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The PR industry globally is undergoing one of its biggest changes since social media boomed across the web – it’s called content strategy and it’s rocketing through the traditional corridors of marketing and PR.

PR needs to think about and apply content strategy

Why do you think a well-known global PR firm recently appointed an ex BBC journalist as Chief Content Officer?

[This is a guest post from experienced corporate communicator, Craig Badings.*]

We all know content’s not new. It’s what we’ve been doing for years.  In fact when PR first started in the US, companies employed journalists to write content that looked and sounded the way the company wanted.  So why would I flag something that has been around the PR world forever as one of the biggest changes facing our industry?

Because the rules of the content game have changed dramatically.  First, traditional content development and production required a significant process, budget and distribution, but nowadays you can do it from your mobile phone and include sound, image and video if needed.

Second, the gap between the customer and the company has closed.  Not only is the time of content to market almost immediate but clients and customers can interact with the company in real time with real people – except of course for those wretched voice response calls when you call your telecom provider!

Three words come to mind:  strategic, authentic, storytelling.

Companies can no longer interact with their audiences the way they have in the past.  The days of controlling and owning brand messages are gone.

Today, brands need to engage and interact with their audiences in different ways.

We no longer live in the world of top-down story telling.  Instead we have entered a world where entertaining, authentic and engaging story-telling is what our customers want.

Our content should connect with an audience so they feel inclined to interact, share, comment and most importantly own and believe it.

The PR person of today and tomorrow needs to be a great story teller.  No more corporate speak, no more messaging cow clods, no more, “We’ll tell you what you need to know and don’t ask us questions.”

The way customers search for information these days means we need to deliver a fantastic content experience.  Instead of pitching products and services, our role is to deliver customers knowledge in an entertaining, timely, informative and non-promotional way that helps them make decisions and that enables them to share the content with their consumer friends or B2B colleagues.

First we need to know the customer

But to get this right and in order to deliver great content that hits the right spot we better be sure we clearly define the audience.  We should understand their needs and their issues as well as know where and how they consume content.

Only then can we truly develop a content asset and distribution strategy to reach, educate and inspire them.

Content strategy is long-term

The key is to engage the customer for the long-term.  To do this, as PR practitioners, we will need to measure the impact of our content across various stages of the buying cycle.  Finding and understanding your audience in the first place takes time, effort and resources so why do it if you aren’t in the content game for the long haul.

Our clients must become publishers

Most companies, whether they are consumer or B2B oriented, will need to become publishers.  If not they are missing not only a huge opportunity to engage with their customers but they will lose ground to their competitors.

When someone like Seth Godin says that content marketing is “all the marketing that is left” as PR practitioners we should sit up and take note.

BRAND_STAND_7 steps to thought leadership

Craig Badings is a director of Sydney-based Cannings Corporate Communications and has his own blog on thought leadership and is the author of the thought leadership guide the experts refer to, Brand Stand: seven steps to thought leadership. He can be networked with via LinkedIn or Twitter.