"For what it’s worth, I still have the 'PR is a sellout' journalist mindset. I would never do PR."
So says Jessica Bennett, Editorial Director of Lean In, in a recent interview in The Strategist.
My ire always rises a bit when I read something like that since that visceral anti-PR thinking reflects what I consider to be an antiquated idea of public relations.
In fact, as journalists embrace branded content and PR practitioners cozy up to content marketing, the two disciplines are moving closer together. Journalists, in my experience (Confession: I’m a former reporter who at one point looked down my nose at PR people), often associate PR with spinning and propaganda, and journalism with fact-based reporting and fairness. However, as brands, whether B2B or B2C, encourage ongoing conversations with customers, they are becoming more transparent about their deficiencies. Smart brands, for example, allow customers to post negative, as well as positive experiences, in social media.
In fact, New York Life found that by allowing negative comments about its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender site (LGBT) its fans rallied around it with their positive comments far outweighing negative remarks.
Moreover, any brand that creates content can’t produce puff pieces and expect to get its articles taken seriously. After all, who has the time or interest to read about a chest-thumping brand? Brand content, like any good content, requires a customer-driven focus: whether that is to inform, educate, entertain. Or ultimately engage.
Forbes with its BrandVoice content is an excellent example of an outlet that seamlessly mixes company-created content with journalist-created pieces. As Lewis DVorkin, Forbes' Chief Product Officer, notes, "In the new world of media today, content is content."
"Audiences want and value informative content from knowledgeable parties – that includes journalists, topic-specific experts and marketers," says DVorkin. "By clearly identifying the source you enable the reader to understand the filter through which the content was created."
"I believe that people gravitate toward content they trust and over the last three years, according to comScore, our audience has grown from 12 million unique users to 25 million," DVorkin told the New York Times' David Carr this week.
Meanwhile, consumers are voting with their eyes and ears by flocking to well-done company content. The software company SAP, for instance, saw a story its CEO wrote rise to the No. 2 spot on Forbes’ list of its most popular stories.
At the end of the day, no one—not journalists, not brands—holds a monopoly on good content. If you want to be heard, It’s up to you to seize the content brass ring. I'd love to hear how you are doing so.
[Image: Flickr user Jyrki Salmi]