Content strategies evolve fast as brands look to maximize ROI

Content has been the buzzword in PR and marketing circles for at least 12 months and visitors to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity last June found the whole program and many award-winners dominated by content.

Content has been the buzzword in PR and marketing circles for at least 12 months and visitors to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity last June found the whole program and many award-winners dominated by content.

PRWeek was following the trend long before that, culminating in a great conference on the subject in September 2013 where communications leaders from Target, Nissan, Coca-Cola and other big brands expounded on their content philosophy and approach.

But while brands, agencies, corporations, and organizations bypassing mainstream media to become content producers is old news, measurement of effectiveness and return on investment from content is still an issue, with some claiming the trend is a flash in the pan.

In-house production of branded content, or owned media, has certainly changed PR. At the Detroit auto show, I was struck by how the burgeoning mainstream media press pack, already swollen by bloggers and videographers, is competing side by side for the best access, pictures, and video with the automakers' own content teams – plus their agencies.

It made media scrums even more chaotic and increased the speed at which content went online. Volkswagen even incorporated a broadcast news-style show within its reveal of new models such as the eGolf electric car and Beetle Dune concept.

This month's special report focuses squarely on branded content in terms of effectiveness, storytelling that returns on investment, native advertising – or social content-driven advertising as BuzzFeed calls it – and debates around media church and state, and how tech is supercharging change.

It's a fantastic summary of the state of the content nation that every communicator and marketer will benefit from reading. Enjoy.

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