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Hey PR: make way for content and creativity


Just a few months ago, I took a stand on the side of writers and creative professionals (“Calling All Creatives“). I argued that content is the new PR and creative talent is becoming increasingly scarce – especially as demand for content rises.

Now, a new study from USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations and the Holmes Report is out, and it includes data that bolsters my point. The report surveyed public relations executives at agencies and corporate in-house communicators on the state of the PR industry.

Here are some of the highlights (Who says creative professionals don’t love numbers?):

  • 81% of agency and corporate respondents cited content creation as the top service driving future growth
  • Social media was the second driver, cited by 71% of respondents
  • Both clients and agencies (89%) ranked written communications as the most important skill for public relations professionals
  • The top skills after writing? Strategic planning (84%), social media expertise (76%), and multimedia content development (76%)
  • The personal traits most needed today – which are in limited supply – are curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking

Not surprisingly, industry leaders see massive change coming in the communications landscape, driven primarily by the adoption of new technologies and the increased demand for content.

Spend is shifting from earned media (that is, the traditional function of PR landing their clients media coverage) to owned media, which includes client-owned websites, blogs, podcasts, and video channels. In corporate communications, 32.1% is spent on owned media vs 31.9% on earned. By 2020, in-house respondents expect to spend 31.3% of their media budget on earned media and only 17.3% on advertising.

When you think about it, this is an astonishing shift.

Why are companies investing more in content? There are plenty, but these are the most notable reasons:

  • With the media industry going through massive changes, it’s harder than ever to earn editorial coverage. Often, the cost of entry is advertising.
  • Businesses with their own media “outlet” (website, blog, etc.), have more control over what is published and when. Rather than have a single news article that profiles your company, you can tell a new story every day.
  • It’s great for risk management. When you build your own community, loyal fans can stand up on your behalf against criticism.

But none of this works if your content isn’t credible or interesting. Boring marketing copy simply isn’t an acceptable alternative to earned media.

And as new technology emerges – think virtual reality and live streaming, for starters – brands will need great writers, producers, and artists who can innovate new types of content across a multitude of platforms. They also will need ground-breaking thinkers and creative professionals who are willing to color outside the lines and bring fresh ideas to fruition.

That’s why the USC report recommends investing in ideas: “Future growth will be powered by content creation, built on multimedia platforms, and driven by compelling concepts.”

Is your business or agency ready?

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