29th November 2013

Does PR have a right to be at the content marketing table?

Outbrain eventI was at an interesting event this week held by one of our clients, Outbrain discussing the land grab around content marketing. Panellists included Elizabeth McGuane, director of content strategy at Fleishman, Justin Pearse, journalist turned Head of Marketing at Bite, Kate Magee, Associate Editor at PR Week and Benjamin Cohen, journalist and publisher of Pink News – all chaired by Tom Berry, CEO at Chameleon PR.

 It was an interesting discussion that certainly didn’t answer definitively all the questions posed to the panel but there were a lot of questions – indicating that within the PR industry there are still a lot of people who recognise the value of content marketing, but they are all still in the early stages of understanding how best to sell that into upper levels of a business and how to create effective strategies around content.

There was a consensus in the room that content marketing is a hyped up term just like social media was three or four years ago. Everyone is trying to get in on the action – publishers, brands, PR agencies, digital and marketing agencies. However PR has a really valid reason to ‘own’ content because of the way that we work with clients or across organisations – understanding of businesses, industry’s knowledge etc….all leads to creating valid content.

Which leads me onto the next point of discussion about what makes good content and that needs to be brought back to context, understanding of what you are trying to achieve with it, authenticity and being clear about who you are trying to reach with it; also importantly taking on the role of an editor and asking “will this audience want to read this?” If you get this right it leads to loyalties and engagement with those readers. Points were made about a shift going on in PR consultancies employing senior people from media buying agencies to take on the skills of placing the content in the right places.

Another point that was highlighted was the fact that an effective content strategy needs to include elements of paid media alongside earned media and that it can be used for short-term objectives as well as the long term – and that PR teams shouldn’t shy away from this..

The thing that stayed with me most from this event is the fact that PR agencies and in-house teams have been the custodians of content since forever. And this ability to extract a story from a brand or business is what we have been doing and is what we are good at; so we have every reason to be at the content marketing table and really should be leading from the front with content marketing strategies and creating authentic, quality content – whether that is a blog, video, social campaign or event – to ensure that it resonates with the right audience in the right context.