“Content is king” is a phrase that has been around for years, but if there has been one word that truly defined 2012 from a PR and communications perspective it really is “content.”
Content generation was well reflected in the PRWeek Awards finalist shortlist, which was unveiled this week. And content is also well represented in January's edition of PRWeek, with a case study of Hiscox's Leap Year web series, produced in partnership with its agency Prosek Partners, and a debate about whether brands can create content on a par with mainstream media owners.
The latter debate is a crucial one for our industry, as has been pointed out recently by ESPN president John Skipper and Ogilvy Public Relations global CEO Christopher Graves.
They both make good points, but there are now some serious content specialists residing in PR agencies and they will bring clarity to the process that will help elevate branded content from the discount bin image it might once have had.
Graves himself is a longtime TV network news chief, and he has brought on Betsy Stark as managing director of content and media strategy at Ogilvy Public Relations. Stark was formerly business correspondent for ABC News and she is an experienced anchor, editor, and producer.
Yokohama-based Nissan hired BBC correspondent Roland Buerk to lead the brand's multimedia channel as executive producer and presenter of the auto company's global media center. Buerk reports to editor in chief Dan Sloan, who himself was a senior correspondent and bureau chief at Thomson Reuters.
Waggener Edstrom's VP, editor in chief David Patton is former editorial director of the Wall Street Journal Online. Fleishman-Hillard's Freshwire joint venture employs former ABC World News senior producer Sarah Amos as chief creative officer. Another ABC News alumnus is Jon Banner, now senior VP of global strategy and planning at PepsiCo.
And there are many, many more.
These individuals will all have to become familiar with a different culture to what they are used to – and the other side of the fence is not to everybody's taste. But there is little doubt they will help ensure there isn't too much of what Graves calls “crap” being produced by PR agencies and in-house teams on behalf of their clients and corporations as the drive for brands to become media owners and communications teams to become producers continues apace in 2013.