The public relations industry has always been a text-based business.

Key messaging, data points, events—the words we put to the page are extraordinarily important for reporters, analysts and consumers to cover news. But as our audience evolves towards a mobile-first, digitally-minded environment, text’s ability to make a noteworthy impact lessens. Today’s reporters aren’t as willing to dig through 2,000-word text blocks; they’re looking for multimedia counterparts—interactive media, images, and video—that support their news content. Multimedia assets add depth when 500 words of text is insufficient to tell a full story.

The PR industry’s hesitance to embrace this reality makes sense, given most of our audience are writers. Our counterparts on the marketing side have leaned into this change over the past decade to enormous success. Content marketing—a marketing strategy built around creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to an audience, frequently driven by multimedia assets—is estimated to grow into a $412 billion industry by 2021. [1]

Content marketing uses a narrative structure to provide specific audiences with content, merging clear value with an engaging narrative and compelling visuals. If that methodology sounds familiar, it should. PR and content marketing are built on the same foundation—understanding the needs and goals of a specific audience while building a cohesive brand narrative that aligns our offerings with their ambitions.

No one understands how to speak to audiences better than PR pros. We understand company goals and the media landscape, helping us promote our company without a hard sale. We also understand the fine line between presentation and selling, and our input on audience needs and brand positioning aligns well with marketing’s goals to create better, more useful work.

The public relations industry understands the power of the message and the medium. However, marketing’s ability to integrate those elements with multimedia and attribution metrics continues to take the lead when it comes to strategic input, influence, and budget.

Let’s discuss the medium for a minute – who are today’s PR professionals writing for? In the past, public relations focused on news media, trade press, influencers and the financial audiences. Today’s search and social channels have changed how today’s consumers are seeing news releases and corporate content.

Today’s consumers see thousands of messages every day. The news space is cluttered. Even with the best communications, there are more voices and fewer reporters than ever before; it makes building relationships with media even more complicated.

How can PR professionals use their narrative expertise to cut through that swell of voices to find and reach their audience? By taking a few steps:

1. Integrate

Today’s company is telling one story; today’s audience is seeing one story. By partnering with internal teams, public relations professionals can provide input on message, asset creation and amplification opportunities. The stronger the integrated storytelling, the stronger the results.

2. Dive into storytelling

Lean into the brand narrative. Every brand, event and accomplishment has a story behind it. Content marketing thrives by understanding the hero’s journey, pairing it with compelling multimedia, and making that adventure clear and accessible for its intended audience. Focus the brand narrative on how it feeds into the goals of the audience, not just the latest company communication.

3. Pay attention during content creation

Every person has their own content preferences. Whether it’s multimedia, video, interactive media, text, visual or otherwise, audience and messaging will always fail to connect unless we’re using the correct medium. As more and more inputs fight for the attention of our audience, we can’t assume a text release with a few headshots and a brand logo will compel a journalist to pick up our story. Experiment with art, video, photography, infographics and interactive media; analyze which methods resonate the most with the desired audience and adapt future messaging accordingly.

4. Test different tools

Marketing isn’t shy about their love for the emerging digital toolset industry. There are hundreds of tools specifically designed to simplify the audience engagement experience for PR pros and marketers alike, helping us all save time, engage more efficiently and expand our capabilities. Experiment with a few and determine which tool works best for a given challenge.

5. A/B Testing

PR professionals rarely get to test their work, unlike marketers who can A/B test from the start. Public relations professionals ought to be creating budgets and processes for testing new tools and services, content mediums and messaging approaches. Challenge everything—headlines, PR measurement preferences, messaging, tools—then build specific testing methodologies to prove or debunk those assumptions.

6. Understand the analytics

PR measurement staples Advertising Value Equivalents and placements aren’t cutting it anymore; this new shift demands a more complicated, compelling solution. We must start thinking about PR measurement in the scope of our outcomes instead of our outputs, adapting our success metrics to our initial public relations goals—including Share of Voice, Time Spent on page, Attribution, Targeted Reach, or something else entirely. By understanding everything we can measure, we can showcase much better results.

7. Celebrate the victories

Finally, don’t be afraid to promote success. PR’s position within any organization is driven by perception. If we won’t champion our own efforts, no one else will. We need to promote great work, ask our friends to do the same, and make sure our organization understands the value we add to the greater brand narrative. Marketing teams are rarely shy to show off their own efforts and it makes an impact when it comes time for budget allocation. We ought to do the same.

As the line between public relations and marketing continues to blur, it’s critical for organizations of all sizes to understand that our two departments can work together to drive key brand initiatives. The best corporate storytelling emerges when marketing and public relations teams work together to create a story, build the assets, and establish trackable metrics. By understanding and applying the strategies, tools, and metrics behind marketing’s leading engines, PR teams can take another step towards breaking down the silos that kept the two divided in the first place.


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