In a recent study “PR and Communication in Germany 2022“, PR professionals criticise the excessive amount of content currently in circulation for corporate communication. They also view the increasingly poor quality of PR content as critical. What do PR specialists see as the way forward? In the future, communications managers will want to focus on informative and educational content and pick up on customer insights. Are you making the right choices?
The top priority in content for this year is social media posts, according to respondents. “Press articles” ranked last (six out of six) in the 2022 assessment of the most important communication channels. Nearly half (48 percent) of the communications executives surveyed believe that a balanced media and channel mix (shared, earned, owned and paid) will play a key role in the future.
The paradox is that PR professionals are aware of the problem (too much active content on the market and insufficient quality), but in their strategy they prioritise the very channels on which content can be played out to the public with high frequency.
The study does not specify whether the “press article” refers to the “classic” press release or whether it refers largely to all articles (essays, papers) that companies give to the press and publish. For the future-oriented channel mix, the “press article” should be reprioritised, especially in the sense of a guest article (or technical essay). There are two main reasons for this:
- Bylines present customer expertise and strengthen discourse.
In a conversation, a work colleague said to me: “If marketing takes care of advertising a product or service, then we in PR take care of presenting the product and the company behind the product in a legitimate and expertise-strong way.”
According to the study “PR and Communication in Germany 2022,” PR professionals want their content to be informative and educational. They also want to pick up on customer insights. These requirements and attributes couldn’t fit the “guest article” format better – and they also agree with the statement mentioned at the beginning. This form of copy deals, for example, with technical issues, social or economic problems, or specific industry developments. Even if PR agencies act as ghostwriters in the actual creation, the customer still provides the information and expertise.
Once the guest article has been published, the requirement for article quality, information strength and presentation of expert knowledge is fulfilled. In addition, every published guest article strengthens public discourse (Habermasians will like this fact) and thus makes a valuable contribution to public opinion on a particular topic area.
- Bylines reduce content frequency
Another strength of the guest article lies in its administration. Specialised articles require time – this is a good thing, because after all, expertise vis-à-vis a topic should be planned for the long term, well thought out and carefully edited, thus ensuring the quality of the contribution.
This starts with the preparation of the pitch. Since PR managers have expertise in dealing with media and journalists – but not necessarily in the subject of technical processes – they work out questions that will help you write a meaningful and appealing pitch. The actual process of contacting the media doesn’t take long. Once exclusive interest is aroused, it’s on to content creation. This includes more in-depth research, article drafts, arrangements with clients and, finally, passing the article on to the media outlet that is interested in the guest article. Months can pass before the article is finally published.
But the effort is worth it. After all, the end result is a technically suitable, expert and opinion-leading (or at least opinion-firming) article that can stimulate discourse.
Prioritising guest article formats also solves the “frequency problem”, ie too much active content and constantly increasing content volume. If PR managers and companies plan permanently with high-quality, long-term and specialist content (and at the same time reduce the frequency of social media posts or press releases) they do not overfeed the market with permanent, less powerful content tidbits.
There is no single answer or successful method to the question of the perfect mix of content formats. Currently, PR professionals identify the problem as too much low quality content on the market. Although they recognise a solution through defining quality parameters, they are using the wrong channels for implementation. Instead of press articles, in the sense of a technical article, they assign a higher relevance to social media: channels that stand for a high content frequency. If PR professionals (whether in-house or in an agency) place a stronger focus on expertise-rich guest articles, they solve the quantity and quality problem – and at the same time place their company (or their clients) in the public eye with a strong opinion.