The case for content marketing: Bridging the gap between earned and owned media

People associate public relations (PR) with the pursuit of “earned” media coverage. Whether it’s writing and distributing press releases, pitching stories to reporters and editors, or submitting clients for prestigious awards or speaking opportunities — you are effectively looking to earn media attention. The goal is to inspire credible third parties and influencers to tell your tale and share your message (or a version of it, anyway). Traditional earned media is still the backbone of PR, but in our highly digitized world, a well-rounded communications strategy should also address “owned” media — specifically, content marketing.

Owning Your Story
Content marketing refers to the practice of creating content for a targeted online audience to establish a relationship with them. Put simply, it’s a process for getting attention from the right people — not unlike public relations. However, because it’s created in-house for web distribution and is not subject to outside interpretation, self-published content affords greater control of message delivery. Basically, owned media in the form of digital content marketing lets you tell your own story. But to be effective, it has to be a story worth telling.

Below are several best practices to consider for your content marketing program.

1) Who are you talking to?
Content marketing is not meant to be about you, your brand, products, or services. It’s about your audience. Who are they? What do they care about? Start by doing research on your customer. Determine how your story can provide real value and how best to deliver it to them.

2) In order to sell something, don’t sell anything
Content marketing is inherently meant to be helpful over promotional. It is not synonymous with traditional marketing collateral that touts a company’s offerings or accolades. Instead, it uses how-to articles, whitepapers, case studies, e-books, videos, infographics, and webinars to provide answers to customers’ questions or solutions to their pain points. An important cornerstone of content marketing is that by helping other people succeed, you too will see a return on investment. Offer unique insight or helpful takeaways consistency throughout content marketing materials to establish trust with your audience. Offer credible information and share your expertise. This practice ultimately strengthens customer relationships and encourages loyalty.

3) Begin at the beginning
Before you even think about creating content, make sure you have identified your target audience, objectives, search-engine optimization (SEO) considerations, and brand voice. Each of these elements will inform your content marketing strategy. A content marketing strategy — which typically includes an editorial calendar, story matrix, content map, and style guide — should align with the overarching goals of your communications/PR strategy. Additionally, outline key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure success and/or reevaluation requirements.

4) Amplify your content
If you publish a blog post, share it from your Twitter account. If a piece of content is not performing well on one channel, explore others that may provide increased exposure to your desired audience. Leveraging the content you create across various web ecosystems provides multiple opportunities for your target audience to be exposed to your message. For example, it’s not uncommon (in fact, many argue it’s best practice) to share outstanding PR results on all your owned channels (brand social media accounts, website, blog, etc.).

5) Don’t forget SEO
Your customers are asking questions, and they use search engines to find answers. You want your information to be at the top of those search results. SEO ensures your content is easy to discover via search engines and helps drive the curious to your website. Common SEO best practices include diligent tagging (descriptions in the HTML code for how your content is presented on the web) and appropriate keyword propagation (identifying the terms people use for searching specific topics online and deftly using those keywords in your content marketing text).

A successful content marketing program will result in enhanced visibility and customer trust. When properly nurtured, the symbiotic relationship between earned and owned media builds brand reputation, boosts web traffic, and generates new business opportunities.

Learn more about content marketing here.