The last few years have seen a seismic change in the way that PR agencies operate. Whereas a decade ago much of their strategy focused on reaching out to consumers via established media, now they are increasingly being asked by clients to engage consumers by creating branded content of their own.
It is a trend that predates the arrival of social media, but since brands have taken to Facebook and Twitter in such large numbers, content has become central to much of what they do.
This week there has been a couple of examples of how the larger PR agencies are now starting to think about content creation on a grander scale.
Mega agency Edelman has been at the forefront of innovation in PR - it was one of the first agencies to integrate a digital agency into its offering and it has also impeccable social media credentials. So it was no surprise when last week Richard Edelman, CEO of the company told an industry gathering in Chicago that he that much of the marketing we’ve grown up with ‘is a short-term and broken model.’
He then went on to outline how storytelling and building relationships with consumers were central to the future of marketing saying that he thought the industry need a real paradigm shift
‘It’s always been marketing first and communications as a servant. I see the emergence of a new paradigm, which is ‘communications marketing’ instead of ‘marketing communications.’
And by that he explained he meant that agencies and brands needed to use content to build meaningful relationships with potential customers before actually trying to sell to them.
Much of what Edelman said was inspired by the growing trend for brands in both the US and UK to extend their content marketing activities into new areas. In the US especially General Electric, Red Bull and Coca Cola have invested heavily in directly engaging consumers via online content in recent months.
It is happening in the UK on a smaller scale too. Not surprisingly Edelman isn't the only PR company that is looking to develop its content marketing portfolio. Earlier this year Next Fifteen, which owns several large PR agencies, purchased a 50% stake in Republic Publishing which has been creating content driven websites for tech brands like Microsoft and Nokia for several years.
Several other UK agencies like Bite have also invested in content marketing teams comprised of senior journalists - to offer editorial to their clients.
At the moment very few agencies have the staff or experience to create anything much beyond a few websites, but that is going to change as time goes by.
It is clearly a trend that CMA members will do well to keep an eye on.
Commissioned by The CMA