Public relations is the practice of creating mutually-beneficial relationships by providing relevant and timely information to an audience that already exists. Content marketing, meanwhile, is all about creating content that attracts and retains new audience members.
While these concepts may seem like opposite ends of the communication spectrum, combining content marketing and PR offers a new approach to lead generation for your organization.
Current Challenges in Lead Generation
Customer acquisition costs (CAC) are on the rise. About 60% of marketers say that their CAC has increased over the past three years, making it more important than ever for companies to both identify potential leads and increase the chances that these leads are quickly converted into paying customers.
Content marketing excels at the second part of this equation. As a result, companies are earmarking more of their marketing budgets for content-based campaigns; as noted by the Marketing Insider Group, the most successful companies now spend up to 40% of their total marketing budget on content-driven campaigns. PR budgets are also growing as companies look to keep existing connections strong — in the U.S. alone, businesses now spend more than 6 billion per year on public relations efforts.
The result? Spending to keep current customers and drive conversions is on the rise. However, for many companies, lead generation is hampered by content nets that are too wide to capture the ideal audience, and PR approaches that focus too much on maintaining the status quo.
On its own, PR is designed to keep current audiences interested and disseminate key information about business operations to relevant news and industry outlets.
By integrating techniques that content marketers use to drive engagement (quizzes, questionnaires or user generated content), it’s possible for PR teams to generate new leads that have existing connections with current audiences in order to capture more of the target market.
How Content Marketing and PR can Work Together
PR and content marketing are two sides of the same coin. Both focus on creating and communicating valuable information — just for two different audiences.
When it comes to PR, the goal is to educate existing audiences, such as loyal customers, stakeholders, and social media followers, about topics of interest. Assets created by public relations teams — such as press releases, white papers, or eBooks — are often posted on news sites or shared with industry publications to reach an audience that’s already listening.
Content marketing teams, meanwhile, focus on consistently creating high-value content that’s both timely and relevant and then sharing this content in hopes of generating new customer interest and expanding the overall audience. Content marketing teams are often responsible for email campaigns that encourage users to click through on new products or download reports; they may also create newsletters and social media posts and coordinate marketing partnerships such as those with social media influencers.
Combining these two approaches makes it possible to find and generate leads that are likely to become loyal customers.
Not sure where to get started with lead generation under a content marketing/PR model? We’ve got you covered with seven strategy options.
1. Find new channels
News travels fast. So fast, in fact, that even digital news outlets often can’t keep up. For businesses, this means that it remains important to submit PR pieces to familiar news sources and industry publications. It’s also worth finding accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that offer similar news coverage at speed.
By using a combination of familiar and fast-moving options for content distribution, companies can increase their reach and their impact.
2. Combine science and art
While PR’s focus has long been on written content— press releases and white papers that contain the science of data collection and statistical interpretation — there’s a growing demand for visual content that offers a lower bar to entry.
The result? Marrying the in-depth content created by PR teams with more broadly-applicable infographic art developed by content marketing experts will help your content reach the widest audience possible.
3. Repurpose content
When it comes to content marketing and PR combined, there’s nothing wrong with copying yourself, so long as you do it the right way.
Here’s what it looks like in practice: You create a white paper or eBook about a new product, then repurpose this content to create multiple, shorter blog posts. The result? You capture both PR and content markets with similar — but not identical — content.
4. Talk up your accomplishments
Don’t be shy about awards you’ve won or honors you’ve received. Often listed on press releases, companies may be reluctant to mention awards in content marketing efforts for fear of veering too far away from social conversation into sales.
In reality, it’s worth highlighting what you’re good at, both on your website and in any content marketing campaign efforts. While there’s a balance to strike here between self-love and self-awareness, the evolving nature of consumer expectations has customers seeking out brands who have the credentials to back up big claims.
5. Create a reciprocal content framework
Your content doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Consider a white paper used by PR teams and then reposted as a blog and social media link by content marketers. If content teams can prompt engagement from potential customers, such as giving feedback or leaving comments, this can help inform the focus of the next piece of PR content, which in turn gives rise to the next content campaign.
6. Lean on established connections
Both what you know and who you know matters in marketing. It’s worth leveraging PR connections to help drive content strategies. These could be social media influencers, industry experts, or even long-term customers who are willing to share your content.
For influencers, this could mean an ongoing freelancer arrangement that requires a specific number of posts. For long-term clients, discounts or other offers could pave the way for content sharing.
7. Keep communications open
Last but never least in the fast-moving world of consumer purchasing trends? PR and content marketing teams need to stay in constant communication. This both reduces the risk of redundant or outdated content making it to news outlets or onto social media sites and helps ensure that new campaigns are coordinated for maximum effect.
Examples of Content Marketing and PR Lead Generation Strategies
So what does this combination of PR and content marketing look like in practice? Let’s take a look at four real-world examples.
1. Wells Fargo
PR is about digging into the details, while content marketing focuses on the outcome. Both work in favor of Wells Fargo, which donates up to 1.5% of its total revenue to charitable causes every year.
As a press release this is good information, but as part of a larger content marketing campaign, especially during the covid-19 pandemic, it’s a great way for the company to show themselves doing some good and connect with new customers.
Ford is focusing on sustainability and has committed $22 billion for vehicle electrification efforts to help achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. It’s an ambitious goal with a substantial timeline — but it also fits neatly with the current public focus on green initiatives.
By creating a narrative around this sustainable approach, Ford has the potential to reach environmentally-conscious consumers who would have otherwise avoided the popular vehicle maker.
Google is also committed to energy reduction but has had more impact on the social side of corporate social responsibility (CSR) thanks to its outspoken CEO, Sundar Pichai, who is willing to engage both industry and world leaders in areas of social responsibility and equality.
As a result, Google is not only able to leverage its massive data resources to deliver relevant PR statistics but can back it up with socially-conscious action that makes for compelling content.
Streaming giant Netflix offers paid parental leave for parents — most take between four and eight months but they can take up to a year — putting them well ahead of most corporations.
While the parental leave itself is a great talking point, combining information about this program with details about the ongoing success of the company at scale creates a great content narrative, one that could pay significant dividends over time as companies grapple with the ongoing impact of The Great Resignation.
PR and Content Marketing: Making the Most of this Dynamic Duo
PR and content marketing together can bring lead generation opportunities to the table. Public relations offers relevant information for interested parties to help create reciprocal relationships, while content marketing makes it possible to streamline the process of lead-to-customer conversion.
By combining forces, these disparate delivery methods become a dynamic duo, capable of generating leads that are more likely to convert — and more likely to share their experiences with other potential customers.
Want to make the most of this practical pairing? Use PR to establish and reinforce relationships with industry insiders and influencers, then lean on their connections to distribute purpose-built content that helps generate high-quality leads across your target audience.Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.