According to a recent study sponsored by InPowered and conducted by Nielsen, content marketing is 88% less effective than public relations, due in large part to the outsize influence earned media wields over the public. According to the study, earned media – defined as content created by credible third party experts – consistently provided more benefit to brands than did user generated or branded content.
Credibility is the key
The stat is interesting for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the simple fact that marketers are very good at measuring outcomes, something that PR has continued struggle with. The fact that Neilsen has identified the potent effect of credible third-party mentions has upon potential customers across the various stages of the buying cycle should make PR measurement mavens sit up and take note.
With all the conversation about, investment in and discussion of content marketing over the last few years, one has to wonder exactly what makes PR efforts so much more valuable in terms of driving business than content marketing campaigns.
The answer is credibility. It’s devilishly hard to produce branded content that is truly credible. The content brands publish (even this little blog post!) all have underlying agendas, and sometimes, those agendas aren’t too thinly veiled.
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Earned media & influence
Earned media, on the other hand, is widely perceived as being more credible and authentic. Therein are the keys to its influence – and that’s where public relations can really shine. PR practitioners understand influence, how it accrues and from where it flows. PR pros understand the subtleties of the story and how to wrap information in context that makes sense to an audience.
It’s little wonder that PR is behind the blockbuster headlines, viral videos and other content that fills our newsfeeds and floats to the top of search engine results.
Marketing tactics PR should steal
All that said, as a content marketer myself, I do believe that there are opportunities for PR to steal some important tactics from the content marketing toolbox. Digital marketers test and refine messages continually, and have developed a range of best practices for developing web-based cntent that works, and other communicators can borrow those tactics to improve their own campaigns.
Designing press releases and other content with reader actions in mind is one such recommendation. Think of it this way: every piece of content your brand issues online- press releases, blog posts, articles, backgrounders, etc. — becomes a web page. That specific web page can be seen in search engines and shared on social networks. When that page captures the fleeting attention of a visitor, your organization has the opportunity to communicate powerfully and personally with that person. Within that moment, you have their attention and with it, the opportunity to channel their next actions.
Marketers obsess over this opportunity to drive audience action: they test different scenarios and obsessively tweak language and layout to determine what works best. While it’s not reasonable to think that we have the opportunity to send 25 different versions of the same press release to see which generates the best results, we can definitely take some broad best practices from digital markers and apply them to our messages.
Those tactics are detailed in the recent blog post titled “Extreme Makover: Press Release Edition,” and the slide deck embedded above.