How To Combine PR and Content Marketing Superpowers To Achieve Business Goals

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A transformative shift is happening, and it’s not AI.

The aisle between public relations and content marketing is rapidly narrowing. If you’re smart about the convergence, you can forever enhance your brand’s storytelling.

The goals and roles of content marketing and PR overlap more and more. The job descriptions look awfully similar. Shrinking budgets and a shrewd eye for efficiency mean you and your PR pals could face the chopping block if you don’t streamline operations and deliver on the company’s goals (because marketing communications is always first to be axed, right?).

Yikes. Let’s take a big, deep breath. This is not a threat. It’s an opportunity.

Reach across the aisle to PR and streamline content creation, improve distribution strategies, and get back to the heart of what you both are meant to do: Build strong relationships and tell impactful stories.

So, before you panic-post that open-to-work banner on LinkedIn, consider these tips from content marketing, PR, and journalism pros who’ve figured out how to thrive in an increasingly narrowing content ecosystem.

1. See journalists as your audience

Savvy pros know the ability to tell an impactful story — and support it with publish-ready collateral — grounds successful media relationships. And as a content marketer, your skills in storytelling and connecting with audiences, including journalists, naturally support your PR pals’ media outreach.

Strategic storytelling creates content focused on what the audience needs and wants. Sharing content on your blog or social media builds relationships with journalists who source those channels for story ideas, event updates, and subject matter experts.

“Embedding PR strategies in your content marketing pieces informs your audience and can easily be picked up by media,” says Alex Sanchez, chief experience officer at BeWell, New Mexico’s Health Insurance Marketplace. “We have seen reporters do this many times, pulling stories from our blogs and putting them in the nightly news — most of the time without even reaching out to us.”

Acacia James, weekend producer/morning associate producer at WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., says blogs and social media posts are helpful to her work. “If I see a story idea, and I see that they’re willing to share information, it’s easier to contact them — and we can also backlink their content. It’s huge for us to be able to use every avenue.” 

Kirby Winn, manager of PR at ImpactLife, says reporters and assignment editors are key consumers of their content. “And I don’t mean a news release that just hit their inbox. They’re going to our blog and consuming our stories, just like any other audience member,” he says. “Our organization has put more focus into content marketing in the past few years — it supports a media pitch so well and highlights the stories we have to tell.”

Storytelling attracts earned media that might not pick up the generic news topic. “It’s one thing to pitch a general story about how we help consumers sign up for low-cost health insurance,” Alex says. “Now, imagine a single mom who just got a plan after years of thinking it was too expensive. She had a terrible car accident, and the $60,000 ER bill that would have ruined her financially was covered. Now that’s a story journalists will want to cover, and that will be relatable to their audience and ours.” 

2. Learn the media outlet’s audience

Seventy-three percent of reporters say one-fourth or less of the stories pitched are relevant to their audiences, according to Cision’s 2023 State of the Media Report (registration required).

PR pros are known for building relationships with journalists, while content marketers thrive in building communities around content. Merge these best practices to build desirable content that works for your target audience and the media’s audiences simultaneously.

WTOP’s Acacia James says sources who show they’re ready to share helpful, relevant content often win pitches for coverage. “In radio, we do a lot of research on who is listening to us, and we’re focused on a prototype called ‘Mike and Jen’ — normal, everyday people in Generation X … So when we get press releases and pitches, we ask, ‘How interested will Mike and Jen be in this story?’” 

3. Deliver the full content package (and make journalists’ jobs easier)

Cranking out content to their media outlet’s standards has never been tougher for journalists. Newsrooms are significantly understaffed, and anything you can do to make their lives easier will be appreciated and potentially rewarded with coverage. Content marketers are built to think about all the elements to tell the story through multiple mediums and channels.

“Today’s content marketing pretty much provides a package to the media outlet,” says So Young Pak, director of media relations at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “PR is doing a lot of storytelling work in advance of media publication. We (and content marketing) work together to provide the elements to go with each story — photos, subject matter experts, patients, videos, and data points, if needed.”   

At WTOP, the successful content package includes audio. “As a radio station, we are focused on high-quality sound,” Acacia James says. “Savvy sources know to record and send us voice memos, and then we pull cuts from the audio … You will naturally want to do someone a favor if they did you one — like providing helpful soundbites, audio, and newsworthy stories.”  

