Why You Should Involve Your PR Agency in Content Development

Trust Your PR Agency with Content Development

The Ketner crew is currently hiring two interns, which got me thinking about my career start. With a PR degree in hand and internships under my belt, I assumed I’d join an agency. I pictured spending my days writing press releases and pitching the media. Instead, I landed a role with an in-house marketing team for an engineering firm. But through this, I learned just how fluid the fields of marketing and public relations really are. Or at least should be.

That’s not to say there isn’t a clear delineation between the two. Public relations is traditionally about managing communications between a company and the media, stakeholders or the public. Marketing activities are usually tied to achieving revenue by generating leads through email campaigns, gated landing pages, paid media, and so on.

Ultimately, content is the link between the two. So if you’re asking yourself whether you should you involve your PR agency in content development, I think the answer is yes!

In my past experience, and especially now working in an agency setting, I’ve seen the power of combining PR and marketing forces. Here are a couple of benefits of sharing the content load with your PR agency, followed by an example of Keter Group content in action.

Seamless knowledge sharing through blogs and byline articles

Just as our retail tech clients advocate for unified processes through their holistic solutions, I believe marketing and PR need to shake off the siloed ways of thinking. Share your marketing plans and big-picture goals with PR, no doubt. Breaking down barriers between teams encourages visibility and knowledge sharing. Then go a step further to bring PR in to help with content development in support of that plan.

One example is the corporate blog, where internal experts can comment on interesting industry trends, product capabilities, and more. By having a PR agency collaborate on these posts, they get more direct exposure to a variety of stakeholders outside the marketing department and a more complete understanding of your business.

This gives them the opportunity to really nail the brand voice and messaging as they pitch. Plus, having a lively blog makes it easy to source byline content for media pitching.

While not promotional in nature, byline articles are one way to position company executives as thought leaders in the industry, sharing trends or research and an individual’s unique perspective. Ketner Group pitches and places these 600- to 850-word articles in a variety of trade publications. It’s certainly easier to do so when we’ve had a hand in writing the content in the first place, especially if it’s just repurposing a blog.

A deeper understanding of a given topic with long-form content

Moving beyond bylines, PR-agency-developed content can include e-books, white papers, buyer’s guides, viewpoint papers. This is all content you can leverage through inbound or outbound marketing activities to move prospects through the sales funnel.

Your PR agency should feel like an extension of your marketing team. When you task them with longer-form content projects such as these, you invite them into a much deeper understanding of your solution, service or thought leadership perspective, as if they were in-house all along.

When I’m writing 1,500 to 2,500 words on a topic, my comprehension of that subject has to be exact. Taking on these projects naturally increases the amount of time I spend getting into the weeds. Yes, these projects are more time-intensive. But the conversations, from kickoff calls through the review process, further enrich client relationships and overall mastery of a topic.

The momentum to get in front of your target audience

Take the work we’ve done with our client Symphony RetailAI as an example. Late last year we kicked off a plan to develop a number of viewpoint papers and corresponding buyer’s guides. The viewpoint paper would be a “top of funnel” piece, educating the reader on a topic. A buyer’s guide would then serve as a follow-up, providing a checklist for selecting the right vendor – positioning Symphony RetailAI as the only logical fit.

We developed a viewpoint paper on customer insights and data proficiency in tandem with a buyer’s guide, pointing to their AI-powered personal decision coach, CINDE, as the go-to solution.

Symphony RetailAI, Rule of 17

Seeing content come to life is really exciting. I know Symphony RetailAI enjoys the momentum content has brought to its marketing execution. The Rule of 17 paper received double the target market downloads, compared to last year’s category management campaign. Symphony RetailAI further increased the reach of this whitepaper through sponsored syndication with Progressive Grocer.

Before commissioning your PR agency to take on long-form content projects, map out a larger content strategy. My colleague Aidan wrote a blog that walks you through defining unique content needs. It’s a helpful way to assess where your PR agency can jump in to help.

Content Development Tips

The Write Way: Writing Tips to Get in the Content Development Zone

As many will say on a Monday when they can’t seem to speak correctly and need their morning coffee, “words are hard.” However, at Ketner Group, content development is an essential part of our DNA so we welcome the challenge. We’re proud to be the stewards of the words, the prose pros and the scribe tribe. When it comes to putting our clients on the map, we use our writing skills to give them a voice and ensure their stories rise above the noise through strategic, engaging content.

