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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Building a successful content marketing strategy

Building a successful content marketing strategy


Melissa Davis advises firms on reconciling the differences between marketing and PR and improving their relationships with the press

The term 'business development' commonly covers
both marketing and public relations. When the different demands of each discipline
are not understood, there is conflict, and the BD strategy simply does not work as well
as it could. In the worst-case scenario, it fails utterly.

At the heart of the difference between marketing and PR is
the level of control that exists over content.

A marketing strategy
can be closely planned in advance, requiring project management skills.

Attention to detail in marketing is an absolute requirement. The firm is the publisher and promoter, and
the key relationship with the target audience is a direct one.

A marketing plan can be executed with the confidence that you control the timing of all communications, the branding and presentation of the firm, and the author's details.

PR, by contrast, will involve taking a message to the
target audience in a context that is mediated by other parties - journalists and their
editors. The final outcome
is unpredictable, as it depends
on breaking news, the actions
of competitors, and the judgement of reporters
and presenters.

If the firm has been forced into the spotlight by events - possibly negative events - then its PR activities will be reactive, which marketing never is.

Firms want to engage with the media because, even with the UK's relatively raucous and unpredictable press, the target audience takes information it receives via the media as more tested and trustworthy. A firm
in the press is seen as either shaping events or as a tested expert on them.

A firm will be likely to need both marketing and PR, and when they are recognised as distinct efforts, they can and should complement one another.

Content marketing

A firm's interest will largely focus on content marketing, which is defined as creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.

The aim is to convey expertise and good service in the hope of winning new clients and attracting mroe instructions.

Typical examples of content used to do this include articles on recent case law or legislation, or dealing with common legal problems; material relating to an economic or industry sector; contributions to law books; and lawyers' professional profiles.

Such material will stand a better chance of getting the attention of the target audience if it is easy to find, clearly presented, and timely.

To promote this material, a marketing professional first needs to define the audience, where relevant, by creating and maintaining a list of individuals and organisations to contact. Second, they will need to understand how to improve the ranking of the material in search engines. Third, they will need to consider whether advertising will help bring attention to
such content.

Public relations

Material generated through content marketing is useful to PR because, when deciding who to approach for a quote, a journalist will look for evidence of expertise, professional standing, and so on.

For that reason, the identities of your key people and information such as the firm's size and location should be easily available.

A PR professional needs to go about their job differently to the marketing team. Here are some key points to remember:

  • A PR is personally mediating the 'relationship' between the firm and the media. That personal, external contact is not core to marketing in the same way;

  • The media is the 'publisher' and its requirements are driven by events beyond its control, such as the rolling news agenda;

  • A journalist needs a 'top line'. General expertise cannot be what is being pitched to them when coverage is sought; and

  • Journalists have wide access to competitors and opponents.

The relationship that PRs build with the media takes time, thought, and management.
The PR's knowledge of a publication must include familiarity with its audience and deadlines, the journalists' own work, and the best way to communicate with them.

PR involves many judgement calls, with the attached risks,
for example, whether to pitch
a story as an exclusive or how much can be said on a sensitive subject.

A PR and the firm's lawyers will often help a journalist in ways that aren't credited -
firms need to appreciate that this is an investment in the relationship, frustrating as it may seem.

Of course, in many smaller firms, the marketing and PR jobs may be done by the same person - in which case they have the unenviable task of regularly switching between these two very distinct outlooks. More than anyone, for it to work, they need the solid support of the firm's senior and managing partners. SJ

Melissa Davis is the managing director of MD Communications