Is the New PR Really Just the New Marketing ?

August 5, 2009

Is PR becoming more like Marketing ? I recently read a fascinating white paper by David Meerman Scott,  “The new rules of PR: How to create a press release strategy for reaching buyers directly,” an insightful dissection of the changes digital and social media are driving in the world of PR. David notes that:

“Today, savvy marketing professionals use press releases to reach buyers directly…The media has been disintermediated. The Web has changed the rules. Buyers read your press releases directly and you need to be talking their language…Your audience is millions of people with Internet connections and access to search engines and RSS readers.”

Now I don’t know about you, but it sounds like PR is evolving to be more like Marketing. Why? Because traditional media is no longer the key intermediary it once was. PR is becoming more direct–just like Marketing.

Is the New PR Really Just the New Marketing ?

Is the New PR Really Just the New Marketing ?

What is PR ?

Historically, PR has been differentiated from Marketing in several ways:

  • It communicates with multiple stakeholders, many of whom don’t buy the firms products or services — e.g. media, analysts, NGO’s, etc.
  • PR addresses topics of public interest using mediums that don’t require direct payment, unlike advertising.
  • PR often occurs thru 3rd parties that provide legitimacy that traditional marketing doesn’t have.

It’s clear that Marketing and PR, always uncomfortable bedfellows, are becoming more, not less, similar. For example:

  • The rise of social networks is increasing the influence of opinion leaders who don’t buy the products or services, but are influential nonetheless. Someone needs to be tasked with engaging and influencing them–but who?
  • Digitally enabled news releases, social media, and corporate web sites have created numerous opportunities for companies to communicate with consumers without paying anything for media. Is this PR–or Marketing?
  • Traditional media is under assault by the twin forces of non-subscription based alternatives and the democratization of information and news via blogs, Twitter, etc. Who manages these new “gatekeepers?”

The Erosion of Traditional Media as Gatekeeper

The key point is that the traditional media no longer hold a near monopoly on media and publishing. Marketers can often go direct to consumers with tools long associated with PR, but without the barriers to getting published. Again, to quote David:

“The news cycle has changed…With Web-based access to information, consumers have real choices for how they learn about the world around them…Not too long ago, the only way for corporations to influence news was for their PR people to issue a press release (intended for media only)…Editors and reporters were in a power position as the filter between organizations and the public. With the old news cycle, all PR people knew the rules: The ultimate goal was to get some magazine or newspaper to write a positive story that would appear weeks or months later…No more. Information control is decentralized.”

What Does This Mean For Marketing ?

  1. Marketing Must Take A Leading Role in Understanding Consumers PR Needs — In the past, PR could be trusted to know what the media wanted and what would get published. With the disintermediation of media, the need to understand consumers PR needs becomes more important. This is a task uniquely suited to the Marketing function. Segmenting various stakeholder groups, understanding their different needs–opinion leaders, users and non-users may all have different motivations–is a critical first step.
  2. Marketing Must Adapt its Communication Style — News releases and other PR like channels–even direct to consumer–are not advertising. While Marketers are trained to understand how to use advertising to communicate effectively with consumers, this training is lacking when the mediums are PR centric. Consumers have different expectations of these channels and communication styles and tonality need to change with the medium. Marketers need to listen to consumers and learn what works and what doesn’t.
  3. Marketing Must Drive a Content Publishing Strategy –– A simple recitation of the brand promise is unlikely to be very effective with these channels and mediums. Marketing needs to drive a clear content strategy that springs from the brand promise. Content that surrounds, supports and deepens the brand promise becomes an integral part of the PR communication strategy. Marketing needs to define and drive this.
  4. Marketing Needs to Optimize the Web Site for PR — Part of the new PR model is ensuring that your web site and web capabilities can enable the appropriate new PR efforts. This includes posting news releases in a news section on your site, ensuring your news posts are search engine optimized, enabling RSS feeds to key distribution channels, optimizing brows-ability so readers can find new information, and optimizing links to related content.
  5. Marketing & PR Need to Define New Governance Models — These changes beg an important question: what is the right organizational structure and governance model for the Marketing and PR organizations? Are they one or separate ? Does PR report to Marketing ? is there a division of tasks? If so, who owns what? The CMO and Chief Communication Officer (CCO) need to have a joint and aligned game plan for how to play in this new environment.

PR is going through many of the same transformational challenges as Marketing. The disintermediation of the traditional media means that Marketing will play an increasingly important role in PR going forward. CMO’s need to take notice and define how they and the CCO will tackle this new Marketing challenge.

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Build Your Brand with Content Marketing

July 13, 2009

Building your brand with content Marketing is becoming increasingly important. In the good old days before the web and social media, it was enough to simply communicate your brand’s value proposition in a highly memorable and convincing manner and watch the sales roll in. No more. Relevant content can be an approach to engage your customers and smartly differentiate your brand. In an earlier post “Publishing — The Future of Marketing?,” I described why the importance of content marketing is increasing. And Joe Pulizzi of Junta 42, in his excellent post “The Decline of Advertising and Rise of Content Spending,” explains more about the rising tide of content in the future.

Subway -- Smartly Using Content Marketing

Subway -- Smartly Using Content Marketing

Subway has gotten a lot of attention recently for their “fresh and healthy” positioning and impactful $5 foot long subs campaign. But equally deserving in my opinion is how they’re using Content Marketing in their Subway Kids program. This program has taken the core Subway value proposition — “fresh and healthy” — and extended it to kids. Subway Kids adheres to a couple of basic tenets that are important to good Content Marketing.

