Content marketing and public relations discussions are often framed in terms of differences — different skill sets, different tasks and different thinking. But different doesn’t necessarily mean incompatible. Content marketers enjoy more success when they understand PR’s complementary strengths and vice versa. So how does PR support content marketing?

Fifty-two percent of content marketers surveyed for the Content Marketing Institute’s 2022 B2B Content Marketing Report used media/public relations to distribute content in the past year. That percentage rises to 64% for the most successful content marketers. This research shows that many brands already realize the power of using PR as an organic method of supporting content marketing.

Let’s explore how PR and content marketing work together to increase brand awareness, expand audiences and foster relationships with industry experts.

3 Differences Between PR and Content Marketing

PR and content marketing have plenty of overlap, but their differences produce unique benefits for your B2B digital marketing strategy.

PR Takes a Less Direct Approach

The main purpose of public relations is managing a brand’s reputation to build trust with the public, traditional media outlets and potential customers. While content marketing often produces similar results, these outcomes are achieved through different means.

PR’s main assets include press releases, media pitches and shareable social content. PR pros use these materials to attract the attention of journalists and industry influencers that your buyers follow. This can lead to coverage of your latest news or product. It can also earn interviews and speaking engagements for thought leaders within your company.

Public relations builds relationships with those journalists and influencers by providing access to your organization’s insights, expertise and perspective. Your brand’s image benefits when trusted news outlets, influencers and industry associations position your organization as an expert. This third-party validation reinforces your brand’s positive reputation, authority and credibility with your customers.

Content marketing, on the other hand, builds trust through authoritative, educational content that you publish yourself. The primary purpose of your content marketing campaigns is to create and distribute content that differentiates your organization’s expertise, educates potential clients and demonstrates what your brand has to offer.

Ultimately, both PR and content marketing build trust and drive relationships, but PR takes a slightly less direct route to get there.

Owned vs. Earned vs Paid Media

Content marketing is generally seen as a form of owned media — content created for channels that your brand controls. You get to decide when, where and how content appears on your website, blog, or email marketing platform.

Some brands are able to build huge audiences on their owned channels, but it’s rarely something that happens overnight. You’ll most likely need patience and heavy investment in some kind of paid or earned media to reach critical mass.

By contrast, PR is earned media — mentions and coverage of your brand that you earn on other sites organically (without paying for an ad). This kind of placement isn’t bought or guaranteed. A well-executed PR strategy increases your chances of earning media mentions but can’t guarantee them. The fate of your pitch is up to the person or entity being pitched. Unlike content marketing, you also don’t have much control over the tone (positive or negative) of media coverage, reviews or social media mentions.

Content marketing and PR can both be amplified by paid media. Some examples include sponsored content within a publication or paying influencers to promote your content.

PR Shares What Content Marketing Creates

Generally speaking, content marketing places more emphasis on content creation than PR does. PR’s emphasis is on achieving broader exposure for the brand, often using assets produced by your brand’s content marketers.

Different focuses require different skill sets from your content marketing and PR teams. Your content team requires a greater array of creative skills — copywriting, video and audio editing, design — to produce meaningful, differentiated content. While PR certainly requires many of these skills, PR requires more emphasis on developing one-on-one relationships with contacts outside of the organization.

Those relationships are formed through persistence and hard work. PR professionals research which contacts to target for each piece of content, and they nurture a network of journalists, influencers and other content producers.

While there are differences in what you need from your content marketing and teams, one thing’s for sure: Both content marketing and PR teams require mastering a diverse skill set to drive leads and business for your brand.

How Does PR Support Content Marketing?

Despite their differences, PR and content marketing share common goals. They both seek to build brand awareness and create stronger relationships with their target audiences. PR supports content marketing’s goals by taking its best assets and doing what PR does best — putting it in front of an audience.

PR Extends Your Content’s Reach

Regardless of your industry, your target audience is bombarded with content. How do you set yourself apart from the competition and gain their attention?

PR can help promote your content and its value among a targeted audience of potential amplifiers such as publications, influencers and other entities with relevant audiences.

The process works like this. PR pros use data-driven tools, like Prowly, to pitch brand stories or interviews to relevant media contacts.

