Look around the major PR agencies and you’ll see they are increasingly populated by skilled journalists, broadcasters, and content creators.
There are also plenty of people with skills once most associated with ad firms, such as strategic planners and creatives.
Chris Daniels’ excellent analysis piece last week expanded on this and suggested it is make-or-break time for PR agencies on the content front. But, having recently interviewed several CEOs at the top 10 firms for our upcoming Agency Business Report, it seems to me a lot of agencies are already stepping up to the plate and delivering.
Omnicom PR shop Ketchum, to take one example, hired award-winning TV producer Lori Beecher last August as EVP of media and content strategy. In her career, Beecher has worked on high-profile shows including Today, Dateline NBC, Good Morning America, 60 Minutes and, most recently, Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show.
In January this year, Ketchum also brought on Dana Glaser, the Emmy Award-winning former producer of NBC’s Today show.
In Daniels’ piece, Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty said "content creation is very central to where PR is going. Digital and social created that opening."
These skills are also much more evident in-house on the client side.
One of the main things driving this trend is the ubiquity of video content in modern PR campaigns and activations.
You only have to look at the shortlisted campaigns in the PRWeek US Awards to see this trend in action, and these case studies are just the tip of the iceberg.
As paid advertising takes on a different role in the marketing and communications process, short- and long-form video that is shareable and produced directly under the auspices of the brand is becoming commonplace.
The level - and quality - of journalistic, broadcast, and creative talent flooding into the sector has increased exponentially, and this work is being produced by PR agencies.
We’ll be profiling these new skills and trends in great detail in our upcoming Agency Business Report, but initiatives such as Mediaco and GoLive at Weber Shandwick, FH ContentWorks at FleishmanHillard, and The Bright Collective at Golin are just a few examples of the way firms are packaging up their content skill sets for clients.
However, as the legend himself Harold Burson was quick to remind me after he read Daniels’ article, content creation is not a new thing: PR pros have specialized in this for decades.
Harold noted that Burson-Marsteller was producing TV news spots and B-roll as far back as 1965. And, by the late-80s, it had its own network quality broadcast studio with upload and download links and a fully equipped post-production editing facility.
He believes the difference now is that content creation is predominantly a proactive activity, rather than a response mechanism, often to negative events. Content is now the genesis of the storytelling, rather than the downstream reaction to a story originated by somebody else.
He is partially right, though I would contend that the rise of real-time marketing is also fueling the content trend and is, by definition, often reactive to events. I also believe the real-time marketing milieu is evolving almost on a weekly basis as brands become smarter and smarter in the way they engage in it.
Whichever way you look at it, however, the absolute fact is that every modern PR firm and client team must contain talented content creators and video producers if they are to be fit for purpose.