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In many organizations, public relations and marketing are treated as unique entities with separate but overlapping goals that function in relative isolation.

As someone who stumbled into PR and marketing after being a journalist, this has never made sense to me. If both departments share similar goals, why don’t these professionals work in tandem?

Content marketing seems like a revolutionary concept. But I believe it’s more a shift in perception. By viewing the life cycle of PR and marketing as part of a continuum, we are establishing a framework that makes it easy for the parties involved in reputation management and business development to work together.

The question, “Should we be doing public relations or content marketing?” is misleading, since public relations is content marketing – or at least it’s a tactic in the content marketing utility belt.

The media taxonomy

To better understand how PR fits into content marketing, let’s go over two popular buzzwords within marketing circles: “owned media” and “earned media.” (Of course, there is a third segment of this media ecosystem known as “paid media,” which includes pay-per-click ads and sponsored posts, also known as “native advertising.” While paid media does overlap with owned and earned media at times, for the sake of this article, let’s stick with owned and earned media.)

Owned media is content that an organization has complete control over (save for things like user-generated comments, though with community managers, brands can still exert control over these if they wish). Examples of owned media include blogs, websites and e-newsletters.

Earned media, meanwhile, is content that leverages the credibility and reach of a pre-existing, external outlet. You must persuade the gatekeepers of these outlets to invite you to participate in the creation and publication of this content. Examples of this type of content include quotes in articles, bylined pieces and guest blogs.

Owned media is what we traditionally think of as the work of a marketer. Earned media is what we traditionally think of as the work of a PR representative. Because both generate content, albeit different kinds of content, they are content marketing tactics.

Why is it important to view PR as part of the content marketing workflow? Because you can get the most bang for your buck from your PR people by understanding how PR fits into the bigger picture.

Owned and earned media collided in October 2012 for the Red Bull Stratos project.

Owned and earned media collided in October 2012 for the Red Bull Stratos project.

Content marketing and PR belong together

PR and content marketing collided for the 2012 Red Bull Stratos project.

The Red Bull Stratos project received heavy press coverage.

One of earned media’s greatest assets is its ability to serve as a tool to raise awareness. You have a new product launch, a new service offering or a new office opening? PR is there to get a lot of attention in a short amount of time.

Oftentimes, when you look at a website’s analytics after a big PR push, you will see an immense spike marking the day or even the week that the PR push occurred. A quick drop off in traffic usually succeeds the spike: The news cycle has churned once more and your big story has faded in your readers’ memories.

Owned media, on the other hand, helps create a community around a brand. By providing informative and entertaining content directly to key audiences, brands can build a loyal following. When viewing this phenomenon through the web traffic lens, it often looks like a steady incline that retains a positive slope over a long period of time.

What does this mean? It means your audiences come because of the earned media, but they stay because of the owned media. PR raises the awareness, but marketing builds the loyalty and sense of community, converting visitors into prospects and finally into customers.

The value of repurposing content

One last interconnection between PR and content marketing. Any PR success often can serve as kindling for the content marketing kiln through the process of repurposing.

PR impressions, like an article in a trade publication or a quote in a newspaper, can be converted into owned media with the help of a clever content strategist who can identify the content’s repurposing potential.

This adds tremendous value to the PR component of the content marketing initiative.

Red Bull's homepage more closely resembles a media publication than a landing page for an energy drink brand.

Red Bull’s homepage more closely resembles a media publication than a landing page for an energy drink brand.

Understanding the content marketing continuum

Now more than ever, marketing and PR must start communicating with each other to maximize their efforts.

This means bringing representatives from all parties to the table, even for projects that were formerly relegated to one department.

If you are working on redesigning your website, you need to invite PR personnel to join the conversation so that they can provide input on how to enhance audience engagement through the site and its associated digital properties.

Likewise, if PR is working on a press release, marketing personnel should be brought in to determine how the release can be repurposed as content for the organization’s blog or e-newsletter.

The more you understand the content marketing continuum, the more successful you will be at achieving your goals.