Although we fancy ourselves veterans of the craft, the writing process can be tough – especially when it comes to getting started, staying focused and tackling multiple projects in a timely manner. To offer our faithful readers some writing tips for building exceptional content, I asked some of the Ketner Group team for their most effective processes.

Getting Started With a Brain Dump

Sometimes it’s easier to start with an abundance of information and work your way down. As such, when I start a writing project, I dump all of the relevant collateral and resources I can get my hands on into a document and then begin chiseling away. This helps me find the story and craft it into a cohesive and impactful piece.

After including a plethora of information into her document, Mikaela likes to create headline and subheads first (of course, they’re subject to change and most of the time they do) to get a good starting point and a way to stay on track while writing. She also will write a topic sentence for her own reference before she starts digging into the content to help stay on track and prevent getting off topic. Meanwhile, Catherine takes a creative angle to keep things fresh and engaging by starting her intros with a fun theme or quote that will guide her throughout the piece – this process can be seen in full force in her recent Forbes article.

To Outline or Not to Outline

It’s the classic question that we all face in our careers – as certain as death and taxes. Some of us like to develop a full outline initially while others just get writing. In fact, in a poll of the entire KG team, we’re split right in the middle – half of us outlining, half opting not to. Kirsty finds value in it for certain projects, especially while writing a webpage, where she decides what she wants to write in a more visual manner. Once the outline is done, she usually lets it sit for a day or two, allowing her to come back with a fresh mind, and begins fleshing out the content and editing directly from the outline.

Perfect Timing

Many might say, there’s no better time than the present…but that doesn’t always work when we have countless priorities at once. Finding the right moment to begin your writing project isn’t always easy. Some of us write better at different times of the day so it’s important to find what time is right for you. For example, if other projects are getting in the way, make sure you knock those out first and set time aside on days when you aren’t as busy such as Friday afternoons, early mornings or whatever works for you.

While some work better under a strict deadline, setting short term milestones can help others who are having trouble keeping the content development ball rolling and want to avoid being overwhelmed right before a deadline. This includes creating short to-dos with deadlines throughout the week. For example, plan for your outline to be completed by Tuesday, draft on Wednesday, send colleagues for review on Thursday and send to client by Friday.

Background Noise

For those of us who need noise in the background, the most effective way to stay focused is listening to certain types of music. Amanda will often listen to white noise, instrumental music and brown noise. I tend to listen to instrumental music like jazz (John Coltrane’s album “A Love Supreme” is a great one), foreign (groups singing in another language, such as Tinariwen and Shintaro Sakamoto) and anything with a driving rhythm or R&B (lately Solange, Nilüfer Yanya and Blood Orange but William Onyebor, Fela Kuti and Talking Heads are always classics for me).

However, my go-to and most effective song is 45:33 by LCD Soundsystem. The almost 46-minute song, commissioned by Nike for runners, keeps me focused through its ebbs and flows and acts as a timer so I know it’s time to focus for that period of time.

Other Writing Tips from the KG Team:

  • Eliminate distractions: Close Outlook, Slack, iMessage and put your cell phone away.
  • Set a timer: Crank out content for a set amount of time (perhaps 30-45 minutes). Then you can allow yourself a 10-15 minute break to check email, scroll through Twitter, grab a snack, etc. before diving back in.
  • Get a little help: Since sometimes we all lack self-control, I’ll occasionally use the Self Control app to blacklist distracting sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Get outside: Stuck on an idea and can’t figure it out? Step outside, go for a walk and clear your mind for a bit. Finding a friend to join also helps since there’s no process more productive than a good ol’ walk and talk.  
  • Caffeine: As always, the java-heads out there need their coffee. Sitting down with a good cup o’ joe or tea can keep you wide awake and ready for the unpredictable journey of content development.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to content development. In fact, the way we see it, if you’re not writing…you’re wrong! At the end of the day, becoming a great writer is all about finding out what works best for you. As such, we hope these writing tips will help you stay focused and in the zone for your next project.

Tips for Developing a Content Strategy

Blogs! Social media! Whitepapers! Webinars and email newsletters! These are only some of the content marketing tactics that hold a tremendous amount of potential for getting your business the attention it needs to grow as fast as it deserves.

It can be truly dizzying for marketing teams to crank out the amount of content needed to make an impact. And unless your marketing team requires a fleet of Uber XLs to get to an office happy hour, it’s just not possible to do it all. Yes, PR firms can be terrific allies in developing and executing on your content strategy, but how should you set one up in the first place?