The type of content PR is pitching or where your audience is most likely to be found are factors that influence who the PR team reaches out to and to what end. If your goal is to get industry peers to listen to your new podcast, PR might reach out to influencers and ask them to discuss the latest episode on their social channels. If you’re trying to share your research findings with a broader audience, PR may publish a press release and target traditional media outlets.

By combining those efforts, PR can communicate content marketing’s story in a different form and to a broader audience.

PR builds a broader audience for your content. Cision’s 2021 State of the Media survey found that journalists overwhelmingly prefer news announcements and press releases from brands — the type of content they found most useful overall. While 68% of journalists said they wanted original research reports like trends and market data, other PR marketing materials such as event invitations and story development ideas didn’t fare so well in the survey findings.

Press releases can include multimedia elements to tell your story, and they can reach wider audiences by using press release distribution platforms such as PR Newswire.

For example, a brand that just completed a proprietary research report reveals its findings on its website and social media. The company also sends out a press release to media outlets and through a distribution service such as PR Newswire or Prowly. The press release increases the chances of media outlets covering the study and its findings. And that coverage ideally yields backlinks to the brand’s website to download the full report.

PR Gets Your Content Marketing in Front of Influencers

The case for building influencer relationships is compelling. Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 Influencer Marketing Benchmarking Report revealed that 90% of marketing professionals surveyed believe the technique is an effective form of marketing.

Be deliberate and selective with influencer marketing, however. A 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer report on brand trust supports the notion that influencers can add expertise and relatability to your brand. However, respondents tended to view academic experts and people like themselves as more credible when it comes to a brand’s quality, value, lifestyle and fit. That same report found that relying solely on influencers could backfire; 30% of respondents won’t believe brand information from influencers if that’s the only source.

One of the most challenging — and rewarding — parts of a PR professional’s job is building relationships with influencers and industry experts. Becoming a steady source of newsworthy content is a great way to build mutually beneficial relationships with journalists, editors and influencers. Journalists are always looking for stories that are informative, entertaining or explain key concepts or comment on hot industry topics. And content marketing can deliver those things.

PR relationships with social media influencers can also pay off by making your brand’s content marketing — including thought leadership — more visible through short-form content. For example, do you have a compelling blog post? Turn it into a one-minute video or a visually appealing infographic. Repurposing your content marketing efforts for social media expands your reach, increases brand awareness and can catch the attention of influencers.

PR Improves Your SEO

Search engine optimization is a powerful set of tactics that supports your B2B content marketing. SEO research helps you identify your target audience’s biggest questions, and incorporating SEO tactics into your content creation helps you get those answers in front of the right people.

Likewise, SEO can help press releases or campaign sites surface for defined search terms, extending their reach and life span. Optimize this content the same way you optimize a blog post or webpage, starting with defining your priority keywords and making sure to use them in press releases, on your website and on social networks.

There are many different tools out there to help you through this process. Consider how you can combine your SEO and public relations efforts through technology. For example, Semrush and its sister tool Prowly can support an integrated approach to an SEO-driven PR strategy.

Backlinks are another key element of SEO. When content marketing assets or press releases are referenced by influencers thanks to your PR team’s connections, ask for a link to the brand’s website. These backlinks increase your website’s authority and can raise your ranking in search engine results for specific search terms.

For example, your brand sends out a press release about a new research report. A blogger picks it up, writes an article drawing on your original research and links to the report. That link will increase your website’s authority when people turn to Google to ask the questions your report answers.

While backlinks are a huge part of effective digital PR, not everyone’s mastered this tactic. Nearly one-third of respondents to Prowly’s 2022 State of PR Technology report said they struggle with tracking backlinks.

Combine PR and Content Marketing Strategies

Instead of thinking about PR and content marketing as separate disciplines, start thinking about how you can apply the techniques of both in your daily work. What can PR teach you about extending the reach of your content marketing? How can your audience expertise help craft smarter, more effective press releases and media pitches?

When you understand how PR can amplify content marketing, you can look at your content strategy in a new light. Maybe you’re in a big company where PR and content marketing are separate teams. Seize the opportunity to build closer relationships and deeper collaboration. If you’re in a smaller organization where everyone does a little bit of everything, you’re in a perfect position to blend these skills.

Start by assessing your current capabilities and resources. Then ask: How can PR support content marketing?