First, they’re clear about their target(s). The quick serve category serves two masters — parents and kids. And Subway Kids markets effectively to both. Check out the recent Subway Kids TV commercial showing creative kids outdoor games and see if you, as a parent, can resist feeling good about the Subway brand and what they’re trying to do for kids.

Second, Subway Kids stays true to the “fresh and healthy” core value proposition of the parent brand. Many brands line extend into secondary benefits or segments and conveniently forget the core focus of the brand or fail to reinforce it sufficiently. Not so with Subway Kids.

Subway Kids -- Using Marketing Content to Extend & Deepen the Brand

Subway Kids -- Using Marketing Content to Extend & Deepen the Brand

4 Smart Ways Subway Kids is Using Content Marketing

Here’s four smart ways Subway Kids is using content to engage their customers and deepen the relationship — all of which support “fresh and healthy.”

  1. Suggest Activities — Subway Kids “Get Your Family In Motion” adds relevant and meaningful content about activities that families can do together — which are healthy and active. All of the activities  surround and deepen the “fresh and healthy” positioning.
  2. Explore Choices — The “Meet the Subway Kids” program provides the opportunity for kids to choose a Subway Kids friend on-line to hang out with. They can then follow the kid and see how they’re feeling, what decisions they make, and how this relates to their food choices–another route into the fresh and healthy value proposition.
  3. Engage Schools — Subway Kids “Random Acts of Fitness” program  extends their core benefit to schools with calendars, stickers, educational programs, etc. designed to help teachers and parents reinforce healthy and active behaviors.
  4. Educate and Inform Parents — Subway Kids offers a convenient widget which provides parents with daily nutition tips and activity suggestions .

What’s Right About Subway Kids Marketing

The “red thread” throughout the entire Subway Kids proposition is easy to see and follow — healthy and active kids. And the Kids programs all relate directly to and are mutually supportive of this theme. Now, remember the Subway core value proposition — fresh and healthy ? It’s obvious how the Subway Kids “healthy and active” proposition surrounds,  enhances and deepens the core “fresh and healthy” Subway value proposition. My only complaint is that it’s a bit difficult to find Subway Kids on their website.

Is it working ? Well, I don’t have access to Subway sales vs. target, but at least one recent book, “Brand Bubble,” by Gerzema and Lebar, identifies Subway as one of the few brands that are growing both brand market value and consumer brand equity ratings. What’s not to like about a brand that delivers compelling, relevant content that’s supportive of their core brand promise and “good for you” food ?

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Publishing — The Future of Marketing ?

June 16, 2009
There’s a move afoot that suggests Marketing is morphing into Publishing. In a recent webinar by Joe Pulizzi, a thought leader for content marketing, and founder of  Junta42, Pulizzi advocates the creation of a “publications” function as a central part of any web 2.0 marketing organization. By publishing, I don’t mean just a magazine or newsletter, on-line or off, but rather a full-fledged ability to engage customers in content which surrounds and supports a core value proposition. Is this the future of Marketing ?
Is Marketing Becoming More Like Publishing ?

Is Marketing Becoming More Like Publishing ?

White papers have been around forever and are a staple of B2B marketing. Magazine and newsletters are nothing new either. But, the role of publishing and content in the marketing mix came into tighter focus in 2001 with the publication of “The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual,” a sometimes over-the-top, but provocative treatise on how the web will (and has) enabled “conversational” marketing and the end of the “command and control” marketing hierarchy which reigned supreme for decades. The idea, fairly original at the time, logically suggests that marketing communications will become more complex, organic and conversational going forward.

This means that content will become more important–whether created internally or by users. Wikipedia defines publishing as “the process of production and dissemination of literature or information – the activity of making information available for public view.”  So, is Marketing becoming more like publishing ? Well, yes and no. By the traditional definition above, Marketing already is publishing. But the explosion of new media channels, information, user generated content, etc. all of which are being enabled by web 2.0, are taking content marketing to another level entirely. And this has major implications for the Marketing mix and organization.

4 Basic Content Questions

  1. Customer Needs — It’s so basic, it should hardly need stating. Content Marketing starts with your customers needs and your value proposition. There’s a tendency to rush out and begin development of content without asking basic questions like: what, if any, kind of content does my customer want ? How does content support my core value proposition ? How will it engage my customers and better meet their needs ? How will it differentiate my brand versus competition ? Answering these questions is key to deciding if a content strategy is right for your brand.
  2. Build vs. Buy — Content can be sourced internally or externally. Huge amounts of content already exist and the CMO needs to ask the tough questions: do we have any business getting into the business of creating content ? Can we really do this better than what’s out there today ? Are we better off simply buying or partnering to acquire the needed content ? What’s the role of user generated content ? Let’s face it–we’re an invention culture and need to be open to the idea that perhaps there really are others–even our customers–who could do this better.
  3. Channels — What are the most impactful Marketing contact points in our category ? Which channels–RSS feeds, blogs, news release, e-newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, etc. should we be using to communicate our content ? Are different channels required for different content ? How will they be integrated ?
  4. Organizational Structure and Processes — A new organization structure is needed for content marketing. Who creates new content ? Is it the old publishing group, or some new expanded function ? Content marketing demands new processes as well. Who approves ? When content drives organic exchanges between customers and the company, what legal and regulatory processes need to be in place to safeguard the company?

There is no doubt that Marketing IS becoming more like publishing. There are greater opportunities than ever before to develop content which envelops your core value proposition and enhances and differentiates your product or service versus competition. There are more channels to disseminate this content. And, new organizational structures and processes are required to manage this content in an integrated and impactful manner. If this is the future of Marketing, it’s one that offers Marketers greater degrees of freedom to win in the marketplace than ever before.