This blog post is 25+ years in the making.
Think of it as my ‘flag in the ground’.
It’s the culmination of a quarter of a century spent in the trenches of marketing communications, specifically public relations, sponsorship and events, but with a focus over the past eight years on social media and content marketing.
It’s a fusion of thinking borne of thousands upon thousands of hours spent reading books, magazine/newspaper/blog articles and listening to podcasts, as well as interacting (online and in person) with whip-smart startup entrepreneurs, PR and marketing practitioners, authors, speakers, bloggers and all-round savvy, progressive thinkers.
I’ve taken all this information, synthesised it in more ways than I care to imagine, and honed it through the sheer graft of ‘doing’ i.e.running workshops, delivering keynote presentations, undertaking one-on-one consulting and mentoring, writing close to a thousand blog articles, recording some 100 podcast interviews with specialists and experts, plus researching and writing a business book for a major global publishing house in John Wiley & Sons.
The thinking and ideas contained herein have also been road-tested with countless (and varied) clients – fast-growth businesses, professional services firms, industry bodies, government authorities, tech startups and solopreneurs running personal brand-based businesses.
The result is what I call Content-Driven Social PR.
Content-Driven Social PR is a strategic content-first approach to marketing communications.
It harnesses the power of owned, earned and social media to build brand visibility, influence and reputation by weaving together content marketing, social media communications, and media and influencer relations into the one powerful and consistent multi-channel package.
Now you might think this is biting off more than you can chew.
Let’s face it, each one of these elements is pretty meaty in its own right and I agree, but I also know they each represent just one part of the communications pie and that combined – when planned well and executed with passion and purpose – that whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Every way I look at it, they’re inextricably linkedin some way.
Let’s quickly break them down.
Content marketing by itself is awesome, the most exciting opportunity I think companies, organisations and personal brand-based businesses have to tell their story, build their credibility and communicate their unique value with a predetermined audience.
Social media is brilliant at helping companies to humanise their brand, to take their audience ‘behind the velvet rope’ of the organisation and communicate with real people doing real jobs. After all, we do business with people we know, like and trust; we don’t do business with logos and we distrust faceless organisations.
Media and influencer relations, when executed with empathy and respect, is a fantastic way to extend the reach of your message and grow influence through perceived third-party endorsement. Remember, the media today isn’t just made up of newspapers, magazines, TV and radio; we need to broaden our thinking – massive potential exists with what I call ‘hybrid media’, those (often niche) online publications that are run with the same journalistic intent as traditional media outlets but are digital only, built from the ground up without the legacy of a printed version occupying the mind of the publisher. At the very top end, Huffington Post is a good example of a successful hybrid; others include Mumbrella, Broadsheet, Women’s Agenda and Smart Company (these are smaller, entrepreneurial operations) while Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Business Spectator, Kidspot and Business Insider operate with the backing of Big Media.
And don’t forget there is a growing number of businesses that publish thriving blogs and are often open to guest posts, or the small one or two person blogs, podcasts and online video shows that may cover your industry, profession, niche or the community in which you operate, and are always looking for interesting ideas for content, including interviews with subject matter experts.
But this is where things get interesting.
If you can get your head around how owned, earned and social media work together – if you can consistently and seamlessly integrate your content, social and media and influencer relations efforts – you’re in a wonderful position to supercharge your marketing communications, especially if value, empathy, respect, utility and humility are baked in to every thing you do.
When you use Content-Driven Social PR to better serve your ideal audience, to build a base of authentic and transparent two-way communication with the marketplace, that will make the rest of your sales and marketing efforts work harder; get this right and you’re hovering in pretty rarified air. Why rarified? Because so few companies and organisations can be bothered taking the time or putting in the elbow grease required to develop a ‘patchwork quilt’ of communications – they’d much rather go for the big hit … tell one big story to as many people as possible!
And that’s fine and not out of the question, but as we know today we also need to be adept at telling lots of different stories to lots of different people and empower them to share our content with their personal networks.
In the diagram immediately below, I show where Content-Driven Social PR fits in the overall marketing communications equation.
It’s at the base of the pyramid because (a) it’s ongoing and all-encompassing, not a ‘campaign’ like advertising tends to be; and (b) if you get it right, if you can continue to build on your organisation’s visibility, influence, trust and reputation, then you increase the chances of ensuring your more one-off promotional activities are more effective because in pockets of the marketplace you already have an audience that knows, likes and trusts your brand.
Advertising, promotions and direct sales activities are hit-and-miss at the best of times, particularly in today’s noisy digital-first world. But if your ‘look at me’ calls-to-action are tempered by the immense value you deliver over time, your organisation will be in a much better place.
And we’re not necessarily talking business here.
All organisations need to generate outcomes of sorts. A professional association needs more members; a governing body needs engagement with its constituents; politicians need votes; nonprofit charities need donations from the public.
In short, Content-Driven Social PR can work for just about any type of company or organisation.
Content-Driven Social PR is also a mindset.
If you take the same approach to your marketing communications as you did five to 10 years ago, you increase the chances of failing to cut through and resonate in today’s information-overloaded, hyper-connected commercial environment.
Take a heart-centred approach. Make it about your audience and the value you can deliver to them over and above your products and services. What are the challenges they face that you can help them with by providing timely and relevant information? How can you contribute value to people’s lives through the power of content, conversation, collaboration and community? (Yes, commerce will come, but it’s not the thing you should be leading with).
Content-Driven Social PR will only work if anchored in strategy.
It’s so easy today with the myriad communication channels at our disposal to just do ‘stuff’. But that’s when you’ll trip yourself up.
It’s imperative that before you simply burst forth with too much enthusiasm that you stop, prop, think:
- What is it we want to achieve with our communications?
- What’s our purpose? Our desired positioning in the marketplace?
- Who are the people we are trying to reach, and what help and information can we supply to them, relevant to our business, that will add value to their lives?
I will leave you with this thought:
Content-Driven Social PR works most effectively when fully integrated. Think 1+1+1 = 5.
If you’re managing these elements individually – content marketing, social media and media/influencer relations … if they’re not inextricably tied in with each other – you’re leaving plenty of OPPORTUNITY on the table.
OPPORTUNITY to reach more people and deepen the connection you have with them.
OPPORTUNITY to tell your story in more channels.
OPPORTUNITY to grow your audience and with that, the number of allies, supporters and advocates for your brand – those people who will share your content with their networks, who will hat-tip your organisation to their friends and peers.
So what do you think? Are you up for the challenge?