Beyond PR

Oct 29, 2012

Content Marketing Case Study: It Sure Looks Like PR to Me

Editor’s note: The practices outlined in this article are from 2012. Visit our public relations or press release quick tips pages for the latest best practices.

A blog post on search engine authority SEOMoz titled “How I Got a Link from the Wall Street Journal” offers some real instruction for PR pros on linking content – and public relations outputs – with measurable, top-line business results.

It’s worth noting that the author of the post – and the content marketing campaign discussed – is Larry Kim, the founder and CTO of Wordstream, a search marketing firm.  (There’s another link for you, Larry – I know you’re counting.)  In short, he is a data-driven quant, C-suite denizen and SEO guru.  And within his case study is some very important guidance for public relations pros.

Think strategically (and holistically) about online pickup.

The first lesson to be derived from Larry’s post is this:  PR should think more deliberately about the value to be had for the organizations we’re promoting in the online mentions and “pick up” we generate — and not just in terms of PR outcomes.   In this day and age, the content we publish digitally can provide a variety of benefits to an organization.  The content, for example, can be mapped your customers’ buying process by your marketing team, and re-purposed.  And the content can generate potent search engine visibility – if you manage the language and linking correctly.  Optimizing press releases and other content can certainly help, however, it’s important to think beyond one granular message, and think instead in terms of how messages can improve web site search rank and provide content that aids potential customers as they make buying decisions.

Defining SEO benefits

What do I mean by “good link” and “significant SEO benefits”?  Search engine optimization is the art and science of fine tuning a web site’s content (among other things) so it shows up on the first page of search results for specific, targeted keywords and phrases.

A “good link” is one that includes one of those target terms, and links back to related pages on your web site.   Here’s how Larry defined his objective of garnering a “good link” from the WSJ.

Real, editorial links from the WSJ. But not just any link. Ideally, links in an article that:

  • In some way mentioned WordStream (my company) so that we could get a bit of media exposure out of this effort
  • Links to both our homepage and contained to a deep page on our site with relevant anchor text.

Now, as we all know, the sort of placement Larry in talking about – real, editorial placement – is right in PR’s wheelhouse.   How many of us are working with our web marketing teams and thinking about search terms and deep links when we’re developing our PR campaigns and planning our tactics?  Anecdotally, from the many conversations I’ve had with PR teams over the years, I’m going to venture to guess that the answer to that question is “Not many.”

A good link from a high-profile, high-authority news site – whether it’s the Wall St. Journal or an important niche publication – can provide lift in search rankings for your web site, which is a proven driver of business results, as well as fuel for social conversations.   The content we publish, and the results it generates across the enterprise – is all connected.

Newsworthy content & a good news hook

As one continues reading Larry’s post, it reads more-and more like a modern guide on how to get more PR pick up. He emphasized the need for newsworthy, unique content that was written for the WSJ readership, not a bunch of search experts.

Further on in the case, Larry also addresses the vital necessity of a solid news hook, and how he went about identifying the hook for his “content marketing” campaign.

Finally, by now we know that press releases with multimedia generate better results than plain text.  Larry knows the power of visuals too, and made an infographic central to his campaign.

This *really* sounds like PR now, doesn’t it?

The importance of high-value links & a new definition of “pick up”

I’m prepared to argue that generating high-value links from credible media and blogs should be a key goal of many PR campaigns.   This is a new facet to that old standard in our business – achieving editorial “pick up,” and it’s one that our peers in marketing are really good at measuring.  The teams who manage web marking, in particular, generally have really good insight into the performance of different web site content in terms of the generation of qualified traffic and leads, conversion rate and search rank.   There’s no reason why the content PR deploys can’t be tweaked in order to work in tandem with other content deployed by the organization.  This ‘tweaking’ isn’t onerous.  It just requires a little collaboration with the web marketing team, getting organized, and then being sure to use target terms in PR content, and linking those terms to relevant web site pages. In addition to synching publishing strategies, the same should also be done for measurement at well.  It’s not unreasonable to imagine a scenario in which a press release, for example, is measured in terms of resulting high-value media links, leads generated and search marketing value.

Borrowing a few pages from Larry’s playbook is a good idea for PR.  Simply put, we can leverage the press releases and other content we produce, publish and syndicate to impact far more than the goals set for the PR department and the outcomes the organization usually expect from the public relations team.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media and has written extensively on how public relations, content marketing and search intersect.

4 Comments on Blog Post Title

Jayme Soulati (@Soulati) 08:46 EDT on Oct 30, 2012

“Wheelhouse” — the most trendy vernacular around these days! I digress; excellent tips for PR peeps when optimizing online content. Thanks for this.

Sarah Skerik 09:11 EDT on Oct 30, 2012

LOL – I’ve been saying “wheelhouse” for years – I’m a baseball fan and you hear it all the time watching games. But I’m glad you liked the post, Jayme, thanks for the kind words!

Larry Kim 23:30 EDT on Oct 30, 2012

Hi sarah – thanks for writing such a thoughtful article here. You make great points about similarities between Content Marketing and PR, and i agree with all of them. That’s not to say that there aren’t some differences between the two – I’ve definitely observed some differences when it comes to attitudes, goals and scale of operation between the typical SEO/Content Marketer in comparison to the typical PR exec – and i know that you pointed out a few of those differences in your article. anyway, I’m sure you get this a lot, but i think you’re a really strong writer! i thought this was a very well written article. Thanks again.

Sarah Skerik 10:54 EDT on Oct 31, 2012

Thanks for the note and the kind words, Larry. The outcomes you garnered with the campaign you highlighted aren’t the usual type of goals we see in PR campaigns. There are some great lessons for PR pros on how to get more value for the organizations they represent in the example you gave. PR can learn a lot from the SEO/content marketing crowd – especially when it comes to tying campaign outcomes to the business top line. Your case study was really thought-provoking! No wonder it got bumped up from YouMoz to the big show!

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