What is Content Marketing and How Does it Drive PR?


Weslie Oeftering
What is Content Marketing and How Does it...

The average American views thousands of advertisements a day. As a result, companies must become more creative in their quest to build relationships with consumers.

Enter: content marketing, traditional marketing’s mysterious younger sibling that is quickly solidifying its status as a big player in the PR industry. Content marketing is in and of itself ambiguous so I have found that the best way to fully understand it is to contrast it with traditional marketing.

Traditional Marketing Defined

As is fairly self-explanatory, traditional marketing is advertisements. Advertisements can include magazine ads or entire magazine catalogs, social media posts, blogs, vlogs, and marketing emails.

They are advertisements because they explicitly sell something. That is, the marketing material actually features the product that they are trying to pique your interest in.

An example of traditional marketing in our more digitized world is when one of the Kardashians posts a picture of themselves holding a certain “weight-loss” tea on Instagram with a caption that mentions a promo code for 15 percent off on that very same tea. Something is explicitly being sold. This is called influencer marketing and it’s becoming an increasingly important part of the content marketing landscape. 

Content Marketing Defined

Contrastingly, content marketing is when all the same mediums I mentioned before are used for educating the target audience about things related to a product, without explicitly selling – or even mentioning – it.

The idea behind content marketing is that when a company becomes a go-to source of information about a certain topic, its products build credibility. This credibility builds trust and loyalty, and therefore encourages more people to buy those products.

An example of this would be an investment firm’s weekly newsletter with the latest and greatest money-saving tips. Importantly, nothing in the newsletter mentions the firm’s financial services. A reader may be more likely to use their services in the future, however, because they now have a sense that the firm is knowledgeable about investing.

Even NPR’s ever-growing portfolio of podcasts is a type of content marketing. The NPROne app makes this especially true because it creates what I call the “NPR Rabbit Hole.”

You’re more likely to listen to other podcasts produced by NPR after getting hooked on your first one. hThe because they are all in the same place and you know you can trust them for quality content. The Rabbit Hole still applies even when it comes to completely different topics. 

For instance, it goes without saying that economics and pop culture rarely have a chance to cross paths. The NPROne app changes this. Now, listeners might think, “Since NPR’s Planet Money podcast is good, then maybe their Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast is good, too.” Soon enough, they find themselves getting a significant chunk of their news from NPR. 

Content Marketing’s Humble Origin Story

The first and most used example of content marketing is “The Furrow,” by John Deere. It is an agricultural journal that has covered any and all farming topics since 1895. The magazine made people feel like John Deere must really know what it was talking about and qualified John Deere as the best company to buy equipment from. Importantly, though, the magazine never advertised any of its products. It was the content that made them trustworthy, not advertisements. 

Farmers invented content marketing in the 19th century, way before public relations ever came along. 

What Does Content Marketing Have to Do With PR?

Both PR and content marketing are all about building relationships. In other words, although content marketing came before PR, it is an increasingly important aspect of it. Much of PR is simply about building brand awareness. PR needs content marketing to build relationships out of this brand awareness. Otherwise, it would be much harder to build trust and credibility amongst current and potential customers.

About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft is a tech digital marketing agency in Austin with offices in Denver, Houston and Antwerp that provides digital marketing services and trade show marketing support for SaaS tech companies around the world. Some of their services include media relations, content and inbound marketing, CPC campaigns, and marketing automation consulting.

Featured Image: Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

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