Content Strategy, PR & Social Media: the Holy Trinity of Brand Marketing

Your content strategy is, at its core, a messaging platform.  That platform should ideally dictate both your social media and PR programs: after all, the main difference between social media and PR at this point is simply one of channel.  Whereas PR looks for earned media in traditional media outlets – newspapers, magazines, television – social media looks for earned media on social media outlets, which is to say the personal Facebook page or Twitter stream of an individual.

The line between PR and social media has been getting incredibly blurry over the past 8 years, and that line continues to blur as we marketers look at brand advocates and online influencer strategy and try to determine where the line is between PR and social media.  The advent of content marketing has arisen in parallel with content curation tools being the trend for the everyman, and that trend is our signal as marketers: our content strategy needs to identify influencers and spur engagement, regardless of channel.  Your Mom is being trained by vanity and conversion metrics that are the same metrics we social media marketers have been using for years to measure our social media ROI.  This means that we are in a new age of influencer marketing, and it’s one that rolls up pretty neatly under a solid content strategy.

My PR colleague Marc Cowlin and I have long been talking about the convergence of social media and PR as marketing disciplines; at a foundational level, both disciplines have the same basic program structure.  That groovy little infographic that fronts the post sums that up.

What makes PR more powerful than social media is, quite simply, reach: media outlets like the New York Times have a lot of eyeballs for us.  But what makes social media more powerful than PR is the share: by spurring engagement on a social channel, there is an infinite number of people that can be reached by your content.  In a perfect PR program, the actual article that was written is then shared on a social channel, leading to increasing return; and in a perfect social media program, a reporter decides to share or write an article about your campaign.

A great example of this symbiotic relationship is Friskies and their recent “Dear Kitten” video, which has gone crazily viral and has proven, yet again, that cats rule the internet:

This video has gone viral and, as such, reporters are paying attention: there are now articles about it all over the place, from traditional media to the Huffington Post and beyond.

That video was the result of a great content strategy, in which Friskies recognized two key things:

1) The internet loves its cat memes.

2) Taking advantage of the internet’s love of cat memes is a really good way to get the word out about cat food.

This isn’t Friskies’ first try at a viral hit: they’ve used Grumpy Cat in plenty of videos, and they have an “If you feed me” campaign running, complete with a micro-site for people to upload cat imagery of their cats completing the phrase, “If you feed me wet cat food,” and that “If You Feed Me” site is using Grumpy Cat as its poster child.  The video above actually routs people to that site, so my guess is that this video was conceived as part of the content strategy for that campaign specifically.  Well done, Friskies.

We still hear people debating whether or not social media should sit under PR, or whether they should be separate departments; our view is that social media is a a channel (not a discipline), and that the social media manager job is one that will change direction with the rise of content marketing as the parent category for both disciplines.

And so, if your content strategy planning doesn’t have both your PR and social media person in the room, perhaps it’s time for another meeting: those high-level messages should be consistent across both channels.  How you execute the campaign per channel is where the disciplines can diverge; something like the Friskies video, for example, might have been conceived by an external ad agency and simply pushed onto the social media channel by a social media manager.  Or, the social media person might have thought of this, and everyone else was on-board.

Regardless as to who technically “owns” the project, the handshake between PR and social is becoming more of a bear hug.  When the only real difference in the discipline is channel, does it really make sense to have two departments?  One thing’s for sure: as people realized that “content marketing” isn’t a buzzword, but rather a necessity that adds strategic planning and KPI’s to the content we marketers put out in the world on our earned and owned channels, it’s very likely that we’ll be seeing both departments working more closely together under a content marketing umbrella.

For our part, Marc and I think this is a good thing: staying on-point with messaging is critical to cohesive brand marketing.  The other bonus: PR people and social media people tend to get along pretty well, both disciplines typically attracting verbally astute extroverts.  That being the case, rolling up the disciplines into a solid content marketing strategy makes for both better brand storytelling, and better post-work happy hours.