All too often, in a short-term bid to grow sales, we neglect the very things that underpin the achievement of the commercial goals we so desperately seek. For example:
- Increased brand recognition and top-of-mind awareness
- Enhanced personal or organizational 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.
Welcome to content marketing for PR, and the 5 VITAL pillars
At the heart of a robust long-term PR 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 organization.
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 and visible 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 behavior 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 organization, 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 organizations grow and fortify their brand and reputation, I’m cognizant that a company’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 organization 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.
In this article, I’m going to focus on the ‘visibility’ component of VITAL. Let’s unpack it.
What do we know?
Today’s marketplace is hopelessly cluttered. Our collective attention span is choking with the sheer volume of branded promotional messages that come our way at all hours of the day, seeping in from a multitude of sources, both online and offline.
Hence, being visible is rule numero uno. But don’t be boorish about it. Shouting loudly from the rooftops about your brand, products and services, or slapping your logo on anything that moves is not going to win you friends.
I’m talking about having strategic omnipresence in the marketplace. This is when you’re known, recognized and respected for who you are, what you do and what you stand for. This is mission critical. If you’re not even on people’s radar, you’re already behind the eight-ball. That can make life tough in a world where infinite choice beckons at the touch of a smartphone.
To succeed today, brands need to be known, liked, trusted, front of mind and talked about in a positive way in the marketplace. Strategic omnipresence equates to being known and front of mind.
Building visibility through content
A strategic content-led communications program works organically for businesses day in and day out all year round, keeping your brand top of mind with the people who matter most to the success of your business, cause or issue.
But we need to be strategic about it.
Quality content will find an audience. It gets shared, liked, bookmarked, recommended, commented upon and discussed. Maybe it gets linked to or even republished. And sometimes it will find its way up the search engine rankings, where it gets discovered, clicked on and read, watched, listened to, shared, liked and commented on again and again.
All of this, in aggregate, leads to online visibility.
Now, it goes without saying that the more interesting and relevant your content is, the greater the chance of online visibility you’ll achieve. The brilliant thing about content marketing for PR is that it’s cumulative. Unlike an advertisement that’s here one minute and gone the next, content in all its forms hangs around forever. It’s an asset that has the potential to work for your brand over the long haul.
The power of digital serendipity
We often discover and then consume content in nonlinear ways.
Sometimes we’re purposeful about it. For example, a Google search might feature an article from your company blog that addresses an informational need we might have, or provides color for a research report we’re writing. Better still, we subscribe to your podcast or follow you on Twitter, and when you share your content, we spot it and click on it.
We might also land on a brand’s content through sheer luck in any number of possible ways:
Someone you follow on Twitter or are connected to on LinkedIn shares a video featuring a noted thought leader discussing an industry trend relevant to you, and up it pops in your feed.
Or this video is featured in a story published by an online publication that covers your industry.
Or a speaker refers to this video at a seminar you attend and you subsequently check it out, quite possibly then and there, and potentially share it with other attendees.
Never underestimate the power of digital serendipity!
But I’ll leave the last word on brand visibility to five-time New York Times best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk, who made the leap from obscurity when he was running his family’s New Jersey liquor store to global recognition as an authority on digital marketing and entrepreneurship.
The elevation of his personal brand resulted from the strategic omnipresence Vaynerchuk built up over time by creating compelling content. His speeches, books, videos and other premium content, in turn, led to earned media coverage in magazines and newspapers and on blogs, podcasts and network television.
“Exposure equals leverage”, says the man known to millions as Gary Vee. And he’s certainly living proof that it works.