All too often, in a short-term bid to win customers and grow sales, we neglect the very things that underpin the achievement of the commercial goals we so desperately seek.
- Increased brand recognition and top-of-mind awareness
- Enhanced personal or organisational reputation
- Growing influence and authority in the marketplace
- Heightened advocacy and loyalty among core buyers and influencers
- Reinforcement of a credible thought, knowledge or industry leadership positioning in the marketplace or community where you operate.
A solid combination of these factors often will act as a forerunner to commercial outcomes.
Of course, these will differ from entity to entity.
A business wants more leads and sales, a politician is after votes and positive media coverage, an NGO seeks donations and increased advocacy in the community, an industry association needs to attract and retain fee-paying members, while an employed business professional wants access to better career opportunities in the marketplace.
INTRODUCING THE 5 VITAL PILLARS
At the heart of a robust long-term PR and communications program, which includes content marketing activity, beat five foundational elements that, when combined strategically, are critical to the ongoing reputational health and success of any business, government body or nonprofit organisation.
I call them the 5 VITAL pillars. They are:
- Visibility: raising awareness of your brand, cause or issue by establishing and maintaining an active, respectful presence in the marketplace or community where you operate
- Influence: having an effect on someone or something by motivating people to take a specific course of action, changing people’s behaviour or improving public sentiment around a particular brand or issue
- Trust: building reputation by growing the bonds of trust between your entity and its publics (the people who matter most to the success of your business, cause or issue)
- Advocacy: growing and nurturing a solid base of champions, enthusiasts and allies of your brand, people who will talk positively about your business or organisation, share your content and defend you if and when necessary
- Leadership: establishing and reinforcing a knowledge, thought, community or industry leadership positioning in the marketplace.
While a good spread of these foundational elements will help businesses and organisations grow and fortify their brand and reputation, I’m cognisant that an organisation’s goals will dictate those pillars where extra heft is needed.
For example, if you’re a new business, visibility and awareness are probably more critical, whereas a community organisation that has, say, been subject to some damaging issues in the past, may want to double down on activities designed to build trust with its constituents.
A business that steadfastly refuses to advertise in a traditional sense might want to put emphasis on growing its community of advocates to help spread positive word of mouth.
A professional services firm might focus on building thought leadership around its core areas of expertise; knowing this will help separate them from the competition and attract the right clients to the business.
Importantly, content can play a critical role in building and reinforcing any or all of these five pillars.
But rushing out to create content for the sake of it – articles, videos, podcasts, plus micro-content on social channels – is premature if you’re not sure on why you’re doing it.
That’s why it’s critical you sit down with your team early on to determine your goals, understand your audience and work out what your priorities are.
Oh, and don’t forget the ‘pillars’ that will make your brand stand out in the eyes of your desired target audience.
NOTE: I discuss these themes in more detail in my book, Content Marketing for PR: How to build brand visibility, influence and trust in today’s social age.