Have most PR agencies become content marketing agencies?

All industries evolve and one of the largest revolutions to hit PR is the demand for content. So much so that many believe their agency’s main focus is now content marketing. We ask PR heads to debate this transformation and how it is a change for the better.

1. It encourages creativity

Andrea Sexton, CEO of agency Admire PR: “To some extent we have become a content marketing agency and I think it's a good thing on the whole. At the end of the day, as PRs we work as an integral part of our clients’ marketing teams, and we are talented and brilliant writers and communicators. If that means we can support our clients by creating wider content then I think it's a good thing. The variety of writing we now do enhances the skill of my whole team. It makes us better on a daily basis. PR is our love and our bread and butter, but by being creative in content we can support our clients more. And at the end of the day that's what business is all about.”

2. It builds PR talents

Catherine Warrilow, head of PR and content at digital gaming company Rank Interactive: “PR has long been morphing into content marketing. The bottom line is that PRs have to place content where people will do something with it because it answers the customer problem - engage, share, click, register, buy…

“In my eyes, this is really positive because it forces PRs to be more creative in the opportunities they seek out.

“We’re smart enough to know that a glossy front page doesn’t always mean a deluge of sales. We know that if we take our message direct to where our customers are hanging out, we drive ROI. And that might often be small and obscure forums, social feeds, blogs, newsletters or websites - which is both PR and content marketing. Move over blanket press release, make way for brilliant, bespoke content.”

3. It adds more value

Matt Vowles, content account manager at agency Hatch Communications: “We pride ourselves as an agency with PR at its heart, but over the 13 years we have been running we have seen this change more and more.

“It has never been more important (I think) for agencies to be able to adapt their offering outside the traditional realms of PR and to match consumer media habits. That’s not to say that a well-crafted press release doesn’t go a long way to helping you achieve your own or your client’s objectives; but by being able to offer them that something extra can only add value to you, your business and your client.

“After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words… surely then so is an animated social post, interactive blog piece or long-form video content all created and edited in house?”

4. It gives you a stronger voice

Francesca Baker, independent PR at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk: “PR has always been about building the brand and reputation of an individual or organisation. Media relations, which many people think of as 'pure' PR is only one part of that. A great brand needs a profile across paid, owned and earned media, and content marketing is an essential aspect. If you want people to trust you and keep coming back to you, you need a voice. And you can use content marketing to have that voice.”

5. You have greater control over messaging

Claire Gamble, MD at agency Unhooked Communications: "It’s no surprise that content marketing has become an integral part of a lot of our PR strategies for clients. Trust in traditional media is falling, media outlet numbers are reducing and news teams are becoming more overstretched. But content marketing gives you a greater level of control over your messaging and allows you to engage directly with target audiences. Ultimately, businesses want to inform and inspire their audiences - and content marketing gives us a creative and measurable way to achieve this. It allows us to explore topics, trends and issues in more detail, as well as create resources that have a real impact. For example, we’ve recently worked with Fletchers Serious Injury to research and develop a children’s book to help families when a parent has an accident. The results go beyond a marketing campaign - we’ve created resources that will genuinely help millions of children and families, as well as charities, schools and healthcare providers.”

6. Great content reaches greater audiences

Jane Ainsworth, managing director of PR agency WPR: “PR has always had content creation at its heart - telling compelling stories that communicate a brand’s messages to engage relevant audiences is what we do as a sector. Understanding how best to blend PR and content marketing strategically offers huge potential for brands to connect with customers and stand out in increasingly crowded spaces.

“In a world where everyone is creating content, the agencies that will thrive will be those that can produce powerful, insight-led concepts for their clients. And, crucially, those that have the talent in-house to amplify that content to reach audiences across different channels, media and platforms.”

7. It helps the public engage with clients

Tamika Martin CEO of agency Ucreate PR and Events Management: “Public relations is considered the art of maintaining the image and representation of individuals and organisations alike. Content has become a vital part of PR management functions. Mediating the appropriate content as needed is a function in PR agencies, especially for clientele whose role in society entails direct interaction with the public. Social media has increased the ability for the public to engage with celebrities and businesses alike in two-way communication systems. To market the individual, you must market their content well.”