Courtney StackCourtney Stack

Leading brands today understand they aren’t just jockeying with direct competitors for people’s time and attention online; they’re competing with all the Internet has to offer.

The brand-consumer power dynamic has shifted: consumers now have more control over the content they consume and when and how they consume it.

To reach and memorably connect with today’s enlightened and empowered consumer, brands must deliver real user-centered value, not by selling or promoting, but by being informative, entertaining and purposeful. To win their attention, brands must deliver content that’s worthy of their attention.

Brands everywhere are rising to the challenge, and as a result, what it means to be a brand is changing in profound ways.

O'Dwyer's Nov. '19 Technology PR Magazine
This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '19 Technology PR Magazine.

Today’s most successful brands are more than providers of products and services. They’re activists with a heightened sense of social consciousness and responsibility. They’re entertainment studios, producing video shorts and scripted series focused not on selling, but on engaging audiences. They’re publishers and journalists, with influential blogs and sponsored articles authored for nearly every major media outlet from the New York Times to the Washington Post.

Content marketing is nothing new, but the extent to which companies are investing and discovering value in it is. A 2016 Nielson study found that branded content generated 86 percent brand recall among viewers, compared with 65 percent from traditional pre-roll ads. Branded content also outperformed traditional ads across key performance indicators including affinity, recommendation intent and purchase intent.

It’s no surprise that recent reports from the Content Marketing Institute reveal that B2B and B2C content marketing efforts are expanding. 93 percent of the most successful B2B and B2C content marketers report that their organization is extremely committed to content marketing, with 90 percent of top B2B content marketers putting their audience’s informational and entertainment needs ahead of their company’s promotional message.

These reports also find that B2B companies are ramping up spend on content creation and 83 percent of B2C companies plan to increase spend or continue allocating budget towards content marketing. Still, more than half of B2C companies surveyed have a small or one-person marketing team to serve their entire organization; approximately half of B2C marketers outsource content creation activities.

This represents an enormous opportunity for PR professionals to deliver new client solutions.

In fact, PR experts might just be the best people for the job. The core tactics and principles of content marketing—educating and informing, aligning brands with topics of public interest, infusing brand identities with purpose and meaning—are the very same principals the PR industry was built on.

PR pros understand the bigger picture

As PR professionals, we’re acutely aware of trends, movements and rapid developments across industries. Brand storytelling and content development can’t happen in a vacuum. To achieve relevance and traction it must be tied to the broader landscape.

PR teams can play a critical part in the content marketing strategy development process by bringing a broader perspective to the table.

We represent the public’s perspective

A common content marketing pitfall is creating brand content that’s focused on the company’s agenda, rather than what’s genuinely valuable to their audiences. PR teams are already tasked with the responsibility of understanding and managing public perception and representing that perspective in important conversations with clients.

By involving PR teams in the content creation and review process companies can avoid this pitfall.

To ensure that all content is valuable to the consumer, PR teams should be reviewing content with the following questions in mind:

  • Is it high quality?
  • Is this entertaining?
  • Is this informative?
  • Is the primary objective to inform or entertain? Or is it to sell/promote?

We orchestrate and lead events

Events are an excellent opportunity to generate timely content. PR teams secure speaking opportunities and coordinate companies’ participation in events; we’re perfectly poised to help clients capitalize on their event participation by producing content around the event.

Live stream the event, live tweet and utilize relevant hashtags. Or take it a step further by doing on-the-spot interviews with event attendees.

Create shareable graphics from informative tidbits and share on social media.

Capture learnings in an informative blog post and cross promote with other attendee companies that are value aligned to maximize reach and connect with new audiences.

We shape brand identities

The best brand content is relevant to the brand not because it speaks to its products and services, but because it speaks to the brand’s heart and soul. PR teams understand that it’s not about what you’re selling, it’s about why it exists. We specialize in crafting brands’ core messaging framework.

We’re starting to see a shift from mission and vision statements towards concrete purpose statements comprised of actionable principals and outlined values. Establishing these tenets during the brand messaging development phase serves as a foundational basis for future content strategies.

Content marketing is an essential part of any successful brand’s communications plan. As content marketing strategies become increasingly integrated and sophisticated, PR teams have an opportunity to help clients adapt and grow, building meaningful customer relationships, achieving new levels of relevance and redefining brands’ role in society for the better.


Courtney Stack is Head of Content and Digital Marketing at Karbo Communications in San Francisco.