By Jean Spencer published December 14, 2014

The Role of PR and Content Marketing in 2015


We just hired our first full-time PR person at Kapost. His name is Dan.

When we were hiring for the position, I remember cautiously warning each candidate we interviewed, “We’ve never really had an ‘official PR person’ on the team. Historically, it’s been our philosophy to avoid traditional marketing tactics.”

Our company is a firm believer in pure content marketing over traditional marketing. We always lumped “PR” in the “traditional marketing” bucket, so this hire broke our unadulterated code of content marketing ethics and forced us to answer this question: Are PR and content marketing mutually exclusive?

Really, many CMOs face this question when putting together marketing strategy and budgets. They believe they lack the time and resources to meet the demands of both content marketing and PR. After all, there are only so many hours in a week, and so many dollars for staffing.

They view the question as a singular choice. They ask: Should we produce content to fill our owned publishing outlets OR do we give our stories to the “news” for greater earned media?

It’s not an all-or-nothing decision. The best answer is a mixture of PR and content marketing.

Content marketing is the golden child of modern marketing – driving long-term thought leadership, page-rank advantage, and nurtured trust between a buyer and a brand. But PR plays an invaluable, complementary role.

1. PR increases brand awareness, lead pool

Content marketing isn’t just about production, it’s also about distribution. We allocate a majority of our focus and resources to building our own channels because they deliver long-term growth, bolster search-engine rank, and increase our position as thought leaders. But the content that we build must be distributed so people can find it.

Key elements of marketing are to attract an even greater audience, lead pool, and increasing brand awareness. While content marketing beefs up one’s owned-media channels, PR bolsters earned media and likely garners new eyes for a brand.

Tip: To successfully drive more high-quality leads to your brand through public relations, smartly choose media outlets that make sense for your brand/industry. Seek media sources with high clout and influencers whom your target customers trust.

2. PR ‘hits’ strengthen corporate credibility and brand communication

If your CEO announces on your blog that the new “X” feature is going to change the game, maybe 20% of people will believe it. But, if a major news outlet publishes your CEO’s announcement that the new “X” feature is going to change the game in your industry, a majority of people will believe it.

Corporate blogs carry a stigma of self-serving promotion, and the general public is still more likely to trust traditional news outlets.

So, if you have a big announcement that needs validation, go get your PR guy. Your CEO can tout new product features as much as he or she wants on the corporate blog, but good luck getting the public to believe. On the other hand, one credible media “hit” and your word is golden.

Tip: Develop relationships strategically with journalists and learn their styles. Each news publication has a different personality, tone, and set of criteria for submitting work. The better you tailor your submission, the better the chances of your story being published. For outlets that are likely to reprint your news as submitted, pay attention to their publication style such as:

  • Does it use the Oxford comma?
  • Does it capitalize titles?
  • Does it use last name or first name for people on second reference?

3. PR challenges the content team to think about the greater good

One tenet of content marketing is to be buyer-centric and produce content our public wants to consume. However, with product marketers, sales teams, and engineering teams demanding one-off content assets, sometimes our efforts can be derailed.

PR reminds content teams to focus on the public. What stories are the most interesting? How are current events shaping our industry, and where can we be involved in those trends? By working collaboratively, PR can bring fresh insights, creative angles, and a greater perspective of the public into content marketing production. PR’s goal is to share a story that is so compelling that members of the media eagerly want to publish the story on their front page. If content marketers crafted equally powerful stories for owned media channels, consumers would eat it up. The distribution vehicles may vary, but the results are the same – good stories that engage your targeted audiences.

Tip: What is your angle? Whether it’s a PR pitch for The New York Times or a Tuesday blog post, your stories should have a unique perspective. Reporters don’t want to cover the same old thing every day, and your audience doesn’t want to read crud.

Consider how to make better content through:

  • freshness
  • relevancy
  • timeliness
  • trendiness
  • newsworthiness

Working PR into your marketing mix

When it’s all said and done, PR and content marketing really are working toward the same goals – increased brand awareness, educated audiences, increased thought leadership, better industry positioning, and customer loyalty, to name a few.

