Content Marketing in Public Affairs

If your aren't adhering to the principles of content marketing, you may not be doing your job as a public affairs professional.Some public affairs professionals pooh-pooh content marketing, even as they devour op-eds, letters to the editor and media coverage of their pet topics.

Content marketing has been embedded in public affairs DNA for a long time, becoming an essential tool to explain complex issues and demonstrate the consequences of action — or inaction.

White papers, proof of concept, legal analysis, third-party testimonials and financial audits are long-time public affairs staples. They have been augmented by SlideShare presentations, infographics and videos to tell your side of a story.

A critical principle of content marketing is producing material that attracts and sustains the interest of your target audience. When they do their jobs effectively, public affairs professionals zero in on what's important to a lawmaker, regulator or neighborhood group. They generate communications that answer the questions their audiences want answered.

Setting the Record Straight

When the news media makes a significant fact error in a story, it is perfectly all right — and, in fact, a good idea — to ask for a correction.

The same advice doesn't apply when you simply dislike "the other side of the story" contained in the coverage.

There is no magic in asking for a correction. Start by calling the reporter who wrote the story. Most times, they are eager to clear up any mistakes. Before running a correction, they will (and should) verify your claim there is a mistake. You can help by providing a credible or official source of the correct information.

Some people wonder if a correction is worth the bother. Others fret it simply brings additional attention to a story you would just as soon have fade away. Those concerns are misplaced.

You need to stick up for your facts — whether it is the correct spelling of a name or an accurate description of a legal process. Reporters and editors don't resent that; they respect it. A constructive, polite exchange about a correction can actually establish better rapport with reporters and editors, paying dividends in future coverage.

Errors in print can be frustrating. Corrections appear in later editions, often in a section reserved for corrections, not necessarily with the same page dominance as the original story. However, most archival searches nowadays occur digitally, so a correction for online editions can be worth the effort. If you rigorously monitor a story's appearance online and spot an error early enough, you sometimes can avoid the mistake appearing in print, at least in later editions.

TV and radio newscasts seldom run corrections, except for the most egregious errors. However, they also have websites where corrections can be made so errors aren't perpetuated. Some broadcast shows, such as NPR's All Things Considered, have a section devoted to reader letters, which often point out mistakes or poor news judgment.

Bloggers may hang out somewhere between credible journalists and eager hobbyists, but they also should be given attention when they make a significant fact error. A student in one of my classes who operates a discount website was upset when a blogger essentially re-posted an old piece about the site's deficiencies under its prior ownership, I encouraged him to call the blogger to remind him of the change in ownership and the steps taken to address the faults he identified. The call was an opportunity to get a positive post, contrasting the new with the old.

Op-Eds Resized With Shrinking News Space

Getting opinion columns placed in the paper means producing shorter, more tightly written pieces that will get posted in the online edition.Getting guest opinion columns or letters to the editors placed in local newspapers remains an important tactic for most public affairs outreach efforts. With the election over, space should be opening up for other topics. But that’s not necessarily true. The target for success is getting smaller.

The term “Op-ed” means “opposite the editorial page,” a spot where reader-penned opinion columns frequently appeared. But space for unsolicited citizen commentaries is shrinking, along with space in print publications for news and features.