I was extremely pleased for Weber Shandwick, one of the agencies I work with, to receive an award from The Holmes Report this week, voting them Asia Pacific Digital Consultancy of 2013. In the PR space at least, The Holmes Report awards are very well regarded.
The award was largely a result of the leading-edge digital content studios we have set up across the region to service the content production needs of all the agencies in our group. Content, it would seem, is the new digital currency of the PR industry.
On the surface this may seem counter-intuitive, that a PR firm has won such an accolade for creating content on behalf of its clients. PR has always been about having other people pass your message on for you. Be they journalists, key opinion leaders, health care professionals or members of government. It has been about providing others with the information to essentially ‘create content’, in digital parlance, on your behalf.
So why then did Weber Shandwick win an award for creating content on behalf of its clients? In short, because the PR industry has changed irreversibly in the past two to three years. The industry is moving into the owned media space in a big way. Not away from earned media — this is still vital, being the most credible, trustworthy channel for communications — but certainly into the realm of supplementing the earned media message through brand or organisational publishing on their own platforms. On their owned media.
So, what is PR’s angle or claim on this approach versus, say, the marketing department of an organisation, who after all have been building company websites and publishing on their own platforms for quite some time?
In my opinion, the angle is about telling the organisation’s story in new, compelling, engaging ways. Maintaining and building reputation by showcasing the many assets of an organisation beyond simply selling a product. Telling the stories of an organisation’s people, its intellectual property, its history, its news.
Take a simple example, the corporate online newsroom. Brushed off by most marketers as a section of the website where you simply upload press releases, the corporate newsroom rebooted in the post-digital PR world is a rich, engaging, multi-media experience. With videos, motion graphics and computer-generated imagery telling stories in ways previously the remit of marketing departments and advertising agencies only. Interactive annual reports, infographic-led news dissemination, rich HTML5 news releases, CEO interviews, real-time crisis response platforms. These are the tools of the new PR industry.
In some cases, this owned media platform is completely replacing the traditional PR techniques of distributing news via the wires and rolodex of journalistic contacts. Brands and organisations are breaking their own news with Google (or Baidu), Twitter, Facebook and Weibo, the new wire and traditional media visiting brand’s own sites to pull content directly into their channels.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg for digitally-savvy communications professionals. The ability to place your own content in its many forms, syndicated, earned, paid, on other influential platforms, that in turn link back to your owned media does nothing but propel your own publishing platform up the search rankings.
Watching (and participating in) an industry evolving its model is fascinating. It’s an exciting time to be in PR for sure.
Jon Wade is head of digital, Asia Pacific, at Weber Shandwick.
This article first appeared on the ClickZ website