Claire Alderson

Claire Alderson discusses the changing nature of content, and why it’s always been a part of good PR strategy.

Adrian Michaels, founder of FirstWord Media, recently said the following:

“That grating and squealing sound you can hear of handbrakes being applied at high speed is PR agencies repositioning as content-production specialists.”

Indeed, content does seem to be the buzzword of moment.

However, I’m inclined to disagree with Mr Michaels on the topic of ‘repositioning’. It really comes down to what you define as ‘content’, a word with many definitions from ‘that which is contained in anything’ to ‘containing power’. Content providers, according to the OED, ‘write or produce material for dissemination’.

PR has always been concerned with producing content, whether this content is a press release, expertly crafted pitch or viral YouTube video. Perhaps the sound that Michaels is referring to is not PR agencies doing a 180, but them reappraising how content is now created and used.

This is an interesting time for the PR profession. The popularity and influence of channels such as YouTube and Twitter have changed our approach. The question now is ‘do the people we want to reach read the nationals or get their information via social media?’ The answer to this question can shake up an entire campaign.

In addition, technology/social media change and content creation were deemed two of the top five challenges facing the profession, according to PR Week’s Global Power Book. But as it always has been in PR, if you don’t keep up with the changes then you’ll soon get left behind.

We recently had the opportunity to work on a great project with one of our longstanding clients, Met Film School, which perfectly highlights the way that campaigns and client expectations are changing.

Their Berlin school had partnered with video behemoths YouTube, to launch Europe’s second YouTube Space. Our task was to raise awareness of the Space and its location at Met Film School Berlin across the UK and Germany.

This was a massive story for the German press, and 86% of the coverage secured was across German national, regional and lifestyle media. However, we knew that it would be a tricky one to position for UK media.

The great German coverage fulfilled the brief of promoting the Berlin school, but what about their UK target audience, who would definitely be interested by this partnership?

Getting into the spirit of the YouTube model we offered a well-known vlogger, Christopher Bingham aka Bing (founder of channel Slomozovo and various others, with a combined subscriber base of over 200k) the chance to accompany us to the launch.

What followed was a three-day content smorgasbord for Bing;  a press conference, attendance at YouTube meet-up event Video Days, and an incredible launch party with live music, hands-on content creation and the chance to mix with the Berlin art scene’s movers and shakers.

And for our client? Bing created a bespoke piece of content on his 25th birthday, giving Met Film School and the Space launch over 10 minutes of air time. He shared this across all of his social media channels, representing a total reach of nearly 250k.

It might not be as much as a piece in the Sunday Times, but Bing’s audience fits Met Film School’s key target audience demographic. They also have a piece of unique intellectual property that can be shared across earned channels and used as marketing material.

As a PR consultancy it is crucial we continue to challenge and innovate, keep up with new trends and strive to develop new ways of thinking. But we need to remember that, as our name suggests, we are consultants, and we need to consult our clients on the best strategy to meet their communications objectives.

The headiest circulation figures mean nothing if the content is not reaching the right people. Creating your own digital content or bringing third parties on to partner with carry their own risks, but when these campaigns are executed well they can ensure that your client reaches the right audience through the right channels, communicating the right message.

Surely that’s something to make a noise about?