While modern marketing has certainly changed best practices, one thing has remained constant: There’s always an opportunity to tell a better brand story to a larger audience. As a result, PR can play a powerful role in content marketing in 2015.

Want more insight to help you plan strategically for the upcoming year? Check out all the fantastic CMW sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal.

Cover image by Alice Birkin,, via pixabay

Author: Jean Spencer

Jean Spencer is a content marketing manager and writer at Kapost. Her interest lies at the intersection of journalism and technology, and her writing has appeared on Social Media Today, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, and more. Send a tweet or story ideas to @JeanWrites

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  • Jim Leman

    Selfishly and because PR does what this article embraces, I Agree entirely.

  • Edwin Dearborn

    Great insight into a how PR, like kindness, is truly timeless.

  • Jean Spencer

    Thanks Edwin and Jim for reading and sharing your thoughts. =)

  • Rob TheGenie Toth

    We run a process called Flood The Internet at our agency… primarily centered around content marketing and its various facets, supplemented with native advertising (and naturally retargeting)… but a backbone of the process is definitely PR. A PR outreach gives the product, expert, company, brand or any project the benefits you listed… and is, in a way, content creation (interviews that come from it, for example, are content assets no different than anything we create or curate for the project).

    In fact, even more so today as we’ve going from the few major media outlets to the many independent and start-up medias (the curated sites, the blogs, the podcasters, the youtubers…), the “meat” is now spread on many tables. And having a dedicated focus on this is (we find) quite necessary.

  • sabguthrie

    I like the distinction between marketing being buyer-centric and PR: public-centric. Apart from that the article focuses on media relations and not public relations. Media relations is one facet of public relations. A discipline of diminishing importance.

    The social web has allowed PR to become decoupled from its reliance on earned media via mass media. Today public relations also embraces influencer relations, community management, and is moving towards, ultimately helping business become social business.

    There, too, is an argument within PR that it demeans itself by being thought of as part of marketing and rather should fulfil a higher role than that of tactics.

    • Jean Spencer

      @sabguthrie:disqus, very insightful comment, thank you. I think you make a good point, and it’s a distinction I should have included in the article. The bigger concept that you’re touching on, is interesting too: the fact that the definition of made media roles are changing as web-based publishing continues to develop a foothold. For instance “content marketing” didn’t even exist 6 years ago, really. Now it’s one of the fastest growing terms in LinkedIn within the marketing field.

      Perhaps there is another article here that talks about the new definitions of some of the more tenured marketing roles. =)

  • chrismarklee

    I do income taxes for locals in a town I grew up. I make sure my customers are satisfied with my work. If I make a mistake on a Tax return I correct it immediately. I double check my work.

    Owner CEL Financial Services

  • Mary Jane Kinkade

    Fabulous article about the importance of using a combination of content marketing and PR. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • Jean Spencer

      Aweome, Mary Jane. Appreciate the feedback. I think there are those people (like you and me) who see the alignment easily…but for others its harder to grasp.

  • Brendan Cournoyer

    Interesting post Jean. I’d be great to see a follow-up to this some time next year after you’ve had some time to acclimate Dan to the team. I’ve seen more than a few clashes between Content Marketers and PR folks — it can be rocky. I’d be interested to see if there are any lessons learned you could share once some time has passed.

    • Jean Spencer

      Thanks Brendan, that’s a great idea. One of my favorite things to do is go back on old articles and review them.

  • Mike Black

    I thought I read studies that noted consumers trusting corporate media over traditional media. That goes against points of your article, but I agree with the idea that it will increase your credibility. I’d love to see some follow up as well. Thanks for the article!

    • Jean Spencer

      @disqus_oiZfA6Rshl:disqus I’m sure there are several studies regarding traditional media vs. corporate media, but in Kapost’s most recent research on B2B marketers, traditional media inches corporate as more trusted. In fact, we found: Forbes, Harvard Business Review, MarketingProfs, the Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal are the top 5 spots marketers go for industry-related content or information.

      Read the full report here:

      (This was a study of ~80 B2B marketers from companies with 1,000+ employees)

      • Mike Black

        Interesting – I don’t have the data in front of me. I’m thinking back to a This Old Marketing podcast. I might have my facts wrong. I will check out the report. That list is very interesting. I trust and use 3 of the 5 you listed.

