In a previous life – a life that saw me flash the odd business card with the title ‘editor’ on it – my poor overloaded inbox would receive over 100 press releases on any given day. Press releases that were sent by companies and PR firms that had a travel and tourism story to tell, and thought our audience would benefit from hearing it.
And so it was for many moons before me. Public relations was all about getting the story out to the… public. Sadly, and many journalists and even PR firms would agree with me, there wasn’t always a story to tell. The result? A four-page (sometimes) beautifully written press release that a PR firm had spent hours on to get approved made it no further than the email trash bin.
At the time, ‘less is more’ just hadn’t seemed to catch on. I’d spend hours advising both PR firms and companies that a one-pager with their ‘news’ would suffice, give me bullet points in fact, and replying ‘no’ I could not advise when it would be published. And so it eventually emerged that the term ‘Public Relations’ became a bit of a dirty word in my book.
I admit that today, however, tarring the PR world with the same brush may have been a little unfair and I have personally borne the brunt of very busy and important journalists unnecessarily and rather rudely pigeonholing me as yet another of those ‘annoying PR people’. PR peeps, I feel your pain.
Yes, you will still find those PR firms that will oblige your whim and produce an opus hiding the ‘purpose’ (if there is one) of your press release in the last paragraph because that’s what you’ve demanded (most PR firms actually advise against it). But know this –the likelihood of that news emerging from the noise in a crowded media, and social media space, is almost zero. Have a heart – listen to your PR professional.
It is the PR world I thank today for piquing my interest in Content Marketing – defined by the aptly named Content Marketing Institute as a marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
It was this interest that sparked my departure from journalism in the first place. But today I find myself skirting the fine line between both disciplines to the extent that I thought it was about time I defined the difference, not only for myself, but for you travel and tourism marketers out there.
One of the main differentiators between content marketing and public relations is that in the case of the former it’s not just about producing the content, it’s also about distributing it.
Your company becomes the media owner and even your CEO becomes a journalist; no longer reliant on a newspaper, website or radio station to share your story.
Much of your focus as a content marketer is therefore about building your own channels like your website and e-newsletters. Some company’s blogs are becoming publications in their own right, distributing important information with the ultimate goal of driving traffic to their website and increasing their company’s status as a thought leader in a particular area – travel and tourism in our case.
Your focus becomes one of producing content and channels that have your customers at its core.
Effective public relations, however, is about identifying the right media brands that make sense for your company and those that enjoy great influence and audience trust; earned media whose gatekeepers you have to persuade to invite you to participate in the creation of publication of content.
PR firms have to develop relationships with journalists and learn their styles – in my case, no four-page press releases with no news hook. The more effort you’ve made to tailor your PR content to that journalist’s needs, the more likely the story you have to tell will be shared.
With PR, you’re relying on external media to share your story with the audience they influence.
So here’s the trick…
Marketing magic happens when the two become one – Keith Ecker.
Although both generate content as a discipline, the difference appears to lie in the distribution. And so I would argue that it makes sense to combine your PR and Content Marketing efforts so that they do not work in isolation of each other to achieve the same goals of creating brand awareness, enhancing your status as a thought leader in tourism and travel, educating your audience and clients, and increasing customer loyalty, among other goals.
PR can drive lots of outside attention in a relatively short time to the audience you’ve developed through your content marketing channels (blogs, website, social media), while content marketing can deliver informative, relevant content to an engaged community you’ve already built through your channels. This takes longer than PR but creates a level of loyalty that ‘today’s news, tomorrow’s bin-liner’ may not deliver, and ultimately will eventually generate leads, not just awareness.
What’s more, since you’re producing content in the first place, why not repurpose it so that it can be used both for your public relations and content marketing efforts?
An exciting new diving hotspot in Mozambique may make for an interesting press release, but why not a blogpost too? How about using the images you took for the story on Instagram or Pinterest? What about a few social media posts on the most interesting facts about the species divers are most likely to see? And don’t forget to send a newsletter out to your avid divers on your newsletter database with information about the dive site and some great diving packages. You get the drill… create once, use often.
The nub of it, and I cannot actually express it any better than this, whether you’re in the PR or content marketing game:
“Find where your audience is, build meaningful relationships with them, prove value with relevant and interesting content, then pretty much deliver it to their doorstep.” Shannon Byrne.