With editorial teams operating at skeleton levels and budgets even closer to the bone, print and online media rely more and more on pre-produced copy, stories, interviews, images, video, graphics and surveys.
“Content has become the major component in successful campaigns,” explains founder of Aspire PR & Marketing, Layla Smith. “But it has to work hard and be effective for publishers to take it. As an agency we’re constantly looking at new ways of using video footage, infographics, images and words in a very crowded market.”
It obviously helps if the PRs have a solid working relationship with the editors, publishers and influencers. Increasingly agencies are tailoring content to suit the requirements of the publication in advance – researching the style, tone and format of existing editorial and shaping branded material to fit.
Getting that right relies on more than a good rapport though. With fewer editorial staff to re-write promotional copy into the editorial style of the title these days, and less money for videos and images, PR agencies are themselves creating more and more bespoke content or guiding brands in how to develop their own.
Content creation is a growth area. The most recent survey (PR Census) reported that there were 83,000 PRs in the UK versus 64,000 working journalists – with the trend showing that the former will continue to rise whilst numbers of the latter continue to decline.
For Aspire, a crucial factor in getting branded content on to the page – in print or increasingly on digital platforms – comes from developing strong relationships with both clients and publishers. “We focus a lot more on the planning stage, liaising with editors and journalists – our established contacts and new titles – to see how the brand can fit in with what their needs are,” explains Layla. “We relay our findings back to the client if they’re creating their own content, or if we’re devising it ourselves it’ll shape the format and the method of engaging viewers and readers based on what we’ve learned.”
Content needs to take the form of evidenced research, publication-relevant stories, or exclusive interviews and high-quality imagery.
“We advise clients who are looking to guarantee coverage to consider paid-for content placement, but also to be prepared to tweak their own content to fit the market – and where possible to commit to high quality photography and video,” adds Layla.
A good example from Aspire is the Swiss running brand On.
“On’s content – quality imagery, a great product, engaging video and expert ambassadors – are all in place,” explains Layla. “Our role with On has been to elevate the brand in the UK, targeting the right coverage outlets, and adopting a multi-faceted approach where content is utilised across a range of media.”
Layla believes great communication from the start and doing your homework with clients and potential media are vital.
“You can have amazing content, but if you don’t have a solid plan to get it out there, you won’t maximise your return,” she said.
Written by Rob Kemp, freelance journalist and author