While production value matters to some media, you shouldn’t stress about it. “In the past decade, how we work with reporters has changed. Back in the day, if they couldn’t be there in person, they weren’t going to interview your expert,” says Jason Carlton, an accredited PR professional and manager of marketing and communications at Intermountain Health. “During COVID, we had to switch to virtual interviewing. Now, many journalists are OK with running a Teams or Zoom interview they’ve done with an expert on the news.”

BeWell’s Alex Sanchez agrees. “I’ve heard old school PR folks cringe at the idea of putting up a Zoom video instead of getting traditional video interviews. It doesn’t really matter to consumers. Focus on the story, on the timeliness, and the relevance. Consumers want authenticity, not super stylized, stiff content.”

4. Unite great minds to maximize efficiency

Everyone needs to set aside the debate about which team — PR or content marketing — gets credit for the resulting media coverage.

At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, So Young and colleagues adopt a collaborative mindset on multichannel stories. “We can get the interview and gather information for all the different pieces — blog, audio, video, press release, internal newsletter, or magazine. That way, we’re not trying to figure things out individually, and the subject matter experts only have to have that conversation once,” she says.

Regular, cross-team meetings are essential to understand the best channels for reaching key audiences, including the media. A story that began life as a press release might reap SEO and earned media gold if it’s strategized as a blog, video, and media pitch.

“At Intermountain Health, we have individual teams for media relations, marketing, social media, and hospital communications. That setup works well because it allows us to bring in the people who are the given experts in those areas,” says Intermountain’s Jason Carlton. “Together, we decide if a story is best for the blog, a media pitch, or a mix of channels — that way, we avoid duplicating work and the risk of diluting the story’s impact.”

5. Measure what matters

Cutting through the noise to earn media mentions requires keen attention to metrics. Since content marketing and PR metrics overlap, synthesizing the data in your team meetings can save time while streamlining your storytelling efforts.

“For content marketers, using analytical tools such as GA4 can help measure the effectiveness of their content campaigns and landing pages to determine meaningful KPIs such as organic traffic, keyword rankings, lead generation, and conversion rates,” says John Martino, director of digital marketing for Visiting Angels. “PR teams can use media coverage and social interactions to assess user engagement and brand awareness. A unified and omnichannel approach can help both teams demonstrate their value in enhancing brand visibility, engagement, and overall business success.”

To track your shared goals, launch a shared dashboard that helps tell the combined “story of your stories” to internal and executive teams. Among the metrics to monitor:

  • Page views: Obviously, this queen of metrics continues to be important across PR and content marketing. Take your analysis to the next level by evaluating which niche audiences are contributing to these views to further hone your storytelling targets, including media outlets.
  • Earned media mentions: Through a media tracker service or good old Google Alerts, you can tally the echo of your content marketing and PR. Look at your site’s referral traffic report to identify media outlets that send traffic to your blog or other web pages.
  • Organic search queries: Dive into your analytics platform to surface organic search queries that lead to visitors. Build from those questions to develop stories that further resonate with your audience and your targeted media.
  • On-page actions: When visitors show up on your content, what are they doing? What do they click? Where do they go next? Building next-step pathways is your bread and butter in content marketing — and PR can use them as a natural pipeline for media to pick up more stories, angles, and quotes.

But perhaps the biggest metric to track is team satisfaction. Who on the collaborative team had the most fun writing blogs, producing videos, or calling the news stations? Lean into the natural skills and passions of your team members to distribute work properly, maximize the team output, and improve relationships with the media, your audience, and internal teams.

“It’s really trying to understand the problem to solve — the needle to move — and determining a plan that will help them achieve their goal,” Jason says. “If you don’t have those measurable objectives, you’re not going to know whether you made a difference.”

Don’t fear the merger

Whether you deliberately work together or not, content marketing and public relations are tied together. ImpactLife’s Kirby Winn explains, “As soon as we begin to talk about (ourselves) to a reporter who doesn’t know us, they are certainly going to check out our stories.”

But consciously uniting PR and content marketing will ease the challenges you both face. Working together allows you to save time, eliminate duplicate work, and gain free time to tell more stories and drive them into impactful media placements.

Register to attend Content Marketing World in San Diego. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100. Can’t attend in person this year? Check out the Digital Pass for access to on-demand session recordings from the live event through the end of the year.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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