Content vs Relationships – It’s not a monarchy…

Low angle view of the statue of Emperor Augustus, Faraglioni rocks, Monte Solaro, Capri, ItalyI’d been bouncing around a post on this topic mentally for a few weeks, but as usual things get in the way.  But when a post from superstar Chris Brogan declaring not content, but rather relationships “King” and a counter-post (though not referencing Brogan’s) appeared on Chris Illuminati’s blog declaring content King it was time to, as they say, open a vein and bleed on the page.

Declaring either content or relationships as King implies that either can stand alone.  After all, in a monarchy the King rules — his will is law (and in some cases religious doctrine).  This is certainly the exception, not the rule.  It’s a triumvirate folks.

For those who don’t recall their Roman history or Julius Caesar, a triumvirate is “a political regime dominated by three powerful individuals, each a triumvir.”  In our case content and relationships are each one of the triumvir.  The final one — the quality of the delivery, or simply, the delivery.

I’m no Brogan or Illuminati (I haven’t written a book on PR or SM or headlined a conference on the topic [yet]), so what do I offer as proof?  My own experience (and likely that of my colleagues reading this).

Two brief stories many of you can probably relate to:

  • First week on the job – no relationships, send out a quality announcement (content) and get a few hits the client was very happy with.  No, it wasn’t the Journal, but high-end trades.  My guy got several pats on the back at the next industry conference based on it.  I had zero relationships and was terrified to hit that send button on day 2 at work.
  • Few years in, a number relationships established, and weak, very weak (like Superman and Krytonite weak) content that the client insists must go out.  We send it, pitch it and nothing.  Finally flip the Rolodex to that often used card, the one you know you can get the hit from.  The mid-level outlet — make the call and get that de minimis hit.

In short, we’ve all gotten hits from content that could’ve pitched itself and hits that would never have happened but for the pre-established relationship.  Neither rules, neither can stand alone.  To imply, or flat-out state this, disregards the other, and for those new to the biz can easily distract them on where they should focus.

The third part — the delivery, is right up there as well.  How we deliver the content or “work” the relationship is vital.  A bad delivery, or abusing a relationship, will certainly obfuscate the message you’re trying to present.  Will it kill it — possibly.  Will a great delivery enhance even the worst content or a non-existent relationship — of course.  Heck, it could even repair a relationship that’s started to run in the red.

Each of these pillars, in varying degrees, is key for success in our business.  They can boost each other up, enhance what might be lacking.  Can a campaign survive if it lacks one?  Surely.  Can any one exist without either of the other two…questionable.

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  • http://watercooler.iridesco.com/ EvilPRGuy

    This is very well thought out Cog. I agree heartily. I also think you make a meta point here, that you don't flat out state, but imply and is just as important.

    Many 'experts' on the web make gross generalizations, and in the spirit of being The King, issue proclamations. These Proclamations are always very black and white. They 'have to be', because that is what generates web traffic.

    You point out that PR, for those of us who actually work in the trenches and do the stuff for real to pay the bills, is by nature gray. It's a little bit of everything.

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  • jeffespo

    Very good point Cog Caesar. We all know that there are those times when we need the connections to get crap published.

    One question would be with the whole argument can one exist without the other? For example can the content be put out there without the relationship. Kind of like a tree falling in the forest.

  • http://www.prsoapbox.com/ PRSoapbox

    Great post Cog!
    I'm curious though: Quality content, relationships and delivery certainly are important for results in our industry. What (if anything) do you think are the keys to effective client management/feedback so there is less “weak” content? Great post! I agree 100% with your perspective.

  • colleencampbell

    Great post Cog!
    I'm curious though: Quality content, relationships and delivery certainly are important for results in our industry. What (if anything) do you think are the keys to effective client management/feedback so there is less “weak” content? Great post! I agree 100% with your perspective.

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    Thanks Evil Guy :)

    You're certainly right, rarely can we rest on any one part of anything, pretty much everything is grey, just a matter of getting others to realize it.

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    Fantastic question. I do think exception content can take off without much of a push (obviously something is needed or it stays in the boardroom), but most of us don't get to announce the launch of the iPod or BlackBerry, or real national news, etc. Mostly we get pretty useful stuff but nothing game changing.

  • http://prbreakfastclub.com PR Cog

    Wow, now there are the keys to the kingdom, work with the client to get only strong content.

    I've found, with some clients (mostly longer term clients), they do get it after some time, even if it's just through their own experiences. After a few decades ;) they realize that it's not news each time the CEO replaces the ink in the her pen.

    With new clients it's tough — frequently it's their first foray into PR and want immediate results so you've got to work with what you have. Telling them to 'wait until there's real news' even if you're doing other work (bylines, social media, etc.) is a tough sell.

    Perhaps there's a new service line there — ombudsman between flack and client… :)

  • jeffespo

    It would be nice if we all had those news items and could wash our hands with champagne. But I guess its more making lemonade out of the lemons we're dealt.

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    Ombudsman? Oh, you'd be perfect for that, Cogster!

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    Ombudsman? Oh, you'd be perfect for that, Cogster!

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