One of the more unique services a public relations firm can offer is article marketing – a service that may at times be confused with content marketing. What’s the difference?

For one, the term “content marketing” is a buzzword more people are familiar with, defined as a marketing technique involving the creation and publication of content. Said content can be in many formats, including online articles, blog posts, videos, photos, infographics, white papers, case studies, or e-books.

The consensus is that in order to be effective, content marketing should be relevant, engaging and informative rather than sales-oriented; this is because the only content that translates into sales is content that offers the reader something of value.

Now, what is article marketing? It’s simply content marketing in the web article format. While public relations firms may not always offer a litany of web-based services, they do typically provide some online marketing services that fit the definition of content marketing; article marketing may certainly be one of them. At our firm, we offer an article marketing program designed to drive sales by improving our clients’ search engine rankings – a strategy that should be an integral part of any business’s content marketing plan.

What makes a good article marketing piece? As mentioned above, it should be:

Relevant – This is a term that has seeped into all marketing fields, perhaps to the point of saturation and ambiguity. But when it comes to being relevant in article marketing, all that matters is that the piece is applicable to the audience it’s being written for. If it’s meant to be read by consumers, then the article must address something the consumer cares about. Timing is key here; if something in the news is affecting the industry and its consumers, that’s the perfect time to capitalize on it in an article marketing piece.

Engaging – Again, the objective is to be engaging for that specific audience. An article for consumers should leave out behind-the-scenes jargon that only colleagues in the industry would understand. However, if the client deals in business-to-business transactions or aims to establish himself as an information resource for the industry, then some articles may indeed be written for an inside baseball audience. In article marketing, knowing the audience is always the first priority. Additionally, it should be noted that when promoting them on social media, these pieces should be shared with the specific audience they were written for.

Informative – At times, our clients request articles based on their opinions as industry insiders and we are happy to oblige. However, just as news organizations separate factual reporting from opinion and commentary, a firm offering article marketing services should primarily publish informative articles – and while these can be informed at least partially by client opinion, it’s necessary to include some verifiable data to back up the information. If a client wishes to serve up pure opinion to the public, there are other services public relations pros can offer – op-ed placement, for example. In fact, op-ed placement is a service that most web marketing firms don’t offer. It’s just one more reason to utilize the services of a public relations team.

Content marketing and article marketing – both have their place under the communications umbrella. Now that you know what the distinctions are, you can make a more informed decision on these marketing services for yourself or your clients.