Content Marketing vs. Public Relations: Why New Ways to Publish Don’t Replace PR for B2B Companies

The last five years have seen a marked changed in the way content is generated online. Instead of relying on a newsroom staffed with journalists, online media platforms are trading on their infinite column length of free content from outside sources. What was first a cost-cutting measure is now a potential money maker has the views generated help bolster advertising revenues at a fraction of the cost of internal writers and editors.

This change has given individuals the ability to publish their work alongside journalists with only small cues to differentiate them to the reader (e.g. Crunch Network on TechCrunch or being labeled Contributor on Forbes instead of Forbes Staff). Becoming a contributor can build personal brands for an executive, but often times the company’s presence is reduced to a line in the author bio.

In parallel, the value of the company internal blog is diminished (setting aside the SEO and long-term thought leadership benefits). There is more reach to be had in writing content for an external platform with vastly greater views and social media presence than a company blog where it can be hard to break out beyond an existing bubble.

In addition to contributing content to online publications, the rise of Medium and LinkedIn Pulse adds another channel for companies and individuals to share their story. These platforms facilitate sharing and “following,” which makes them a stronger blend of social media and publishing than other “unconnected” platforms.

In spite of these new ways to publish content and drive reach, earned media generated by public relations holds onto its value for three key reasons:

Credibility

While Americans have flagging trust in mass media, the outlets and topics relevant to B2B companies, especially in the technology space, still hold relevancy. If a journalist or blogger who is a respected subject-matter expert writes a positive piece on a company or product, it provides outside validation that cannot be matched by a self-written or self-published article.

Visibility

Visibility can be twofold when talking about media coverage. First is the impact in the search engines. According to Google, 89% of all B2B buying researchers use the internet as part of their process. Odds are, the weight assigned to a media site by Google outranks most corporate sites, so if a media article hits a powerful keyword phrase that reaches buyers, it creates a new indirect path to a company.

Second is the audience of the publication and writer in terms of daily readers and social media followers. Anecdotally, editorial pieces often receive better placement on websites and more attention on social media. This varies from site to site, but typically when time, effort and cost have been placed into a story, the media promotes it at a higher volume.

Subject Matter

Surprisingly, when comparing editorial coverage to self-generated content, companies can see more of their message come across in the pieces they don’t write. That’s because when contributing content, pieces must remain vendor-neutral, and when self-publishing on a blog or social publishing platform, it’s poor form to drop in self-serving superlatives to thought leadership content.

Yet in media coverage, when executives are interviewed for a story, their words are often printed verbatim and can be reinforced by the writer. One company’s talking points can become anchors of a trend story or industry roundup that has broader appeal than a single company profile.

Content marketing has its place in the quiver for B2B companies looking to drive leads, engage audiences and build brands. However, to truly hit the bullseye, classic PR and media relations efforts must remain a constant and core part of the communications strategy.

By: Bob Minkus

Airclic.com Recognized as One of Crain’s Top 10 Best BtoB Sites of 2010

Earlier this year, we worked with Airclic to reposition the company as it transformed itself into a SaaS-based mobile logistics products provider. This included developing a new logo, product architecture, corporate and product positioning and messaging, and brand identity. We also took the opportunity to create a new website for Airclic (www.airclic.com) that reflected its updated brand.

It didn’t take long before the site started turning heads. Since the launch, traffic has increased by nearly 20 percent each month, the time spent on the site has increased by nearly 20 percent and the bounce rate has decreased by more than 5 percent. The total page views have also increased, and website visitors have a 70 percent conversion rate.

Each year, Crain’s BtoB, the industry-leading marketing publication, compiles a list of the “10 Great Websites”. This year, we’re proud to be a part of that list with Airclic.com. The site was recognized along with industry leaders Accenture, iStockphoto, SAS and Tyco for its clean design, seamless interactivity and ability to engage visitors with social media, blogs, live chat and live call functionalities.

“The execution of the design is clean and the interactivity is seamless. The site’s vast content is organized by industry to help simplify meeting the users’ needs. The site actively uses social media and technology to engage users on various levels. Not only does it offer a blog, RSS feed, site search and LinkedIn group but it also offers both live chat and live call to allow users to interact with the site on multiple levels.”
– Bill Rice, president, Web Marketing Association