By: Hillel Fuld (@Hilzfuld)
Long overdue post. Long overdue. If I had a dime for every startup that confused content marketing and PR, I would be able to single-handedly fund them all, and fire the marketing person who didn’t know the difference between these two concepts. There, I feel much better now.
PR or public relations and the process of getting coverage involves you, a story, preferably one that is news worthy, and a journalist. It involves framing the story, choosing a date on which to make the announcement, writing a press release, doing outreach, following up on that outreach and then, if all goes according to plan, watching the written article drive traffic to your site.
Content Marketing, in many ways, is the opposite. There is no story, there is no news, there is no instant results, and you, or someone on your team, is writing the article.
Let me explain where people get confused.
Often times, startups write an article and pitch it to a large publication. You know, like contributing to TechCrunch or Venturebeat. The article, if you want it to get accepted should be as non self promotional as possible. Once you are writing about yourself, you are already entering PR land, albeit not doing a very good job if you are writing about yourself, but that is a topic for another time. If you are writing about your industry, sharing some good and hopefully new data, there is a chance, if the article is written well and is insightful, that one of these publications will publish it. Remember, they need content, just like you need exposure.
The result of you publishing an article on one of these sites, despite the fact that the article is not directly about you, is actually greater than that same site writing an article about you. Why? Because by you analyzing your industry and covering trends/predictions about your space, you are essentially establishing yourself as a player in the space, and maybe even an authority. Another funding or milestone piece on TechCrunch would attract much less attention.
Yes, both the contributed piece and the news piece are being published on the same site, and that may be confusing to you, but a site writing up a press release you sent them, and you writing a piece about your market, those things are very much not the same.
Another type of content marketing I have heard many people confuse with PR, is the content that is published on the company blog. This is of course much less similar to PR than publishing that article on a large site, but at the end of the day, both are you writing content or having content written on the web. I guess I can see why some people mix them up.
So let me tell you right now, you writing an article on your company blog, or you even creating your company blog will not yield short term results like sending a press release and having it published within 48-72 hours. Content Marketing, as in, you doing marketing/branding for your company by writing valuable articles on the company blog, is a fantastic idea, if you are willing to play the long game.
If you want a short term spike in traffic or to show off your awareness to investors, then maybe PR is the way to go. If you want to build a sustainable and recognizable brand, then create the company blog and get ready to work hard, generate content, and build up your audience gradually and organically.
I have heard the sentence “We need PR, so let’s write about x on our blog” or “I also want to do content marketing so let’s pitch Forbes on our company” one too many times. I had to clear this up. Sorry if this was obvious to you, apparently common sense today, ain’t so common.