Story marketing can power your PR program in the New Year
January 3, 2013
The increase in content and data during the past decade, fueled by our increasingly connected world, has sparked an immediate need for a re-evaluation of how brands and organizations market their products and services. The revolution in how consumers find, digest and share content has changed the way that marketers and PR pros think about managing their brand’s reputation and amplifying their news.
Content marketing is essentially story marketing, which is the central function of public relations. It’s all about telling engaging, persuasive and credible narratives to your most important communities that raise their awareness — or change perceptions — about your brand, and motivate them to retell your story, buy your product or invest in your future. It’s about building and sustaining relationships, through offering an ongoing stream of relevant and valuable information, specifically targeted to key audiences.
For PR people, story marketing presents an opportunity that almost can’t be overstated. Content Marketing is attracting huge chunks of marketing resources. According to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute, 25 percent of total U.S. B2B marketing budgets were devoted to it in 2012 and 60 percent of respondents plan to increase their commitment in 2013.
In order to maximize that huge level of investment, companies must tell their stories in a more compelling way, and reach across converging paid, earned and owned media channels. The radical integration of the marketing mix has increased the value of the knowledge base and expertise of earned media experts like PR professionals.
Public relations produces and organically amplifies content — and tells the brand’s stories — to its media, digital influencer and customer communities in ways that marketing is doing through paid methods like sponsored links and advertising. Public relations must take its place at the table with advertising and marketing experts to answer fundamental questions and take advantage of both influencer and consumer research to create the organization’s story, and then determine how it must be presented.
What are those fundamental questions?
- Who is your story for? Does it answer each community’s stated needs, or can it help them identify what those are? If you’re participating fully in social media discourse, then you have a great head start in understanding those needs. Listen to your communities, read influencers’ blog posts and take note of the comments that they attract.
- What action do you want to inspire? Consumers may offer their contact information or amplify your story to their social networks in exchange for more content. Know your goals, benchmarks and objectives. Study keywords, trends and entities, and develop an editorial calendar.
Then, public relations participates in managing the content marketing process’s four major phases: creation, amplification, curation and analysis.
- Creation describes both the choice of media for the story — it could be the written word, a video, photos and infographics, webinars, white papers, news releases, or live and virtual events — and the content itself. The content is your story — consistent in message, tailored to each audience, and engaging and beautiful in its execution and presentation. What media works best for you — and what does your audeince prefer — video, infographics, detailed white papers? Is your content optimized? Is it easy to share? Is it ready to inspire action?
- Amplification is your strategy for communicating your story. It includes social media marketing, influencer and traditional media outreach, branded content sharing (including pay-per-click), or digital native advertising. Using socialgraphic and psychographic research, you can identify people with the greatest appetite for your story and push the content out to them through email and social media.
You can also search-optimize it and enable people who may not have been on your radar screen before — customers and influencers alike — to pull your story from your website, online newsroom or a member of your social media communities.
- Curation puts your story in a broader context. Crucial elements of your story — your customers’ needs and experience — exist outside the paid and owned channels of advertising and the content you generate. Curation can mean linking your story to other relevant stories, commenting on blog posts, retweeting or sharing content, and aggregating stories and blog posts. It enables your brand to add value to the overall experience of the people in your communities, participate in their ongoing conversation and earn their good opinion.
- Analysis represents both the quantifiable reckoning — How did my campaign do? — and the opportunity to learn and refine strategies through a deeper understanding of your communities and to identify the stories that resonate and demand further amplification. It may also reveal new aspects of your story that you can use in a future campaign.
How do you manage the long-term view of your brand or organization through story marketing? By taking the long view of what storytelling is about, applying research and an understanding of your communities and how your story impacts them, and ensuring that the content your organization generates is valuable, relevant and irresistibly engaging.
Heidi Sullivan is the vice president of global media research for Cision. She oversees Cision’s Social Media Community team and serves as a member of its executive management team.