A new landscape: How PR firms should approach media buying

Facing an increasingly diverse and competitive media landscape, the need for content creators and media buyers to work together has never been more important.

Facing an increasingly diverse and competitive media landscape, the need for content creators and media buyers to work together has never been more important.

Global PR firms in particular are in a unique position to bridge the divide. We quickly learned in building our content business, what we now call Mediaco at Weber Shandwick, that clients trust us to spend their media dollars wisely, and for good reason.

Through a heritage of consultative, strategic counselors, we sit at the intersection of brand voice and content. More importantly, we know how to elevate the conversation in both a timely and sustained way. As digital PR moves away from a collection of one-off campaign activations and towards an always-on model of engagement, marketers know that the success of any given media plan depends on the caliber, frequency, and relevance of content they're distributing. 

But producing great content and hoping it finds an audience is not enough. While delivering best-in-class content should be the first priority for digital PR firms, we shouldn't be afraid to lean into both traditional and emerging media buying expertise to drive more visibility and increase the potential for earned lift. In fact, we believe that a comprehensive understanding of the media planning platforms and economics involved in any given buy is paramount to the success of digital PR shops now and into the future.

Technology providers are paving the way; content and buying platforms are merging at a breakneck pace. In the social advertising space, CRM companies like Salesforce, Oracle, and Adobe jumped on this trend early. Others like Unified Social and Brand Networks have built technologies that promote cooperation between community managers, creative, writers, and media buyers. These tools make it easier than ever for content creators and media buyers to work together nimbly and intelligently.

Used appropriately, these platforms create data and insights at a depth neither PR or media shops have ever seen before. What PR firms do with that data is what will separate the “great” digital PR operations from the “good” ones. All PR teams are already – or should be – relentless about getting their story in front of the right audience. The behavioral and demographic information coming out of digital or social ad buys through content-dependent platforms like Facebook and Twitter continue to provide unparalleled insight about a brand's audience. Exploiting that data to help clients better identify and reach their audience will take those “great” digital shops into an upper echelon of trusted advisors.

Partnerships with social media advertising companies have been a cornerstone of digital PR operations. Now, content syndication networks and publisher integrations require further collaboration from these same teams to achieve performance that will meet or exceed a client's goals, creating a range of opportunity for “traditional” PR professionals and content strategists not only to contribute, but participate in media buying strategy.

Media buying and content strategy are individually unique skill sets, but separating them into silos – or agencies – is making less sense given the evolution of media and marketing. PR professionals owe it to their clients and colleagues to ensure that a symbiotic relationship exists between the two. Smart brands are taking note and moving quickly to hire teams who have solved this formula. We're excited to be part of creating a new media operating model, and see first-hand the benefits of both creating and distributing content in fundamentally new ways.

Corey Thibodeau is director of digital media at Weber Shandwick.

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