The content revolution

Even before I joined the PR industry, I was entranced by the media. I read newspapers cover to cover. I would pour over feature-length articles in magazines, devour books, embrace documentaries and get a daily dose of TV news. I was not the only one. As a society we have been hooked, constantly tuning in to the latest breaking news.

Information is power and content has long reigned as king. Yet, without warning, there has been a content revolution, driven by those who consume it, rather than those who create it. Media companies, journalists and advertisers have been powerless to hold back the tide of change.

New social and digital platforms offering vast amounts of (free) content to content-hungry consumers split traditional audiences, sending them off into thousands of different directions, instead of gathering together as one large mass.

The ‘choose your own content adventure’ model of the digital age has meant that the consumer now decides what they watch, read and listen to. With the ease and fickleness of a click, we all can aggregate our own selection of news and information from a smorgasbord of sources on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites. If it doesn’t interest us, we ignore it.

Advertising and PR pros are left wondering “how will we reach our audience now?”

Advertisers had little choice but to follow the consumer away from traditional media. A 2014 report by PWC into the Australian Entertainment and Media trends observed the continued slide of traditional media ad spend, in favour of a company’s own direct-to-consumers channels.

The report reveals a bleak outlook for struggling media owners and the many journalists whose future is uncertain.

PR is also deeply affected. The shift in consumption and ad spend has broken the business model of traditional, media-focused PR. In its place, however, another trend has emerged: multi-channel, multi-format content marketing, delivered direct to the consumer.  

So, does this mean PR has to end its love affair with media? I’m not saying the media is not important or that journalists don’t work damn hard or are not great at what they do. It is and they do. When disaster, tragedy or uplifting events happen, we are glued to every channel and indebted to the journalists who provide in-depth analysis. News will always need skilled journalists to report it. The question is should business still look to the media as an avenue for PR promotion?

The media has changed and so PR’s attitude towards the media needs to change.  We can no longer rely on the media as our first (or only) choice for business to reach their customers with PR.

The death of traditional PR means the birth of a new form of PR: content leadership, telling stories and engaging audiences in real conversations across multiple channels.

PR as a profession has been reinvented and reinvigorated by content marketing. It is ideally placed to lead the content revolution for two reasons: firstly because PR has driven, created and delivered messages, ideas and stories for decades; and PR is built on relationships and a deep understanding of what the audience wants.