Text100 CEO: "When it comes to purchasing decisions, journalists are still vital"

With PR firms increasingly cutting out the middle man and seeking to target consumers directly, Aedhmar Hynes insists journalists still play a pivotal role in consumers' purchasing decisions

Aedhmar Hynes

Text100 CEO Aedhmar Hynes has warned that the PR industry must not underestimate the influence of journalists as agencies and clients strive to create more and more content, much of which is targeted directly to the consumer.

Speaking to PRWeek Asia during a recent visit to Singapore, she said a large proportion of the agency’s work was going beyond traditional PR and media relations – including e-marketing, content creation and curation, corporate branding and digital and social media strategy.

Every client the firm has in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Australia engages the agency for more than media relations. In China that figure is 80 per cent, but in India the figure is far lower.

Content is a major focus for the firm, but Hynes said it was crucial to help clients understand that it plays a different role at various stages of the purchasing cycle.

"They have to accept that hundreds of consumers are oblivious to the brand, while a hundred are big advocates. And the advocates have as much power to influence the oblivious, so content has to take care of all of the different groups.

"The historic funnel, where everything drove to purchase, is no longer a linear process. The work and content campaigns have to be in a full circle."

She said she suspected many content strategies focused overwhelmingly on driving peer-to-peer influence on social media, but she cautioned against underestimating the power of journalists.

"When consumers are thinking to buy something but want recommendations, then social media and peer influence is far greater," Hynes said.

"But at the point of purchase, journalistic expertise is crucial. I think for a while everyone was focusing on driving peer recommendations, but we must not underestimate the importance of journalists’ expertise when it comes to making the purchase. People want specialist advice.

"We are building our business on the basis that journalists are still crucially important in the buying cycle," added Hynes, who has been CEO since 2000 and first joined the firm in 1989.

She added the amount of integrated work the firm was taking on today depended very much on the client.

Hynes cited IBM as one example where the traditional communications silos were being broken down, and said Text100 was working with several start-ups across the spectrum, from business strategy, to web development, audience identification and content.

"This is fascinating for us because we will grow with them," she said.

"However, if you at look at bigger companies, we are still doing our piece, while other agencies are doing their own. We still want to be great at traditional PR, but we want to be known as being great for strategy, content and all owned-media.

"I think the agencies are almost one step ahead. The main reason we are not doing more integrated work is because our buyer is still in the silo mentality."

On Tuesday Text100’s parent company Next Fifteen reported profit before tax of $6.4m in the six months to July 31.

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