‘Content is King,’ you must have heard this zillion times and also agree with it.
Blogs, press releases, e-books, tweets, white papers, videos, infographics, soundbytes, case studies… you know it all.
But you either don’t have the time, resource or mechanisms in place to create it all and suddenly, a wave of content marketers appeared from nowhere and created a new market for themselves – something similar to the blue ocean strategy, within the red ocean of the PR world. PR firms were traditional custodians of the content created for client, but with the rise of new media the demand for quality and relevant content was increasing and PR lacked the skills to deliver it beyond traditional media. But now PR firms are realizing the lost opportunity and are trying their best to make up for it.
Who are Content Editors and what they exactly do?
Content writers or editors are primarily ex-journalists or someone with great writing skills. The job requires lot of maturity and ability to understand changing market dynamics, being glued to ground realities. Over the past few years, I have seen number of instances of journalists crossing over to the other side and joining PR firms to become content editor or to head a newly formed content division; these firms know the value that the journalist’s editorial skills will bring to enhance content programmes.
Content writers are expected to generate real, valuable and relevant content that the target audience would love to read. They play a crucial role in developing a simple client into a thought leader within the industry. Hence it is crucial that if you do have an in-house content creation team then make sure they are really good at it, or consider outsourcing it.
They are primarily expected to ghost write articles, create white papers & case studies, do a lot of research and sometimes even review media responses, press releases etc.,
If this trend picks-up you may find a content writer working in every team along with client servicing executives. It is too early to speculate the impact of this trend on PR practitioners and if most of them will be left only to do a post man’s job, given the lack of strategic thinking in the current practitioners. For now we will leave this discussion for a later date, but it is certainly not a good idea to expect an active client servicing executive to generate content as well. They will never be in a position to dedicate the required focus to dish out quality content given the pressure they have to deal with.
So, when you have the advantage of generating content by these content champions, how will you optimize each piece of content that is created?
Authored Articles: These are primarily ghost written on behalf of a CEO or for a top senior management executive and are targeted towards edit pages of top publications, opinion sections of various general or trade magazines or for online portals. Most of these articles are written in English and pitched to English publications only. Some do hit their target and many return back to the file folders. The best way to effectively use these articles is to translate them in various languages with a slight modification or change the angle (Do this, only if it fits your target media mapping). In India, we have almost 10 important languages other than English that boast of a large readership and circulation much more than English publications. We also have efficient translators (again ex-journalists) who are also capable of giving a twist to your existing article written in English and make it reusable. A case in point is a firm named Bottomline, founded by Ravi Prakash, which employs a strong team of over 60 ex-journalists who have worked for various language publications. Firms such as Bottomline are capable of doing much more than mere translations of your press releases, they are also capable of helping you rehash an existing bit of content the way a journalist would prefer. Try it; you will have atleast 5-6 high value clips, generated from one article.
These articles can also further be re-used as blog posts (ofcourse with due permission from the publisher), key messages of those can be used as Facebook and twitter posts with links back to the article on your blog or website where it first appeared. It can also appear in the internal newsletter of the company.
Pitch/Concept notes: Before going all out to pitch the authored piece, see if you can first take the excerpts of it and create a pitch/concept note that you can share exclusively with a key media. Again don’t only focus on English publications, translate it in a regional language and pitch it to the regional media in their own language. If successful you will help a journalist to come up with an industry story or an exclusively story for your client. And always a third party endorsement is seen as more credible than what only your client proclaims.
White-Papers, Case studies plays a key role in B2B PR – work along with your clients and their clients to help develop a white-papers and case-studies, which are always in demand from trade publications and portals. In the B2B space professionals largely depend on trade media to get their daily dose of knowledge.
Research: Content writers have to do a whole lot of research before they actually starting working on an article. Not everything that was searched or researched makes its place in an article, but if a PR professional is working closely with the content writer or if the content writer themselves have a PR bent of mind then they can come up with many pitch ideas, upcoming trends etc., which is also a valuable resource for a PR practitioners.
Bring it online: with growing penetration of Internet in the country, more and more people are consuming information online, even from remotest villages. They are hungry for authentic, useful and easily digestible content, and they will consume it and share it on social media with little care as to whether it comes directly from a brand or from an established media outlet. Hence share quality; consumer focussed useful content across the online spectrum.
Search Engine Optimization: So the Ask is not only to generate content but to do it using relevant keywords that would be helpful for the client to raise their search engine rankings. There is no point in simply throwing up an article on a site and hoping for the best. Driving that article through social media channels is what makes the difference between it being seen by a handful of people and being picked up and passed on by tens of thousands.
The underlying point is to have an idea; if you’ve got a great idea then you need to get it out there through every channel and in every form available to you. If it works as an article, then repackage it as an e-newsletter; make it the key theme in a customer testimonial or a case study and share it across as many platforms as possible.
Lastly content does not only mean written words, it also means pictures, videos and audio bytes. Though we as PR practitioners have largely been focusing on how to use the written content leaving the rest to advertising and social media professionals