If you’re a PR practitioner, I think you’d enjoy the conversation on John Raffetto’s post, What PR pros know that content marketers don’t. One of the highlights is the commenters’ emphasis on PR as a learned discipline with strict principles – a fact that eludes people who use the term “PR” as synonymous with “hype.” As a PR professional I automatically adhere to the discipline’s set of ethics no matter what I’m doing – just as, after years of grad school, I can’t ignore the teaching, “Always cite your sources and never plagiarize.” I have a pretty good understanding of what constitutes PR and journalism and how they differ from content marketing. But increasingly, I find the lines between them becoming blurred.
From my day-to-day media relations work for some of my clients, I find that content is king and everybody wants it. In years past you had to pitch bylines, and while you still do, more often than not when I pitch a story idea, someone responds, “Can the source submit a byline/blog on that?” Usually the answer is “yes,” which also means my team drafts the piece for the client to review or fine-tune. So we’re creating the content while also pitching the idea to other media.
Recently, we wrote a byline that the requesting publication liked very much. Separately, my client – the author of the article – shared the piece with a social/content marketing firm he works with and was asked if it (or a slightly edited version) could be submitted as a blog on one of the client’s partner’s sites. My client, believing it was his content, said, “Sure.” But as a scrupulous PR professional I vetoed the idea, maintaining that the requesting publication gets right of first publication. After that, if it’s OK with the editor, we can either share with someone else (stating where it originally appeared) or link to it in a client blog or tweet (almost always desirable for a publication).
The publication promised us the piece would appear Sept. 1, then Sept. 30, and now sometime in October. It will definitely appear, they say. Meanwhile, the content marketing company had put it on their editorial calendar for late September, so they had to come up with different content because of the delay. Now I find my allegiance to the publication stretched thin, and I’m wondering if I should just change the piece up a bit, let the partner blog go with it, and take my chances with the publication. The content is good and I want to get it out there!
I’ll probably end up waiting, but this is an example of the kind of line-blurring between content marketing and PR that I encounter. As we continue to navigate these choices, I know that RH Strategic starts with an allegiance to accepted journalistic principles, and that’s not going to change. But I also know that clients are being solicited by others who can get their content out faster to a potentially larger audience. Editors of traditional media need to understand this, too.
How should today’s PR professionals navigate the blurred lines of journalism and content marketing? Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHetoricBlog.
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