Heather Whaling

Content Marketing Through A PR Lens


Video Transcription

Hi, and thanks for having me.  I am Heather Whaling with Geben Communication.  I’m here today to talk about a hot topic – Content Marketing, but as a tool to generate PR outcomes.  We’re going to take a look at content marketing through a public relations lens.  As you’re following along, feel free to use the hashtag outreach marketing or Tweet with me.  I am @prTini.

Let’s start by making sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to PR.  Public relations cover a wide variety of tactics, but the nuts and bolts include things like media relations, community relations, public affairs, event management and crisis communication.  Over the past few years, we’ve been incorporating more and more social elements into our campaigns.  Incorporating content marketing into PR strategies is a natural extension as we continue to blend tradition and digital PR.  When you approach content marketing through a PR lens, you’re producing and dissemination content that will support typical PR goals such as increasing web traffic, establishing thought leadership, reputation management, building and nurturing relationships with customers, prospects, EMLS and other stake holders, generating leads.  You get the point.

Let’s take a closer look by reviewing some case studies.  These are all projects we’ve helped clients execute, so if you have specific questions about the campaigns, feel free to share on Twitter with the outreach marketing hashtag.

First up is Madison Electric Products.  For those who like to say that content and social can’t work as well in B2B, this is the ammunition you need to show that yes, in fact, it can.  Madison is a manufacturer of electrical supply equipment based in Cleveland, Ohio.  Like most companies in this industry, they were hit pretty hard by the recession.  They knew they needed to shake things up so they’d be positioned for growth coming out of the recession.  During their down time, they decided to up their content game.  Specifically to change how they were perceived among their industry peers, build collaboration with like-minded companies, innovate best practices particularly around new product development and communication, and educate the industry.  They believed that by helping the industry as a whole, everyone would benefit.

We worked with them to develop content buckets.  This is an exercise we use frequently when working with clients who are particularly sales driven organizations where the natural instinct is to promote.  As you know, you have to be really careful with overly promotional content on social channels.  So we put this framework in place to ensure content stays on message and on brand without being me, me, me centric.  In this case, these are the buckets we landed on that guided our content creation efforts: innovation and action, relationship driven business, Cleveland Ohio rocks, paving the way through leadership, and Madison up close and personal.

Realizing that the best new product ideas would come from people in the field, not a bunch of suits in a boardroom, Madison launched the Sparks Innovation Center, the industry’s first approach to crowd sourcing product development.  The idea was simple.  Submit a product.  After Madison evaluated it, if they felt like it was a good fit and they thought they could help the inventor successfully bring it to market, they would team up and work together to make it happen.  We needed to use content to build trust, highlight successful inventors and get the industry to embrace the spirit of innovation.

Here are two examples of blog posts that do just this.  On the top you see a post sharing how the Marines were also tapping into crowd sourcing to come up with new product ideas.  It was an interesting story, so we shared it and included a little, little bit about Sparks, a very soft style.

The second post here is an interview with one of the inventors who brought an idea to Madison and ended up having the product developed and sold across the country.  We thought by having an investor’s peers share their experience working with Madison, it would help build some of that trust.  In this situation it literally changed the projection or the trajectory of his professional career.

We also wanted to have some harder, more direct calls to action.  Something that we did that was kind of fun to celebrate Coca Cola day, which commemorates the day that the innovative recipe for Coke was perfected, we encouraged people to submit ideas to Sparks that week.  Anyone who submitted an idea would receive a free case of Coke in the mail from Madison, something small and inexpensive, but fun and a good way to reinforce what Madison was doing with Sparks.  The results speak for themselves. They had hundreds of submissions to the Sparks Innovation Center, and this contributed to a 17 percent company growth with 37 percent new sales growth.  For a company in this industry coming out of the recession, those are pretty impressive numbers.

A more recent example, Shot Tracker is wearable technology for basketball players.  March Madness is the Holy Grail for basketball fans and players.  So we wanted to capitalize on that energy and interest in the sport to reinforce our position of the go-to resource for shooters while also driving web traffic, securing media coverage and sparking social chatter and opportunities for Shot Tracker to have natural engagements with their fans.  We decided to create an infographic.  Think of it as a guide to the best shooters in the Sweet Sixteen.  We included all the pertinent staffs from each of the 16 teams left in the tournament as well as profiling some of the top shooters and other March Madness related fun facts.  To give you some context about how this all came together, the Sweet Sixteen was finalized on the Sunday with games beginning that Thursday.  So for this to work, it had to come together pretty quickly.  We mapped out as much as we could ahead of time, and then pulled the data Monday morning. We conducted media outreach Tuesday and Wednesday, and then released the actual infographic for embedding Thursday morning coinciding with the beginning of the Sweet Sixteen.

CBS Sports embedded the infographic and a number of their reporters then shared it on their social channels.  This was like gold because CBS had the broadcast rights to the NCAA tournament, so tons of people were going to their site looking for all the latest information about the tournament.  It turns out that the infographic was viewed about 90 thousand times that weekend.  Social sharing was also very strong which created a lot of engagement opportunities for Shot Tracker while still enabling them to stay focused on shooting their core positioning.

