Content and the Opportunity for PR

11 years, 2 months ago


Public Relations professionals are extremely well placed to help brands create engaging and relevant content, write Jackie Cooper and David Fine.

n the Conversation Age, an inverted marketing model has led to a new set of communication imperatives: engage and entertain audiences, don’t interrupt them; facilitate dialogue not monologue; ‘tell’ don’t ‘sell’.

In light of such fundamental shifts, those marketing brands and services, faced with addressing a newly empowered and participative Consumer, might be justified in thinking “ what on earth am I going to talk about?”

Creative content is the ‘stuff’ that starts conversation and collaboration. This branded output may be commercial and informative or edgy and provocative; but above all, it has to be resonant and credible to its target, compelling in its execution and carry an intrinsic capacity for interaction (comment, rating, sharing, and adaptation).

Producing collateral for social currency that is distributed beyond the commercial space and exploited across multiple channels is the key to success – creating an award-winning ad campaign or generating media coverage is no longer enough to be heard or get cut through, or crucially, to build powerful relationships and involvement.

The need for Brands/Services to become producers and media channels in their own right is a significant yet unalterable paradigm shift – and of course an incredible opportunity, facilitated by the options new technologies and distribution platforms have provided for Communication and immediate interaction.

Land grab

In the digitally democratised world of direct-to-consumer engagement, there has been a land grab from agencies across the marketing disciplines seeking to establish primacy of this relationship. ‘Content’ or ‘Branded Entertainment’ has become the new Communication buzzword but is misunderstood by marketers on many levels and often misappropriated by agencies eager to rescue plummeting spends. This is not about turning an ad into a viral, a brochure into a podcast, or news releases into a corporate blog, in order to ‘digitise’ and make more immediate corporate information, but rather a re-evaluation of agency thinking, propriety and silos to unlock a new creativity for audience engagement.

The ‘flow’ from strategy and planning, through creative development and production, to distribution and amplification has been the domain of ad agencies and media buyers at particular and defined stages – protecting sizeable budgets in the process. Yet when a user-generated film on YouTube can consistently reach more engaged (and self-selecting) Consumers than a bought 30-second spot, you know that the model and process needs to be reappraised.

Simultaneously, the Entertainment industry has been undergoing its own radical change. Channel proliferation and the Digital Entertainment revolution have seen huge cannibalisation of audiences and loss of revenue from advertising and retail sources – witness the announcements from the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster ITV in March (click

All formats from film and music to on-line producers have begun looking to the commercial sector for collaborative opportunities – driven by a series of mutually beneficial needs and haves. The Entertainment industry has the collateral, creativity and desirability that Brands increasingly need to appropriate; whilst Brands possess those two most vital ingredients needed by the Entertainment industry: funding and eyeballs from existing communities or databases.

The rise of co-creation

Therefore, the real opportunity for credible and genuinely engaging content production lies in the potential for co-creation – unthinkable even five years previously – backed-up by the recent relaxation of key legislation. This marks a sea change in how brands communicate and how production partners work.

Brands are now able to co-operate at the development stage with film and TV companies, finding and co-producing scripts or new show formats. This is not product placement or sponsorship re-invented, rather a shared ethos and relevance. Everything can be Brand-owned. Everything can exist to hero the Brand, engage audiences, and deliver new ones for both parties.

As PRs, we have always understood the need to cooperate, co-create and layer over our client’s news about a product launch or new flavour variant to give interest, relevance and credibility to a marketing story (we called them the golden rules of Sex, Fame, Humour and Controversy). The PR’s understanding of the ‘flow’, coupled with real collaborative partnership with production and entertainment properties for ultimate Brand benefit means that PR is best placed to deliver and, ultimately, exploit outstanding content in the new age.

In an economic downturn – where advertising and media buying budgets are conventionally reduced – the need to engage audiences becomes vital as does the desire to have control and guarantee of outcome against spend. Content could finally prove itself a marketing force to be reckoned with. It is more cost effective and more immediately measurable than advertising, with the added endorsement and potency of real entertainment credentials.

The real measure of success will be who brokers the relationships and how well they are exploited and amplified to ensure richer customer experiences and consumer relationships as a result.

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The Author

Jackie Cooper

Jackie Cooper is Creative Director and Vice Chair of Edelman.

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David Fine

David Fine is Director of Content, Edelman.

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