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Reel Them In With Content PR - 2/12/2013 -

How can you use content PR strategies to shape opinion about your association and move people to act on membership and sponsorship decisions?

By Sarah Skerik

Content PR.You’ve probably seen this phrase bouncing around the blogosphere recently, and no wonder—it’s an emerging PR trend for this year.But what is content PR?

Over the last couple years, we’ve seen a significant change in marketing tactics and the subsequent rise of inbound marketing.Driven by generating interest rather than causing interruption, inbound marketing tactics, including content marketing, draw the audience to the brand, rather than pushing messaging out and hoping that someone pays attention. Doing this requires a brand to be in tune with its audience, know what they’re talking about (and where the talking is occurring), and understand how to create content that speaks to the audience’s interests.

What is Content PR?

Content PR is the extension of content marketing principles applied to PR.The core content marketing principles include:

  • Understanding audience interests;
  • Creation of relevant and compelling content; and
  • Deployment of that content in various formats and across different channels to reach audiences where they live.

New Strategy and Tactics

In practice, content PR requires some shifts in the traditional PR mindset and tactics, including:

1. From episodic campaigns to ongoing presence. It can be tough to get away from the traditional idea of an association communications campaign around a membership drive or annual conference.But as we all know, audience interest isn’t dictated by campaigns.While campaigns do a great job of building interest, opportunities are lost when association brands don’t serve the organically occurring interest that develops when a person is researching organizations related to a specific industry or vendors for a project at work.Content PR is crucial to developing a plugged-in brand presence that understands (and delivers) the information your constituents are seeking, as well as what they need to make related decisions.

2. Reflecting the audience point of view in messaging. There’s still a place for your association’s news announcements, but savvy organizations are changing their messaging to reflect the member’s (or industry’s) point of view.Rather than simply issuing a message from the ivory tower to the masses, associations are communicating in the context of their members and other constituents, building audience values into their messaging.Instead of a simple text press release, the content might include an array of elements such as an infographic, slides, or a short video with an expert.

3. Measuring pull, not push. While we’ve been talking about "push vs. pull” communications for years now, fully embracing a "pull” mentality is crucial for the successful practice and measuring of content PR. How do you measure pull?While metrics will vary for each organization, here are some ideas:

  • Search rank and inbound search terms used to find your association’s content.A dive into website analytics is tremendously revealing.A look at the search terms people used to find your website shows pretty clearly the terms for which your content ranks in search engines and the terms your audience is using to get to your website.
  • Traffic to specific content and the resulting activity. Measuring the visits to specific pages is one obvious measure.But take it a step further and look at what happens next.Are people sharing your association’s content on social networks?Are they clicking on the links embedded in the content and taking the next step? Looking deeper into page traffic will reveal whether or not your audience is truly engaging with your message.

4. Collaboration. More than ever, integration with your association’s marketing and communications is crucial if content PR is going to work.Key challenges that collaboration will address include developing a consistent and coherent experience for your audiences.It’s also important to realize that one piece of content can trigger a variety of outcomes, and associations need to have their ducks in a row to capture all of the potential results.

For example,in addition to generating interest among media and bloggers,the direct connection the audience has with your association’s content brings with it the opportunity to move membership or sponsorship/advertising prospects ahead in the decision-making process. PR and marketing should collaborate to ensure the content is accurately mapped to the customer-decision process and appropriate next steps are offered to readers. Designed to further inform—and qualify—your association’s prospects, next steps can include access to more specific information (such as case studies), tips for doing something better, and access to staff.

A hallmark of content marketing is creating content that can ultimately represent the association’s (and its industry’s) voice within the timelines of an individual’s search for information.Content PR shapes opinion contextually.When coordinated with your association’s communications and marketing efforts, content PR shapes opinion, generates lasting visibility, and delivers measurable, top-line business results.

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.


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