different. Let me explain.
A press mention is exactly what it sounds like it is: a mention of your company by the press. It could be a quote from someone in your company that's published in an article in a publication your audience reads. Maybe an influencer in your industry liked a post on your blog and referenced it in her article. Or maybe your company has done something well, and a publication contributor used you as an example in his column. The point is, you're mentioned in content that's published in a reputable outlet by someone outside your company.
What they do: Press mentions provide the same kind of third-party credibility that word of mouth does. They're bylined by people outside your company, and when someone outside your company that your audience trusts mentions your brand, you benefit from that validation. And if that mention directs readers to your website, then your on-site content can get a solid boost, too.
What they don't do: Press mentions do not work on their own. Without a brand worth mentioning or content worth sourcing, you're going to have a tough time earning a credible mention.
What they do: High-quality guest content can introduce your brand and your expertise to new audiences who don't know you and build trust among audience members who are getting to know you. Guest articles help you build thought leadership, reach and engage new people, and even invite interested readers to learn more on your website
What they don't do: Guest content is non-promotional. Its purpose is to reach new audiences and to share valuable, engaging information with them — not to promote your company, your products, and your services. And while it's published content in outside publications, like press mentions, guest content is authored by your company's thought leaders, not someone outside your company.
There you have it, folks. I hope this blog post managed to clear up a few things for you. Public relations is changing and relying more on content and collaboration with marketing than ever. And if you want to see your PR reach its full potential, then these three types of off-site content are a must for your strategy.
Natalie Slyman is a content marketing and social media professional. She enjoys reading her favorite blogs, perusing Instagram, and talking about her cats (even when no one is listening).