Gini Dietrich

The Four Pitfalls (and Fixes) of Your PR Content Strategy

By: Gini Dietrich | April 6, 2017 | 
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The Four Pitfalls (and Fixes) of Your PR Content StrategyI love listening to Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose kibitz on This Old Marketing.

My favorite is when you can almost hear Joe roll his eyes when someone says content marketing isn’t a thing.

It just came up a few weeks ago when an article made the rounds about how content marketing doesn’t even exist.

I mean, really.

Not only is content marketing a thing, it’s an incredibly useful way to build your customer relationships and sales funnel.

But if you only engage in random acts of content—publishing content on whatever topic strikes a chord on any given day—you won’t reap all the benefits you could. 

(This is a lesson I’ve personally had to learn because I love to write on whatever topic is top-of-mind at the time.)

If you take an integrated approach to your content marketing.

If you bring together the paid, earned, shared, and owned media created within your company.

You’ll see vastly improved results, and avoid some common pitfalls that impede many content marketing programs.

It all starts with a documented PR content strategy.

Not convinced? Let’s walk through four all-too-common pitfalls and I’ll show you how your documented PR content strategy can save you from them.

Pitfall #1: Not Enough Time to Create Content

If you don’t defend your calendar, you end up putting off content creation until you have (perceived) time.

As though some intergalactic traveling Time Lord is going to scoop you up and give you a few extra days in the blink of an eye.

Sorry, but that’s never going to happen!

(Oh, but I wish it would.)

You can take back some of your time however, by using a documented PR content strategy.

It helps you prioritize the need to immediately execute against the random, last-minute requests that derail your to-do list.

It helps you say, “No.”

Whenever an unplanned task comes your way, evaluate it by asking:

Does this help us advance our progress against our goals?

If not, negotiate with the person requesting your help.

It may be that the goal they are trying to meet with their request is one you already have on your content map, possibly with a different approach.

Many of us are too programmed to reply with “yes” when presented with others’ requests.

It means we don’t get through the things we need to do to meet our own goals and objectives.

With a documented plan in hand you can’t turn down all of them, but you do have a good place from which to negotiate.

Pitfall #2: Not Enough Budget to Create Content

In a perfect world, we all have enough money to create an endless amount of beautifully designed, engaging content, with a boundless distribution budget.

Alas, that world is not the one we live in.

But having a small budget is a poor excuse for not creating content.

It can become easy to get overly focused on what you can’t do.

But having a PR content strategy and a supporting editorial calendar helps you actively manage your limited resources, and keep ahead of recurring content opportunities.

Don’t Feel Sorry for Yourself

Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, take stock of the resources you DO have at your disposal:

  • Employee subject matter experts. Chances are several of your employees are industry influencers in their own right. Or at least, subject matter experts in an area that’s closely aligned with your customers’ challenges. Tap them to help you generate content ideas, and to provide bullets or even a draft of an article under their bylines. Include employee advocacy as a key piece of your PR content strategy, and assign these experts a regularly recurring content contribution in your editorial calendar. 
  • Data. Do you have proprietary data that can be analyzed and used to provide prospects with insights that help them do their jobs? Better yet, is this data you can access and refresh on a quarterly basis? Make sharing those insights part of your PR content strategy and schedule the data pulls—and a slew of resulting content based on that data—in your editorial calendar.
  • Existing content. Most of us have a lot of one-and-done content sitting around in our shared drives, gathering dust. Whenever you create new content, examine how you could use it as a base for derivative content, then add those derivative pieces of content to your editorial calendar.
  • Recurring events. Do you host an annual conference? Or does your organization typically sponsor or speak at an annual industry event? 
  • Other people’s content. The content marketing team isn’t the only one creating content in your organization. Find out what slides, return-on-investment calculators, or one-sheeters your sales team has cobbled together and think about how you can repurpose them. Similarly, ask your client success team what templates or frequently asked questions they’re using in their day-to-day customer conversations. Make your editorial calendar the key discussion point of recurring editorial meetings and invite these teams to participate.

Pitfall #3: Our Industry is Boring, and So is Our Content

Every industry—no matter how “boring” it may seem to you at the time—has topics that get industry experts or customers revved up and excited.

It’s your job to identify these topics and document them in your PR content strategy.

Then work with those influencers to co-create or quote them in your content.

Don’t settle for creating mediocre content!

One of the big reasons many people create “boring” content is they try to play above their league.

If a high-authority website already has page one of Google results locked down on a specific keyword, you’re not going to be able to knock them from that spot.

