Differentiating Content Marketing and PR: A Comprehensive Guide

Content marketing and PR are two essential components of an effective marketing communications strategy. Both have become increasingly important as companies find it harder to reach customers through traditional advertising channels, such as television and print media.

However, the two disciplines have both similarities and differences, so I thought it might be helpful to introduce more clarity on the differences between them. This PR vs. content marketing guide will explore how they are used to reach different types of audiences, the types of content involved, and how their effectiveness is measured. Ready? Let’s go!

1. They Are Driven by Distinct Purposes and Objectives

Content marketing and PR each serve distinct purposes and objectives. Content marketing is used to nurture existing customers and attract new ones. Its primary aim revolves around cultivating brand awareness, educating consumers, and ultimately steering them toward profitable actions.

The Content Marketing Institute explains that the goal of content marketing is to “attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

For instance, imagine you own a wristwatch brand that you want to strategically grow online. If your primary objective is to leverage content to educate your audience about fashionable ways to use wristwatches, and gradually build an affinity for your brand, then we can say that’s content marketing.

Now, the Public Relations Society of America states that the goal of PR is to “build mutually beneficial relationships between originizations and their publics.”

PR is used to help influence public opinion and to manage a company’s reputation. It is focused on controlling the spread of information. And, it is used to help create a positive public perception of a company or its products and services via earned channels.

Using the wristwatch brand example, if your online activities aim to generate news coverage for new product launches or address negative news about your brand, we’d say that’s PR.

2. They Cater to Diverse Audience Segments

Content marketing and PR are designed to appeal to different types of audiences. Content marketing typically focuses on creating content that appeals to a new audience of potential customers. It is used to educate, inform, and entertain prospects and current customers, while also creating an emotional connection with them.

Slack, the renowned productivity tool for professionals, offers a prime example of how content marketing and PR can be tailored to cater to a diverse range of audience segments. In Slack’s case, their target audience includes companies seeking enhanced productivity solutions and the employees within those organizations who aspire to achieve greater efficiency.

Slack recognizes that these potential users are looking for practical tips, tutorials, and insights on how to maximize the utility of their platform. As a result, Slack’s website and social media channels are rich hubs of content that address these specific needs.

Slack Blog - content marketing and PR

Source: Slack Blog

For public relations, Slack targets its existing customer base and stakeholders. It’s a way to continuously maintain credibility. So, Slack works with business media outlets, tech publications, or business journals to get the word out about new updates, events, or achievements.

Here’s an example of a PR publication targeted at existing users:

Slack PR example - Collaboration with The Verve

Source: Google

PR is typically used to reach out to existing customers and media outlets like journalists, industry influencers, etc.

Although the audience segments are different, PR services can still be useful for supporting your content marketing efforts when it comes to enhancing your overall brand reach to a wider audience.

3. They Emphasize Different Types of Content

Another pivotal distinction to note in this PR vs. content marketing comparison is the types of content they emphasize. Content marketing thrives on an assortment of valuable content forms. Some of them include:

  • Blog Posts: Informative and insightful articles that delve into specific topics, offering in-depth analysis or practical advice.
  • Captivating visual content that can range from educational images or infographics to entertaining videos.
  • E-books and white papers: Long-form documents that explore complex subjects, providing comprehensive insights and solutions. E-books and whitepapers are typically used for lead generation.

Content marketing may also include interactive sessions/webinars or audio content that allows for direct engagement with your online audience.

PR, on the other hand, typically includes content like:

  • Feature Stories: In-depth articles or stories written with a storytelling approach, highlighting the company’s achievements, innovations, or social initiatives. News stories aim to engage and inspire the reader.
  • Press Releases: Concise and factual announcements designed to inform the media and the public about significant developments within the company. Press releases are used to control the spread of information and generate media coverage.
  • Speeches and Public Addresses: Prepared speeches delivered by company executives or spokespersons at public events, conferences, or interviews to convey key messages and enhance the company’s image.

Speaking of content, creating them can prove difficult sometimes. But, you can use generative AI tools like Writer to develop content that’s suitable for PR and content marketing use cases.

With more specific prompts, you can get detailed responses that’ll give you a good headstart on the piece of content you want to create. Consider looking through a generative AI guide to discover tools that can help for specific use cases, and how best to maximize each tool to automate your content marketing efforts.

4. They Employ Varying Metrics to Gauge Their Effectiveness

Content marketing and PR also use different metrics to measure their effectiveness. Typically, you can evaluate the performance of a content marketing strategy using a range of metrics that focus on audience engagement and lead generation across various channels. These metrics help content marketers understand how well their content resonates with the target customer and whether it drives valuable actions. Some key content marketing metrics include:

  • Website traffic
  • Social media engagement
  • Conversion rates, and so on

PR, on the other hand, employs a distinct set of metrics that revolve around media coverage and impact. These metrics provide PR professionals with insights into the reach and influence of their efforts. Key PR metrics include:

  • Media Impressions
  • Earned Media Value (EMV)
  • Media Coverage
  • Share of Voice

Overall, reviewing these distinct sets of metrics allows organizations to make informed decisions to refine their approaches to content marketing and PR.

5. Content Marketing Poses Greater Challenges Compared to PR

The last PR vs. content marketing comparison focuses on the challenges involved in implementation. Content marketing can be more challenging than PR for several reasons.

First, content marketing requires an understanding of both the target audience and the content that appeals to them. It also requires a high level of creativity and consistency to create content that is interesting and engaging. There’s also the aspects of publishing, hosting, and strategically promoting your content to your target audience across various digital platforms like podcasts, social media platforms, and relevant websites.

Additionally, since the focus is on building a stronger relationship with existing and prospective customers, content marketing usually requires a long-term commitment to see results. Search Engine Optimization is another aspect of content marketing that takes a long time to pay off. For instance, if you’re looking to build your search visibility around specific terms (keywords) that may attract qualified leads, it could take roughly 4 to 12 months before you start to see results.

On the other hand, PR can often yield immediate results, such as the initial buzz built around your brand and the information you’re trying to pass across. It’s also a vital tool for instant communication from your brand to the public. For instance, if you want to counter negative news about your brand, a strong PR campaign will help you achieve this faster than if you only relied on content marketing tactics.

In Closing

Content marketing and PR, while inherently connected, play discrete roles within an all-encompassing marketing strategy.

Content marketing excels at engaging and enlightening a well-defined audience through various of content formats. PR distinguishes itself with its commitment to reputation management and the cultivation of relationships across a broader spectrum of stakeholders.

So, with these differences in mind, you may proceed to build a marketing strategy that infuses both the benefits of content marketing and PR. Good luck!

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