  • Judy Gombita

    I’m with Scott Guthrie (@sabguthrie) in his declaration that you are talking about MEDIA relations (whether mainstream/traditional or social/digital etc.) rather than the full spectrum of (“reputation, value and relationships”) public relations (as a core management function).

    Not to discount the role (and value he will bring) of your new hire but PLEASE, tell it like it is: You hired him to do media relations.

    A lot of it boils down to whether one sees public relations as a separate (strategic business communications/relationships) discipline OR as simply a small, tactical corner under The Big Marketing Tent. Are you familiar with the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management’s Melbourne Mandate, Jean? It can familiarize you with the roles and responsibilities of “big picture” (not small corner) public relations and communication management.

    The Melbourne Mandate

    A new conversation on changing organizations–and changing communication

    At the World Public Relations Forum 2012 in Melbourne almost 800 delegates from 29 countries endorsed the Melbourne Mandate, a call to action of new areas of value for public relations and communication management in three spheres:

    – the character of the organization and its values
    – the ability of the organization to listen – and its culture
    – the responsibility of practitioners to society, the organization, their profession and themselves.

    – See more at:

    • Jean Spencer

      @judygombita:disqus, again, good point in distinguishing between public relations and media relations. You and @sabguthrie:disqus represent a fine argument that media relations can be one part of a PR role, and not the whole bag. I’ll be interested in checking at Melbourne Mandate.

      • Judy Gombita

        In larger companies/organizations there is often a dedicated media relations person who USUALLY “reports” to the PR or CCO (chief communication officer). It doesn’t tend to be the most-senior role, though.

        On the other hand, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a valid comment made by (hybrid academic/practitioner) UK-based Richard Bailey (on one of my blog post) regarding the “stages” of public relations, based on company age (and size):

        …Public relations functions in different ways across an organisation’s lifecycle.

        – Startups arguably need publicity more than they need anything else (even money).
        – Growing businesses then add in some more corporate PR functions such as employee comms.
        – Mature businesses employ the full range of PR, from publicity to public affairs via crisis comms.
        – Declining businesses no longer need much publicity, but they still have assets so the primary PR function becomes investor relations.

        This model works best for private sector business, but much of it applies to public sector and third sector organisations which arguably depend even more on public relations.

        So in this analysis, without publicity there may never be a need for fully-functioning corporate PR. It’s the easy-sell that gets the function noticed before the difficult work starts around organisational legitimacy.

        If we give up on owning publicity, then this only encourages those who claim it as ‘content marketing’.

        Found here:

    • Scott Guthrie

      Thanks Judy.
      This year’s World Public Relations Forum update of The Madrid Momentum is worth a look, too:

      It bolsters your point about big picture over small corner and helps position PR as something with higher aspirations than tactical pursuits.

      • Judy Gombita

        I’m a huge fan of Anne Gregory (current chair of the Global Alliance), Scott! The post she wrote for PR Conversations proved to be really, really popular, too. (It’s still near the top of the Most-Read posts, almost two months later.)

        The Four Ps of Public Relations Leadership:

        • sabguthrie | Scott Guthrie

          I thoroughly enjoyed Anne and Paul Willis’ book on Strategic PR. [Not sure what’s happening with Disqus … didn’t intend to be hidden as guest or go via sabguthrie]

  • Jim Crawford

    New name, same old thing. PR has always been about media relations and content marketing.

  • Bess Obarotimi

    PR is definitely useful for those building brands particularly in the offline arena. Which almost seems weird to say – “offline arena” seeing as the line is getting very thin..

  • Frank Strong

    Content marketing *is* PR. How do you build relationships? By having conversations. That’s is what content, in the content marketing sense, does.

  • Tina Hue

    I would especially emphasize that treating mistakes as times for people and the organization to learn — rather than as problems to be swept under the rug or worse yet for blaming and creating scapegoats — might be the most important point on the list.

  • Defazpr

    Very interesting discussion. As a PR man working within an “integrated” shop, I would like to ask the author why she felt the need to hire an internal PR person? The article seems to suggest that there was recognition that traditional PR, notably media relations, was perhaps a necessary and missing piece to the offering.