PR Council survey: Don't believe the hype about brand newsrooms

Nearly half of marketing execs surveyed by the PR Council consider the real-time marketing trend of brand newsrooms to be overhyped.

NEW YORK: Most companies have brand newsrooms, but senior marketing executives say the hype about the hot-button real-time marketing trend is unwarranted.

In fact, real-time marketing and native advertising trends in general are overrated, according to an online survey of 56 senior marketing executives who represent major US corporations. The PR Council conducted the survey late last month.

Real-time marketing, specifically the concept of a brand newsroom, was ranked the most or second most overhyped marketing channel by 49% of respondents, followed by native advertising (36%), and social media and social business (34%).

Only 4% of respondents ranked real-time brand newsrooms as a number one priority, and none ranked native advertising as the top concern.

Christopher Graves, chair of the PR Council and global chairman of Ogilvy PR, told PRWeek that he found the survey’s results surprising.

"Real-time marketing, brand newsrooms, and native advertising are still in their hot phase for marketers, so I was not expecting this," Graves said.

The survey was not without its conundrums, however. Graves noted that 48% of those surveyed think traditional marketing is still king, while 52% said traditional marketing is no longer as effective as content and influencer marketing.

Oddly, the same respondents who think traditional marketing no longer works also said they view brand newsrooms as more overhyped than those who still believe in traditional marketing.

"You would expect the ones who would predict the revolutionary view would be all in on things like real-time marketing, brand newsrooms, and native advertising," said Graves.

Content marketing was also given high grades, with 27% of those surveyed considering it their number one strategic priority, and 13% ranking it in the number two spot.

In terms of why respondents dismissed brand newsrooms but not content marketing, Graves explained that "we must differentiate between the more substantive, deeper, comprehensive approach of so-called content marketing versus a tactical version of content marketing, such as brand newsrooms."

Graves, who worked for 23 years at various media companies, mostly in TV control rooms, explained that the biggest challenge for anyone who has ever run a television news network is keeping the news pipeline timely, relevant, and interesting. He added that the network also has to pump out a high volume of content over a long period of time.

"I often see really smart, high-level communications and marketing executives get pretty dazzled when they first see a brand newsroom," he said. "But a little bit of realization may be sinking in that while content marketing is valuable, the notion that you are creating a newsroom that is valuable 24/7 is daunting."

As for what respondents considered a top priority, nearly two out of three (63%) noted integrated marketing, which includes coordinating and orchestrating PR, advertising, digital, social, mobile, and data, as their go-to strategy.

Respondents specifically said advertising and marketing should lead on brand narrative, content, social media strategy, and influencer marketing. PR, meanwhile, should lead in crisis and issue management, media relations, and executive positioning, according to the survey.

In a converged and integrated world, Graves advised the PR industry to be clearer than ever about its core competence. And that core competence cannot be found in the overlapping and competing areas between advertising and PR, he said.

"In my view, the core competence of PR is the science and the art of earned influence – this notion that you can build relationships that foster trust that earn permission to influence other people," he added. "That is a very different approach to taking a paid route to change behavior and win people over."

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