A diverse group of young people sit around a table strewn with notebooks, post-it notes, pens and a couple of laptops. The five people around the table appear to be in conversation, with a couple of people looking at a large, glossy photograph placed between them. Behind the man at the head of the table is a screen showing part of a bar graph.
Although they often work hand-in-hand, PR and content marketing have different audiences, workflows, and metrics for success. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

Public relations (PR) has been around for a long time, while content marketing is a relatively new concept. While some similarities exist, they are two very different departments with different objectives. Let’s look at five differences you need to know about.

[Read more: What’s the Difference Between PR and Marketing?]

They have different goals

According to the Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

On the other hand, the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

These two definitions summarize how PR and content marketing pursue different goals — PR is about creating a positive image for an organization. In comparison, content marketing is a digital tactic that is used to develop and distribute content.

They target a different audience

In addition to focusing on different goals, PR and content marketing are targeting different audiences. PR is usually trying to reach the media and an organization’s existing customer base. They’re trying to build credibility with the organization’s existing audience.

Content marketing does focus on building customer loyalty, but it’s also attempting to create an entirely new audience. By creating helpful content that ranks well in search engines, content marketing draws in a new audience that may not be familiar with the company.

Different work is involved

Both PR and content marketing use writing and online communication channels to communicate their message, but they go about it in different ways. PR professionals focus on the following types of activities:

  • Securing positive press coverage.
  • Building and maintaining mutually beneficial media relationships.
  • Doing damage control with negative or embarrassing press coverage.
  • Identifying speaking and interview opportunities.

PR is about creating a positive image for an organization. In comparison, content marketing is a digital tactic that is used to develop and distribute content.

In comparison, content marketing professionals focus on the following activities:

  • Writing SEO-focused blog posts.
  • Creating content that will build an audience and improve customer loyalty.
  • Creating case studies, podcasts, infographics, and other engaging content.
  • Creating thought leadership content that shares a company’s knowledge and skills.

Content marketing is also used on a more consistent basis than PR. The content marketing team will continue creating new content regardless of what happens in the media. In comparison, PR is often used to promote an event or in response to media attention.

[Read more: Public Relations vs. Public Affairs: What’s the Difference?]

You’ll measure success differently with each

Because the goals differ, both content marketing and PR measure success differently. In PR, success is primarily defined by the level of positive press coverage. For instance, getting a high number of media placements or a mention in a high-authority media outlet would be considered a success.

In content marketing, page views, referral traffic, and the number of leads obtained are all signs of success. In particular, placing a contributed article on another site and earning a backlink would be a sign of success.

Content marketing can be more challenging to execute

According to WordStream, content marketing can be more challenging to execute than PR. Content marketing requires a lot of time, effort, and highly specialized skills. In addition, content marketing can be highly unpredictable, and you never know which piece of content will take off.

However, it’s important to note that PR facilitates your content marketing strategy. A PR team can help put your content marketing efforts in front of the right influencers, journalists, and bloggers.

So even though PR and content marketing are different, they work hand-in-hand. Both create relevant content that will generate a positive image for the company, attract new customers, and create a strong brand image.

[Read more: 7 Things to Know When Hiring a PR Firm]

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