And that won’t help you drive leads, move towards revenue goals, or build domain authority.

Your top-level keywords need to provide the base for creating an editorial calendar with topics you can rank for in search.

Pitfall #4: We’re Targeting Too Many People With Our Content

One-size-fits-all is a lie when it comes to clothing—and content.

Defining your audience is an important part of documenting your PR content strategy.

And the more you learn about your ideal customer, the easier it is to tailor the content you create to resonate on topics that matter to them.

If you are given a list of a half dozen or more brand personas and asked to address them with your PR content strategy, use it as an opportunity to work with your leadership to prioritize.

If you do have vastly different audiences to reach, it’s better to draft individual content plans for each audience—and attach budget to it accordingly.

Don’t try to come up with a plan that’s watered-down enough to serve as an umbrella.

Further, the content you create to meet the needs of the initial person conducting purchase research is different from the content needed to convince the budget owner.

And the post-sale content that helps keep the day-to-day customer engaged with your brand is also different.

Each different audience—and their different needs—have different business objectives that align to their role in the purchase process.

By documenting these differences, you can figure out how it helps the business, which helps you define where to best spend your time.

If you’re lucky, you may even gain budget.

Document a PR Content Strategy that Drives Business Results

After seeing everything a PR content strategy can do for your content marketing program, you’re probably thinking it needs to be a 50-page tome, accompanied by a professionally designed animated PowerPoint deck, including three-year revenue projections.

That may be what some organizations expect, but it’s not effective.

Can you really expect your whole content team—including contractors, freelancers, and agency team members—to digest and internalize all that?

Probably not.

And a PR content strategy that sits in a drawer isn’t much help.

Take a tighter approach to documenting PR content strategy: The content marketing strategy plan-on-a-page approach.

For those of you thinking, “There’s no way I can cram everything we need to do into one page!”—that’s right.

You can’t.

And you shouldn’t try.

Instead, create an overarching PR content strategy document combined with individual channel plans as needed.

Then you can link them to project management tools such as an editorial calendar, process maps, and templates.

What Your PR Content Strategy Should Include

Your PR content strategy plan-on-a-page should include these six elements:

  1. Business goals
  2. Business objectives
  3. Strategy
  4. Metrics
  5. Differentiators
  6. High-level content schedule

This is the format we use to define the PR content strategy for all of Spin Sucks.

This guides our decision-making and planning for the year, especially when I come up with some hair-brained idea that doesn’t fit what we want to accomplish (even though it’s a really, really good idea).

For More, Attend the Curata Webinar I’m Hosting Next Week

I’ll be walking through all of this, plus what to include in your editorial calendar, and how to go from plan to measurable return-on-investment in the upcoming Curata webinar that I’m hosting on Wednesday, April 19 at noon ET.

If you’ve been putting off documenting your PR content strategy, take the time to invest in yourself.

See how our proven framework for creating and executing against a PR content strategy drives real business results.

See you there!

A version of this first appeared on the Curata blog

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • A Moz blog this week echos your post: Constant Content: The Silver Bullet for Failing Content Marketing Strategy. Also, Christoph Trappe commented in his blog: “Maybe the term ‘Content Marketing’ needs to go and be changed to…” What “I”struggle with is using one blog to speak to multiple industries. p.s. Procrastinating on finishing a blog right now!

    • I’ll check out the Moz blog post. I have it in my inbox. Somewhere. 🙂

      I REALLY like what Hubspot does to speak to multiple audiences. Have you checked that out?

      • I subscribe to Hubspot but I should look at the site. Thanks for the tip. Yes, Moz blogs can require some scheduled time to read!

        • They break out the site, based on audience. I’ve always thought it’s done really well.

  • I don’t think there’s a single pitfall I missed. *get back to writing*

    • Ha! We all struggle with these things. I’m terrible about following an editorial calendar. TERRIBLE.

  • PhyllisAnnNichols

    All the things! So much goodness here but best advice (for me) is the plan on a page.
    Putting that into action today for myself and for a top client.
    Genius way to stop planning (and planning to plan) and execute!

  • Edward M. Bury

    Great commentary, as usual. #3 strikes a responsive chord with me, as I’m charged with drafting compelling content from transportation research related to two-way hypergraph models for shared rail corridors (yes, there is such a thing) and other less technical stuff. My goal is to identify and communicate the benefits — safety, environmental, less congestion, etc. — in language anyone can comprehend.

    • That’s really smart. People are typically interested in those benefits.

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