PSA: If you’re a PR professional creating content, please stop!
PR pros are good at many things, but content marketing isn’t one of them.
I say this after spending 15 years proudly working in public relations, helping clients build their reputations, manage issues and launch products. I know the PR world and have a deep appreciation for its highly skilled practitioners (please don’t come for me — or my colleagues).
In the last decade the demand for content marketing has grown faster than our industry could keep up.
At the same time, the PR universe was evolving. With shrinking column inches and publications in transition, there simply weren’t enough of those earned-media placements that PR clients had come to expect. Not surprisingly, the industry jumped on the content bandwagon in response, redeploying PR pros — who excel at getting that all-important third-party endorsement — into the world of creating content.
But there’s a big difference between engaging intermediaries and reaching end audiences.
PR pros are trained to generate coverage of a specific product or issue — or to keep it out of the news. It requires a unique kind of persuasive writing. While PR people are always looking for a news hook, great content marketers only care about human hooks: The story is what matters, whether it’s newsworthy at the moment or not.
There’s a finer point here. The reality is that, while good PR consultants can write capably in many cases, their skills don’t translate to making the kind of transformative content that has measurable results and helps achieve business goals. Transformative content flows from a journalistic perspective, with practitioners forming their own “newsrooms” to tell stories, supplemented by experts on issues relevant to B2B — like health care or energy. Whereas press release-peddling PR pros operate in an echo chamber, the best content marketers have “sensors at the edges” and know how to tap the larger world outside a messaging house.
Add to this the creative intelligence, design expertise and emerging tech that underpin great content, and you can see how it isn’t a simple task for anyone, let alone someone trained in an entirely different discipline. At PR shops, design work is too often farmed out to freelancers or simply forgotten. In the end, “content” is bolted onto the PR offering.
On the other hand, great content marketers who create transformative content also produce great PR. That’s because most journalists are bored by press releases and standard pitches but appreciate and even love surprisingly good content. While traditional PR is stuck in a formulaic rut (imagine writing the same basic press release over and over), content marketing can push limits and engage journalists and other intermediaries without asking anything in return. Transformative content doesn’t sell — it shows.
Great PR professionals have an incredibly nuanced sense of how the press operates and how to make or protect a company’s reputation. Content strategists and creators aren’t masters of the media machine — they’re energized by stories, insights and innovative execution of pieces. It turns out that companies’ target audiences are, too.