Marketing messages, until fairly recently, were pretty much limited to straightforward reasons to buy or use a particular product or service, delivered through the media as ads or disguised through p.r. as part of news and feature editorial content. But marketers had to rely on media venues, which they don’t own or control.
Public relations and cause-related marketing tried to create or enhance awareness and goodwill by connecting a company or product to an event, activity or charitable cause. The platforms for those marketing messages were also, for the most part, traditional advertising media and public relations efforts with the media.
But over the past few years, the internet has created a whole new arena for marketers to use to support their messages and how they reach out to their target publics.
Online publications, blogs and social networking have opened enormous new avenues for information and ideas – what is now being called “content.” It’s a p.r. person’s dream with literally millions of places for us to gain exposure for and convey information about our clients.
As print media are, sadly, diminishing in number, online media are exploding. Not long ago, most clients didn’t care about an online placement. Now, many view online exposure as more valuable than a story in traditional print media.
Utilizing many of these new media outlets to convey marketing messages is not as simple as writing good ad copy and buying the time or space. “Content” has to relevant to the consumers’ interests and useful to them. In most cases, a blatant marketing message won’t do the trick.
A 2008 study showed 79 percent of the Fortune 100 were using social media platforms to reach out to customers. But have they been effective at it?
If the corporate blog or the Facebook page is little more than a sales brochure, it’s an opportunity missed. And if a company’s outreach to social media controlled by others, such as blogs, is also simply promotional, it’ll most likely be a wasted effort.
Because people use social media for content -- information, opinion, how-to material. Blogs that are little more than ads generally don’t get read. The same holds true for other social networking platforms.
So, as Joe Pulizzi, Junta 42 editor and author of the book “Get Content. Get Customers” says, “Marketers need to take off their sales hats and put on publisher hats.” The challenge, as well as the opportunity, is to create usable content – information that helps the reader, whether or not that information is related to selling the company’s products.
That’s a role we in public relations are (or should be) good at. For us to succeed in getting our information used by the media, we’ve always had to think like an editor or publisher while we simultaneously think like a marketer. Provide material that is of real use and interest to the audience you’re talking to.
The same applies to the new social media. Marketers must use those platforms for information that’s of real use to its users. For those of us in public relations, that shouldn’t be much of a stretch.