The Post-PR Era: Embracing Content, Intimacy and Collaboration

Thinkstock Technology has had a profound impact on our profession. While the basic art and science of storytelling has remained relatively unchanged, the channels and content via which those stories are told have been transformed.

As a result of the changes to the different communication channels and the emergence of new forms of digital and social content, brand journalism has emerged as the new standard. In fact, an organization’s owned and earned channels are now becoming increasingly important outlets for news, content and ideas.

Rethink Content

With increased focus on corporate publishing, modern PR teams need to be able to move beyond traditional programs that revolve around press releases and instead understand ever-evolving news values, have an eye for a story and always be exploring new ways to engage audiences.

While PR practitioners tout the benefits of brand journalism, marketers have been singing from a similar hymn sheet and content marketing has become a key element in lead-nurturing campaigns that go beyond transaction to establish an ongoing digital dialogue with their audiences.

In tandem, consumers are increasingly looking for relevant, timely content that offers insights into trends, as well as more granular content that provides answers to their specific questions.

PR has traditionally had high-level trends and thought leadership covered, but effective content strategies today go beyond traditional media angles to provide useful content that anticipates questions and pain points of customers.

For example, one of our clients (Oracle Marketing Cloud) recently shared an example of a customer that began posting answers to frequently asked questions from customer service emails on the blog. The company now ranks in the top 3 search results for 360 keywords, and now 70 percent of its revenue can be tied back to its online content.

Embrace Intimacy

Digital channels and the social Web have enhanced an organization’s ability to communicate directly with its audiences. At the same time, cross-channel marketing technology, social media management platforms and data services are enhancing customer understanding, and giving organizations the ability to engage their audiences with a whole new level of intimacy.

Contributed articles, blog posts, and a full range of digital and social content generated by PR and marketing teams can now be targeted at very specific audiences using a combination of internal and external data sources, and used to nurture prospects and mobilize brand advocates.

But the intimate communication that digital channels allow also demands a different style of communication. The modern consumer of media is a connoisseur of content, doesn’t respond well to the hard-sell or broadcast-style communication, and is looking for more of a dialogue with organizations.

The less-controlled, relationship-based communication of traditional PR placed the industry in a strong position to deliver on the promise of customer dialogue with the emergence of social media. As organizations build on this intimacy with new digital marketing tools, the PR department is again well-positioned to contribute content that drives discussion and fosters two-way communication between an organization and its audience.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

With both marketing and PR pushing for more content, the ability for both groups to repurpose, reuse and recycle, makes collaboration and interdepartmental integration essential.

The content-savvy consumer expects message consistency at every touch point. In fact, according to a recent study by Accenture, 58 percent of consumers are frustrated with marketing inconsistency between channels.

While the trend toward content-driven marketing and PR cannot be ignored, the essence of PR hasn’t changed. Our goal is still to develop and share compelling stories, and to quote the PRSA, build “mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” However, digital communication platforms and changes to the media landscape are transforming the way we deliver on this goal.

To be effective in this modern era, PR programs can no longer rely on only traditional media channels. Instead, today’s successful communicators must work collaboratively to create a consistent voice across different channels and develop content tailored to specific audiences.