We were working with Seen, a platform for Instagram campaigns and insights, and after their initial launch, we decided to do some very targeted content marketing to build awareness and generate leads specifically within the sports industry, a vertical that they had identified as hyper of opportunity.  We created two infographics, one playing off the London Olympics and one playing off the opening day of major league baseball.  In addition to generating medic coverage and driving traffic to the website, we wanted to use the content marketing pieces as an avenue to show the power of their platform.  The highly target approach worked.  By securing media coverage on outlets like Yahoo Sports and the SPN.com, we reached sports marketers a highly coveted audience.  Traffic increased 360 percent, and we generated more than 50 viable leads.  In fact, the Indianapolis 500 was one of those leads. They ended up signing on as a client and using Seen to power their entire Indy 500 or Bust campaign last year.

Next I would like to shoot two examples from Marketwired.  A few years ago, Marketwired acquired Sysomos, a social media monitoring platform.  This helped the company evolve from a press release distribution service, a wire company, to a company with product offerings for both traditional PR people as well as community managers and digital marketers.  Knowing that community managers were an important target for Marketwired, we teamed up last year with the communitymanager.com the group behind the popular Twitter chat to survey their members and develop and eBook, which was released on community manager appreciating day.  The book’s been viewed about 30 thousand times, and it helped provide an inroad to this influential group of people.  We have found multiple times actually that creating co-brand and content is a smart way to stretch your resources and expand your reach, especially helpful if you’re trying to reach a new community or a group of people that you maybe don’t have some cachet with yet.

The other Marketwired example deals with a more traditional peer function, investor relations.  The SEC determined that social media was in fact a viable acceptable channel for public companies to communicate market moving information to investors and stake holders.  However, many of the traditional wire services were advising investor relations pros to simply continue using the press release as the main communication channel, basically to just do things the way it had always been done.  Marketwired wanted to help investor relations community understand that Wall Street was a step ahead of them. They were already making investment decisions based on information coming from social and digital channels.  We commissioned a survey of Wall Street investors, analysts, and executives to gather data about social media’s impact on Wall Street.  The findings were fascinating and actually went against some commonly held beliefs.  Now we had valuable data to help shape the conversation.

Using that date, we created a blog post and an infographic plus it served as the foundation to land multiple speaking engagements and sit in on webinars.  Because we have this data, we were also able to pitch it to media knowing that media love getting their hands on good recent data that can add a new layer to a story.  So we were able to generate coverage in the Wall Street Journal as well as a number of investor relations trade publications, and coming full circle, this last example is meant to serve as a reminder that content marketing shouldn’t be limited to online content, at least not to start with.

There’s a whole host of more traditional peer tactics that you can read of it.  For example going back to Madison, at one of the major industry conferences, Madison hosted a round table discussion bringing together about 20 or so leaders from different companies with different perspectives.  The goal was to talk about technology and its impact on the electrical industry as well as new opportunities for innovation. People worked in small groups with each table having a facilitator to keep the conversation moving and on topic.  Then after those breakout sessions, each table presented their discussion topic and resolve.  The information was captured and turned into a white paper that was released through Madison’s email and social channels as well as in partnership with one of the key industry trade publication. That meeting or event then also set the stage for an invite only LinkedIn group which helped keep the collaboration and conversation going, and then it also provided the foundation for future events and round tables at upcoming conferences.

We typically talk about content marketing and how it can generate PR outcomes. This I think is a good reminder that more traditional PR activities like events can also spur new content marketing opportunities.  If you’re going to invest all of this time and all of these resources into content marketing, you want to make sure the content is seen by the right audiences. So here are some tips to help you make sure the content gets out there and is successful.

Pre-launched planning is critical.  The more planning you can do ahead of time about every facet of it but especially planning how you’re going to map it out and where you’re going to put the content.  It’s helpful I think if you can gage interest in advance by reaching out to some select groups of people or online communities.  It’s also helpful to start building those relationships with those communities ahead of time so if there are communities that have sort of a natural alignment like the community manager group with Community Manager Appreciation Day, we were able to build that relationship ahead of time.  It developed then into a partnership.  Feeding content is another way with media or influencers that you can provide that early lift to content.  With Shot Tracker and CBSsports.com, that’s exactly what happened.  We reached out to the reporter early in the week, got that person’s interest, let them know timing wise when we would have it done so they could put it in the queue and then they ran with it first thing that morning, and from there then it got shared and re-embedded on other blogs and other sites coming out of that.

Once the content goes live, that’s just the beginning.  There are lots of things you can do post-launch to maximize the value as well.  Think about different ways that you can repurpose the content to extend the timeliness.  So for example if you write a white paper or an eBook, are there chapters that you can pull out and go more in-depth on to give it extra shelf life.  Are there ways that you can leverage the content for additional PR opportunities like we were able to with Marketwired and the survey.  In addition to creating our content marketing pieces, we were also able to pitch the findings and the data to media to secure media coverage for them as well.

As you’re doing all of this content, you may want to couple with some paid outreach Facebook has or promoted Tweets can be helpful as you have a piece of content helping to be very targeted about making sure it gets to the right people, and then don’t overlook your email making sure, you know, you can maximize the impact by sending it out via email, obviously your social channels.  Think about all the different places where you have customer touch points and think about how you can incorporate the content in those.  With that, hopefully you’ve seen a few ways content marketing can be used to strengthen your PR program.

If you want to continue chatting about content marketing or anything else related to integrating traditional and digital PR, feel free to email me or let’s connect on Twitter.  Also we’re sharing the weekly e-newsletter with best practices and tips, and it typically also includes some content marketing information which you can grab here with this Bitly Link.

Thanks so much for having me today, and I look forward to continuing to talk with you about content marketing and PR.