Survey Suggests PR's Post-Media-Meltdown Evolution is Accelerating

Content-Marketing.jpgI have to admit, I’m not wild about the name chosen by Marketwired for its survey examining the continuing shifts in public relations. Floating the question, "Are You a #ContentMachine?" is unsettling, especially considering the advances being made in automating content creation. That said, the survey findings reinforce what I’ve been witnessing during the past 15 years and especially the past 30 months. The diminishing power and influence of traditional media has elevated the importance of PR as a strategic content creation engine.

As with most blockbuster developments, this latest trend is not really new at all. Nearly three years ago I helped client Aaron Long with the article, “Picking and Choosing: Content Strategy in the Age of Opportunity Overload,” published in The Public Relations Strategist. What is new is the elevated importance of storytelling and strategic content creation.

For years we’ve been telling clients that every company needs to think of itself as a media company. In 2009, our client Brock Wagner, founder/brewer of Saint Arnold Brewing Co., delivered that message to the Internation Association of Business Communicators. Now that the print media is a skeleton of its former self and there are indications that broadcast media will face the same fate as millennials cut the cable and dump radio for streaming services tailored specifically to their individual tastes, there will be few aggregated third parties through which to deliver messages.

Organizations will need to be able to attract and hold onto an audience.

That means delivering value. It means telling stories that are compelling and personal. It means drawing the audience in with visual assets – photographs, video and other images that enhance the audience’s ability to understand. It means keeping the audience on the edge of their collective seats and creating tension and drama. For most companies, it means going beyond the comfort zone into territory to which they are unaccustomed.

Before we go further, I’ll acknowledge what some in PR are probably thinking: content marketing sounds a lot like what we’ve all been doing for at least the past three generations. You are correct. The types of content survey respondents named are very familiar indeed: blog posts (55%), photos (29%) and news releases (24%) were identified by the PR and marketing professionals surveyed as the content used most frequently. Newsletters, video, infographics and white papers were also named, along with case studies, webinars and tip sheets. No surprises.

As consumers increasingly look for relevant and engaging multimedia content, PR pros are producing and sharing photos, video, infographics and other visual content. Half of respondents use visuals on a weekly basis to support their content efforts; about a third do so daily. The most commonly used social channels for sharing visual content (video, photos, and infographics) are Twitter (75%), Facebook (73%) and LinkedIn (63%). Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest are popular choices as well. Snapchat, Periscope, Vine, and Meerkat also made the list.

That is the biggest difference between the profession I stepped into 20+ years ago and the work we do today. The layer of gatekeepers/influencers who used to be our primary target and message delivery channel has been removed. Nonetheless, 61 percent of respondents said they are using influencers and brand advocates to help amplify their content, reach new audiences and increase engagement. That’s the exact role traditional journalists used to play in our PR programs. Now, we seek those influencers from the community.

Substantiating that point is the fact that when asked which of part of the "media mix" (Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned) was most important to their communications programs, owned media – blogs, tip sheets, case studies, webinars, etc. – ranked nearly as high in importance as earned media.

We’ll be presenting more information about strategic content creation and content marketing throughout the coming year.

In the meantime, be sure to review the great infographic on the right that accompanied Marketwired's news release on the survey.