If you work in advertising, public relations or marketing communications, I’m willing to bet your job description has either changed recently or will change in the very near future. We all know why. Content can now be produced and distributed by anyone, anytime – and the competition for attention is fierce.
As communicators, we can no longer rely on traditional ways of thinking and operating. We must define new content-creation approaches, put the right people in new, content-centric jobs and deliver relevant, interesting content with incredible speed. It’s a huge undertaking, but in my mind, we either change or perish.
As we have seen, the agencies are coming at the content challenge in a variety of ways and, as a result, disciplines are blurring. Ad agencies are creating informational content. Digital shops are managing social media. Media buying companies are building distribution channels. PR firms are doing all of the above.
The content challenge will have winners and losers. In my opinion, managing this transformation to content requires fundamental and structural changes to agency business models. Only those with the courage to reshape their organizations for this new environment will win.
Content-centric marketing and communication is not window dressing. It’s not just a new product offering, a bolt-on division or agency rebranding. It is a fundamental shift in the way communication firms must operate. It requires the right structure, super-efficient processes and account teams who can create and distribute dynamic, measurable content centered on clearly articulated strategies.
Content communication means thinking across multiple platforms and translating ideas into compelling stories in real time. In some ways, it isn’t that different from what PR firms have always done. We routinely, “think on our feet,” and deal with the 24-hour news cycle. We know what’s required and how to make it work. The winners here will be able to deliver a breakthrough-level of creativity and know-how in real-time that keeps pace with the velocity of communications.
Although I think PR agencies have the edge in the new content environment, we too face challenges. To deliver the results our clients expect, we may have to step outside our recruiting comfort zones and be willing to hire new kinds of talent. Creative directors, producers, copy writers and art designers who are typically drawn to ad agencies have to be convinced their best opportunities are now in PR. Clients have to be educated on their roles in managing content differently. Taking months to plan and perfect an ad campaign is a luxury they can no longer afford. And approvals and legal reviews must be accelerated before key content moments are lost.
Winners in the evolving world of content communications must be comfortable with change. We need vision, versatility and especially, velocity. Perhaps most important of all, we must have the courage to step forward and rethink our own roles as we navigate this new terrain.
Renee Wilson is president of MSLGroup North America.