The PR toolkit has evolved well beyond traditional press releases and media interviews to include the storytelling power of content marketing. While attention spans continue to decrease and consumer eyes are focusing on the shorter format of social media, many resource-constrained media outlets are hunting for supplementary material to accompany their content. In this case, brand-generated content marketing becomes the media’s golden arrow.
Content marketing can best be defined as the proactive creation and targeted distribution of relevant, meaningful content to attract and retain a targeted audience. PR teams can effectively leverage multimedia content marketing in 2021 to expertly position clients among new and existing audiences while enhancing media relationships, supporting editorial storytelling and boosting brand awareness.
Strategic & shareable storytelling boosts brand visibility
By creating/sharing unique, actionable content, corporate and personal brands can build visibility, provide value and establish expertise within their industries. The best brand content is interesting, dynamic, relevant and valuableto its audience while inciting profitable action from them. Whether you are highlighting industry trends, identifying cutting-edge solutions to commonly experienced pain points or simply showing solidarity with current issues and events, your team can step beyond blatant advertising to connect with your audience through thoughtful content marketing campaigns.
- Go where your audience is: User trends show that short-form content is often most effective in terms of mass sharing and engagement (i.e., Instagram reels or TikTok videos kept under 15 seconds). Instagram content should reveal the essence, personality and humanity of your brand and embed subtle selling cues that are secondary to your conversation with the audience. Facebook provides deeper third-party content reposting capabilities, more multimedia upload options and the opportunity to activate your audience via check-ins and reviews. YouTube supports high-quality, longer-form video content and thought leadership series, while blogs and newsletters allow you to speak directly and informally to your audience about how your brand is evolving to continually meet their needs.
- Drive home the “why” of your work: While it is important to establish and maintain a presence across every social media platform your audience is already using, you should always ensure your content provides powerful, valuable messaging. Slick graphics and attractive design elements are great, but they are merely a driver to the story you are telling. Once you have strategized your story/messaging, you can repurpose and repackage the way in which you tell it. For example, an hour-long podcast can be edited into much shorter soundbites, and a thought leadership article can be parsed down and designed into trendy quote graphics for Instagram. In 2021, the most important content creation elements will help maintain consistency across the brand, including color palettes, image themes and topic trends.
Your content can create community
A key driver of public relations is the “relations” element—where a brand or business connects with its audience, and the PR professional links the brand with media and other influencers. The relationship must always shine through each effort. Compelling visual content can help engage an audience if it is created with that specific audience in mind and resonates with their lifestyle. People want to consume content that will provide education, motivation and perspective. They want branded content that feels personalized to them and answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” (also known as WIIFM). Your content needs to showcase your knowledge andpersonality, which will solidify your credibility and connection with the audience on a deeper level.
- Bring your audience into your brand: The most successful content in 2021 will increasingly focus on demonstrating products or services in real-world scenarios, allowing your audience to visualize themselves living with and adopting the brand for their unique lifestyle. Leveraging customer testimonials and reviews can help earn brand confidence and build up a customer community. We have a saying in marketing: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” meaning products are sold based on the benefits and emotions they elicit. Can your audience envision how your product or service has improved their lives by solving a problem or enhancing their day?
Join the current narrative(s): One way to ensure that your content is of interest is to research trending topics (YouTube, Twitter, etc.) and see if there are any that fit with your brand. Once you find a suitable trend, you can create content that comments on these topics and contributes to the conversation. Not every piece of content marketing needs to directly discuss how great your brand is. Your simple participation in the discussion shows an interest in and commitment to your industry, current events and the evolving needs of your audience.
- Augment your audience’s reality: By the end of 2021, content marketing will have also evolved to include virtual reality and augmented reality segments. Since the pandemic forced many people to stay home, consumers have been looking for safe and innovative ways to have new experiences. Placing computer-generated images/videos or supplemental information into real-world settings can help meet this desire.
After the global pause brought on by this past year, 2021 will be a season for new beginnings and fresh starts. Audiences will be hungry for new connections and experiences after the isolation they may have felt since the start of the pandemic. They will be seeking content that exudes positivity, inclusivity and hope for the future. As companies launch new and paused products or services in the new year, they can turn to PR agencies, designers and production companies to help develop the kind of content that goes beyond simple brand promotion and meaningfully connects them with their audiences.