Those of us who worked through the dotcom boom (and bust) will remember the mantra 'content is king'. Finally, one decade on, content's omnipotence is undeniable.
PR professionals have always sought great content because it enables them to construct a compelling narrative on behalf of their organisation, brand or other paymaster. The first thing a newly appointed PR consultant will do is assess the powerful stories at their disposal. Because without such content, they will find it difficult even to get their client noticed, let alone lead profitable conversations.
Some organisations have great content in abundance: football clubs, broadcasters, social media brands. Indeed, the comms challenge for such brands is not the purchase of strong content, but how to control this content in the wider conversation where it can cause reputational crises. Manchester United sells its content - the star players, the footage, the iconography - at a huge premium, but that doesn't stop players such as Wayne Rooney hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons, sapping the energy and resources of its comms team.
Similarly, Facebook and Twitter understandably dismissed the need for PR resource in their early days, as their innovative and abundant content worked its own magic. But today both find themselves battling privacy issues at, potentially, huge reputational cost.
What, then, of the 'have-nots'? In marketing terms, these are hardly paupers. Let's look at Coca-Cola. Arguably Coke's natural content is water, sugar, caramel and phosphoric acid. And for a long time this was enough to build it into the world's biggest brand.
All it needed to sell was a promise of happiness and ubiquity.
But today such brands need to own more entertaining content, because consumers are more demanding. This is why Coca-Cola sponsors the Olympics and the World Cup. Moreover, this is why it recently teamed up with rock band Maroon 5 to 'crowd source' an original song. The emerging content was streamed live on the internet, by Lexis PR.
In this new paradigm, owned content becomes crucial, which is why Weber Shandwick last week launched Creation, its 'owned media' hub. WS recognised that it is both a huge opportunity and a huge threat for PR professionals. Content has been crowned king, but PR is not the only courtier.