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Content management for PR professionals

You’ve been trained to write a press release. Time to up the ante and run the entire content strategy.

Content management and content marketing may be the biggest buzzwords in communications today.  Many people are keen to jump on the bandwagon. SEO agencies are rebranding themselves as content marketing consultancies.

But what relevance does content management and marketing have to the world of PR?

If you accept that content management is based on an editorially driven mindset, then PR is suited to being at the heart of any content-led initiative. It could be argued that a lot of content management and marketing is in fact PR in the first place. Conversely, there is a lot of content management-related activity that isn’t within the remit of a PR team – but perhaps should be.

What is content management?

Content management can be seen as a strategic communications approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract, inform and influence a clearly defined audience.  It supports the achievement of predefined organisational objectives.

So how can PR practitioners take advantage of the current interest in content management and marketing?

A primary consideration is to determine what counts as ‘content’. You could argue that writing a press release and sending it to a journalist is a form of content management. Taken to the extreme, anything from a print ad to a podcast can be counted as content.

How you distribute that content is just as important as how it gets created.

The use of organic and paid-for channels continues to blur the lines of responsibility between PR professionals and marketers. Should PR professionals only be responsible for content production and organic distribution? Alternatively, should PR practitioners have access to budgets to make sure that their content is seen by relevant audiences? This is certainly useful for many social channels where the sheer volume of content available means that organic cut-through is tough.

Getting the basics right

It’s important to remember that basic principles of communications planning apply to content management. An organisation still needs to have robustly defined goals and objectives. A clear definition and understanding of who you are trying to reach and what you want them to do should inform your approach, irrespective of any debate about who should have responsibility for any specific aspect of the process.

Many people tend to view content in terms of the format of delivery rather than trying to work out what the underlying story or message should be. It is easy to slip into generalities. Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, said at a Fortune conference in London in June 2016 that the social platform will probably be ‘all video’ in five years. This has led some to suggest that all organisations now need to be focused on video content rather than text.

This is of course a dangerous assumption. At time of writing, it transpires that Facebook has overestimated video viewing for the last two years by 80%. Its metric for calculating the time spent watching a video did not differentiate between the seconds consumers spent scrolling past it. The data was erroneous…

Beyond measures of effectiveness, content formats may not be the right one for a given audience.

Thankfully, tools such as Buzzsumo can show what type and kind of content gained the most amplification across the main social media channels over a 12-month period. This provides some real data as to what actually does resonate with an audience. (Ironically, you often find that good old-fashioned, text-based online media coverage is the content format that gains greatest traction.)

Of course, there are still additional parts of the puzzle to be solved. Having an optimal content delivery format does not mean your audience will see it. Distribution is key.

The role of distribution

Clearly there are a whole variety of possible distribution channels to consider such as websites and email. However, the biggest content discovery channel on the planet is Google. This introduces the need for SEO considerations for content.

What about social media? PR has often tended to see its role as the champion of organic reach. But what happens when organic reach becomes increasingly difficult to achieve? According to a study published by ad agency BDDO the only way to get any visibility for content on Facebook is to pay for it.

The phrase ‘paid for’ is often seen as blasphemy in PR circles. But should PR practitioners shy away from using paid-for distribution methods? If the ultimate goal is to get the right content in front of the right people, then shouldn’t every option be considered? And why shouldn’t PR professionals be given budget to ensure that their content is made visible to an audience?

An argument could be made that editorially driven content will perform better than more overtly ‘advertising’ style content – so PR practitioners should be responsible for both production and distribution of content – irrespective of whether this is an organic or paid-for channel.

Indeed, with the rise of ad blocking online, editorial-style content has a far better chance of being seen than, say, online banner ads. (Even so, and despite problems around viewability and fraud, online digital display advertising continues to dwarf PR spend.)

In the end, all of the above is academic unless content management and marketing can be measured and evaluated effectively. The emerging techniques to better evaluate traditional PR approaches can be easily adapted to understand the value and contribution of content management.

PR professionals have many reasons to be optimistic about their role in the growth and development of content management and marketing.

Therefore,it makes sense to familiarise yourselves with the techniques of content management and marketing. This will  make sure that PR plays its rightful role in the development of an approach to communications that is clearly here for the long haul.

5 hints for mastering content management

  1. Define content goals and objectives

Be clear and specific about exactly what kind of outcomes you are seeking for your content management activity.

  1. Research and define your audience

Be specific about the people you are trying to reach and why. Rather than defining an audience in terms of raw demographics (eg 18–25 year-old males in Birmingham), use the free audience tools provided by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest to size the audience and understand the level of competition for their attention. Similarweb is another tool that can provide great insight into which websites your audience visits.

  1. Be specific about your content and distribution

Don’t make assumptions about the type and kind of content to create.  Just because Facebook is prioritising live video today doesn’t mean that everyone needs to invest in an outdoor camera crew. Use tools such as Buzzsumo to understand the kind of content that works on  social media platforms. The amount of money, time and effort you are prepared to spend on content must also be factored into the equation. Curating third party content may prove to be a more cost-effective way to reach certain audiences, while allocating budget to paid promotion may be the only way to guarantee message delivery.

  1. Tell great stories

A glossy video won’t justify the investment if the message is wrong for the intended audience. Make sure you focus on  message development and storytelling before committing to a particular type of content.

  1. Monitor your content

Assuming you have defined some specific goals for your content management activity, diligent user of free campaign-tracking tools can help to determine the contribution of content to meaningful outcomes.

This article is worth five CPD points

Originally published in Influence magazine, Q4 2016.

Image courtesy of pixabay

Andrew Smith

I am a co-author of 'Share This' and 'Share This Too', practical handbooks to the biggest changes taking place in the media and its professions by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Social Media Panel. Commenting on the first volume, Lord Sugar said: “This book is a useful guide to using social media effectively”. I am a trainer in social media, analytics and SEO for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). I also hold the Google Analytics Individual Qualification.

Posted in CPD, Editor's Picks, Public Relations

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