Brand awareness vs. lead generation

An effective content strategy serves two equally valuable and competing (yet complementary) purposes – brand awareness and lead generation – neither of which your marketing can succeed without. It’s finding out how to balance these that takes work. So, take a step back and work from the top down. Define your organization’s unique needs and goals. Ask questions like:

  • Do our customers know who we are?
  • Is our pipeline flooded or flowing at a trickle?
  • Does our sales team close every sale they work on or are we struggling to convert leads?
  • Do we have a competitor or competitors regularly winning deals over us?

Once you know where you stand, where you’re already succeeding and what gaps you need to address, you can determine the type of information your intended audience would most benefit from. Then, leverage the three overarching channels available to you – owned, earned and paid media – to get it to them.

Owned Media

Think about the advice we’d all give to a friend feeling overwhelmed by a situation, something along the lines of, “you can only control what you can control.” Although sometimes frustrating to take that advice at face value, it’s essential to get the basics right before branching out to more nuanced arenas. Unsurprisingly then, owned media should always be the first and most fundamental element of any content strategy.

Website

To that end, your focus should be on ensuring your website is the rock your content strategy can build off of. It allows you to tell visitors who you are as a company, what you stand for, what you sell and why it’s worth the investment. It has unrivaled power to tell your story how you want it told – everything you want someone to know about your company should live here. You should also have simple components like a ‘Contact Us’ page for lead generation, and any gated whitepapers, case studies, e-books, or webinars can live in perpetuity on your website to generate traffic and leads, long after you publish them.  Managing a regularly updated blog is also a key part of becoming a well-rounded brand; it will serve as an outlet for the promotional and thought leadership messaging you want your customers to associate with your business.

Social Media

It’s not exactly a cutting-edge revelation, but social media channels allow you to disseminate any info you want to the people that follow you. All the content you post to your website should be shared on the social channels you run, as this drives traffic to specific landing pages and your site as a whole, further driving lead generation. Just don’t forget to share and engage with the broader community on your social media platforms, as no one likes a “me, me, me” account!

However, it’s also important to note that not every platform is perfect for every brand or audience. We’ll share another post on social media content marketing in a few weeks (and will link to it once it’s live), but we tend to be major fans of LinkedIn for our B2B retail clients, using Twitter and Facebook as complementary outlets. Based on your audience and goals, pick and choose your platforms so you don’t waste time and resources building a community that won’t drive online engagement.

Email

Often left out of the ‘thought leadership’ bucket, but rarely forgotten by traditional marketers, email can play a key role in reaching an audience of customers, prospects, partners and others who care about your company message and sign up to receive information from you. Don’t just use email to sell; use it to inform, engage and entertain whenever possible to maximize its potential and keep your readers from going for an instant ‘delete.’

Earned Media

Along with content strategy and development as a whole, earned media is the bread and butter of our PR firm, and one of the most compelling reasons to work with an agency with a long history in a given market. Earned media provides a major boost to your brand’s visibility, recognition and authority. But using content to earn media attention doesn’t end with press release pitching.

My colleague Adrienne Newcomb wrote a great blog on using bylined articles to secure thought leadership coverage in key trade publications, and we’ve found that case studies, proprietary research reports, and pitching executive commentary on developing trends (great for sharing on social too) can have a big impact on a brand’s ability to get media coverage.

Whatever content you create for your owned channels, think about how you might be able to convince someone else to use it on their own platform. Without reinventing the wheel, you’ve greatly increased the value of a given piece of content.

Paid Media

Paid media can be a terrific option to supplement your owned and earned content strategies but should rarely, if ever, be relied upon to have a strong impact before the brand has developed those initial content foundations. We recommend thinking of paid media as the final exclamation point on a well-executed organic program that helps take successes to new heights. This doesn’t mean you need to have a killer email marketing program in order to promote high-performing blog posts on LinkedIn, but it does mean you shouldn’t be investing heavily in LinkedIn posts that direct back to a useless website. Determine the gap in your growth plan, create enjoyable content people want to engage with, build an audience that cares what you have to say, and use paid to take you over the top. If your foundation is strong, the potential ROI can be huge!

We’re here to help

Want to learn more about developing a content marketing strategy from scratch or optimizing a program already in motion? Reach out to us. We love talking about content and it’d be our pleasure to help you use your own media effectively and efficiently.