Is content a PR or marketing story?

Posted on Jun 8, 2015


“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” — Robert McKee (Screenwriter and world-leading lecturer).

Content marketing has been the great awakening for social media strategy. The capacity to tell and share stories through social communities is driving a seismic shift in media investment, much like PR achieved beyond traditional advertising in the broadcast age.

So how does a discipline creating stories through words, pictures, films and events, in a similar capacity to PR, actually differ from PR? Is it simply semantics and will the two eventually converge to the same line on the balance sheet?

In reality, they are unique beasts. And by focusing on where content marketing is unique from PR, its strategic potential is given the space it needs to grow.

5 key pillars of Content Marketing vs PR:

  1. Content marketing’s DNA is rooted in SEO. From the dawn of the digital age, search algorithms have always set out to reward the relevance and popularity of content. Whilst the dark days of back-linking attempted to short-cut the process, algorithms have become fundamentally smarter and encouraged digital marketing to properly invest in quality content.
  2. PR has fought a long battle with advertising to stress the value in earned media vs paid media. On that basis, it seeks metric measurement of coverage. Content marketing looks beyond ‘impressions’ towards community sentiment, social-linking energy and thought-leadership in digital space.
  3. PR seeks the advocacy of publishers and commentators to drive its energy. Content marketing targets the advocacy of user communities directly.
  4. PR creates the components for publisher networks to build their content and garners value from the coverage this generates. Content marketing builds value from social networks with its own original content and its portability through user space.
  5. And most importantly, PR’s success over the last 40 years has been its ability to challenge paid media with the merits in earned media. By contrast, content marketing is fueled by ‘owned media’… the website content, the social media footprint, the social communities. Content marketing is built on evergreen assets which form the inventory of the brand itself.

Whilst this snap-shot list covers off some technical and practical differences, there’s undoubtedly a considerable venn-overlap in principles. Digitally savvy PR agencies will be prove to be great content generators, whilst strategically thinking social agencies will call-up the components of PR to build bigger campaign ideas. As it stands right now, content marketing is a specific, digital discipline and its very distinctions from PR make it the powerful branding currency it is today.