Content is King (and Why PR Agencies Should Embrace This)

What drives social media? Content.

The real king is content.

The real king is content.

And that’s been a huge problem for PR agencies as they grapple with the new media landscape completely transformed by social media. PR agencies don’t produce content. They use the content developed by their clients – from new products and services to customer acquisitions – to create a pipeline of news. The traditional methodology has been to write a press release and media pitches about the client’s “content” and distribute them through the news wires and to media contacts.

Good PR agencies have always been able to mine their client’s content effectively and help present it in a way that journalists find compelling. But under the new rules: that service is becoming of marginal value. Why create a program that focuses on getting the big business press hit when you can design and publish content without a media filter that speaks directly to your target audience?

Media relations will continue to be a component of what a PR agencies does – but it is fast losing its significance. If you design programs that speak directly to your primary audiences and use the new channels and social media platforms properly – you won’t need media relations (because customers and the media will come to you).

To be successful in the future, PR agencies need to become content creators. They have to help clients create content for all of the available channels – video, audio and the web. No longer will it be enough to sit on the sidelines and let clients come up with the content. PR agencies should be moving toward a model of a publishing and production house (and many large integrated agencies have done this already), but it was great to see a mid-sized agency embracing this mantra and jumping into the mix: SHIFT Communications.

This week, SHIFT announced a Digital Content Marketing Practice.

“The companies that, for years, chased after “ink” in the mainstream media are now starting to think like publishers themselves. Creating and sharing multimedia that helps spur dialogue in blogs, forums, Twitter, etc., has become almost as important as getting that elusive WSJ clip,” SHIFT principal Todd Defren wrote on his PR Squared blog.

And while I’ve had minor disagreements with Todd in the past (hey, it’s a conversation!), Todd and the folks at SHIFT are dead-on. SHIFT will be offering services such as: digital video productions, mobile/studio podcasting, live remote video capabilities, SEO, and digital/community building.

Dare I say it? This is a fantastic move, especially in light of the terrible economy. SHIFT is positioning itself as (please pardon the cliche) – a next-generation PR agency.

This is the direction all PR agencies should be heading in.

11 Responses to “Content is King (and Why PR Agencies Should Embrace This)”

  1. Why, thank you – thank you very much!

    Creating the capability is not so hard. The challenge will be getting clients/prospects to see the value in having COMMUNICATIONS experts (vs. PRODUCTION experts) have such a strong role in content creation.

  2. Hi Todd:
    You’re welcome. That will indeed be a challenge and the only guarantee is that it won’t be boring.

  3. I agree, agencies do have to be content creators, this day in age who doesn’t? Good for SHIFT Communications to see the writing on the wall. Time will tell how many other agencies are nimble enough or have the expertise to make it happen.

    Here is a note I wrote on the top 10 reasons to switch your agency in 2009, number 5 hits on this subject.

  4. Hi Seamus:
    You’re touching on the next big debate: does social media belong to advertising or PR? Both are making grabs for it. But I’d argue its a more natural fit for PR. Advertising is one-way marketing to mass audiences while PR has always been more focused and about engagement.

  5. Thanks for the post today.

    Valued content that engages, excites and ignites the passions of a community – be it customers, an industry or a fan base – that inspires them to share and talk about it – that’s good PR. That’s good marketing. That’s good community and brand building.

    As natural story tellers, adding content creation into the PR mix to help us share and tell our clients stories just makes sense.

    You hit the nail on the head – with your comment, “Why create a program that focuses on getting the big business press hit when you can design and publish content without a media filter that speaks directly to your target audience?” And the major plus side is that rich content created to share with directly with customers and a market – often finds its way into the mainstream media and traditional publications.

    Also, even if clients aren’t living on-line – no doubt their customers are. And although doubtful – even if your core customer base isn’t active within social media communities or on-line – Google LOVES fresh new content.

    The opportunity to own and be associated with and driving an industry movement by thinking of the needs of your customers & user base first, and giving to your community – is just too valueable to ignore and not try.

    Looking forward to driving this new digital content creation program with SHIFT. I’ll keep you updated on our project and progress.

    ~Bob Collins
    @RobertCollins – twitter

  6. But George, doesn’t PR traditionally focus on outreach to mass publishers? How is that a more natural fit than Advertising. I’d argue that advertising has more of a connection to the end consumer and local market place than PR. How often do PR pros connect directly to the consumer? How often does advertising? (of course, most advertising isn’t there yet). Which group has more experience with leveraging multiple channels to directly engage?

  7. @Kevin – outreach via mass publishers is Media Relations, not Public Relations. I’ll grant you that PR has “devolved” to be thought of as Media Relations, but Social Media allows us to fulfill the industry’s original charter: relevant, responsive and respectful dialogue with the public.

    Ads = interruptive for cleverness’s sake = buzz.

    PR = inclusive, collaborative comms,for reputation’s sake = buzz.

  8. That’s a good answer, Todd. Unfortunately, too many people think PR is only about media relations.

  9. Another interesting piece by George. As a newspaper guy (Web editor,, I appreciate this insight.

  10. Thanks, Mike. Allow me to point you in the direction of the series I wrote on how newspapers can improve their web sites.

  11. Thanks to share your valuable experience, After recent Panda Penguin algorithms, the PR agencies, and SEO companies also focus on content marketing. That only get a lot of potential customers and audience through online. Any time Content only king, now no-one can embrace, the attracted content always share through online… thanks again to share it

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