There is a widespread misconception that content creation for B2B Tech content marketing is the same as PR, with clients often asking one to create content for the other. This leads to a bigger question: what really is the difference between content marketing and PR?
To those of us doing it day-in and day-out, content marketing can feel like a well-established and mature industry, but the reality is that B2B tech content marketing is still relatively nascent as a practice. It’s quite understandable that PR practitioners are tasked with implementing it: in fact, quite a few of us here at Isoline Towers have a tech PR background.
Content marketing or PR? Which should I invest in? What will support sales enablement? What will suit my buying personas better? Which will deliver better value for my budget? Which will help achieve my KPIs? The questions keep coming.
Let’s have a look at the two practices and see if we can help debunk the myths.
The Content Marketing Institute defines the practice as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations states “Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
Differences and overlaps
Given these definitions, the differences may seem obvious, but in practice these two fields of communications tend to overlap more than not.
This trend needs to change.
B2B tech content marketing and tech PR work very differently when it comes to terms of usage, cost and what they achieve for tech marketers.
As its name suggests, Content Marketing (CM) is all about marketing through high-quality content. From briefs and research to developing and writing the copy, the job of a content marketer is to create high-quality engaging content for the target audience for a given marketing objective, whether it is sales enablement, thought leadership, awareness generation or customer engagement through account-based marketing. Through insightful, helpful and differentiating content and information, the aim is to build a relationship with the target customer that lasts through a buying or use journey.
The aim of PR is to protect reputation and by extension, to create a reputation for a company, product or service through influencers or social channels. In practice, this is achieved through PRs pitching content for placement in relevant media titles to increase a brand’s positive reputation in the press. There’s a wide range of content to pitch, from news stories, case studies and product launches to thought leadership and soundbites – PRs are essentially the middle man between a business and influencers.
As B2B tech specialists, we are seeing an era of great technical complexity in communications. Companies in fields from network automation, 5G and blockchain are vying for clients’ attention and understanding. Quite often, the goal is to demystify a very technical proposition and make it easy to relate to, so that target customers feel confident to approach it. Content is vital to achieving this, whether through PR or content marketing.
If you’re thinking ‘yes, I understand, the content can be the same but content marketing directly addresses my B2B tech audience and PR places it to increase positive brand awareness in the press.’, you’re wrong. In practice, it’s far from that.
And you’re not alone: many businesses partner with either or, as they themselves don’t necessarily see the difference and therefore, it’s a one for all mentality. This is where the bulk of the problem lies, CMs doing PR jobs and vice versa. If you have your PR agency spending time writing the bulk of your content – something has gone horribly wrong.
The difference is the type of content that is developed, and the way it is used. PR content is focussed on grabbing an influencer’s attention and will often seek to create a context for it. Content is longer, more ‘news-oriented’, and will often seek a ‘news hook’ to draw users into a topic. Almost invariably PR content will shy away from actually promoting products and solutions and it’s often issues-led.
Good content marketing follows all of these principles, but differs in many important ways. It goes without saying that news hooks and hot news topics are useful conversation starters. But content marketing is far more focussed on specific pain points that the target customer faces. It will address these very overtly, and then provide solutions. Content marketing does not have to shy away from promoting the benefits of a particular product: in fact, that’s often its goal!
Content marketing is achieved through owned or paid-for channels, which means there is a lot more control over what can be said. Equally, it needs to be far more concise and factual: short, punchy styles work best. Multimedia and visual content, which is very difficult to deploy in a traditional PR campaign, can be extensively used. The only limit is one’s imagination.
Although it’s not unknown today for PRs to write content for marketing, their time is better spent developing content specifically for PR use and then liaising with the media to place it. Just like content marketers shouldn’t be spending their valuable time placing content but developing the content to begin with. Using a PR person to write a video script can sometimes result in a ‘speech with subtitles’ type of video: simply because that’s just how PR people think!
It’s easy to see why a business may opt for one agency which ends up doing both jobs, but it’s a dangerous game to play. Not only are they different fields of expertise altogether, but you risk having a half job half done by not utilising the experts in the field who know how content and the media work and what makes them tick.
Two sides of the same coin
We all have the same end goal in common, to put the client’s brand message to B2B tech audiences. Content marketing and PR are two sides of the same coin and one cannot succeed without the other – in order to tell great stories, you must first write great stories.
So, now you understand the differences and the pros and cons of both content marketing and PR, do you know what’s best for your business goals at the moment? It should now be evident that businesses need both to address all of their stakeholders. If content marketing is what you need with sales enablement or customer journeys as the primary focus, why not take a look at our recent blog detailing why you should outsource your content marketing to an external agency, and how to choose an agency.
Totally disagree? Want to give your thoughts? Get in touch and let’s chat.