Why PR Will Own Content

A blog post last month by my friend Adam Cohen has been roiling around in my head.  Adam was writing about “The Content Convergence Dilemma,” which he explained as the -

“struggle internally with content ownership – who owns the generation?  Who owns the publishing?  Who owns the maintenance?  Someone please tell me, where is the Content Department?

“… Integration requires each department to be candid about their objectives and to be willing to give and take around a content plan and calendar.  If product marketing teams operate independently, they won’t have the benefit of getting the most out of content and to the customer they may appear disjointed or out of sync.”

Pretty fascinating, right?  The drive for more corporate transparency, coupled with the Social Media era’s voracious appetite for content (exponentially more valuable given potential SEO impacts), presumably has internal corporate departments vying for the rights to push out content!

If only.

In theory, I get it and can’t argue that this can happen. In practice — and we work with some pretty mighty brands — I don’t see this happening very often.  Sometimes I wish this were an issue, as that would mean plenty of content to choose from…

But in reality I see a lot of brands’ internal departments looking at PR and saying, either, “You guys do it” or, “Tell us what you need and we’ll see what we can do.”  That’s OK by me, though, because I tend to think the PR folks have the best bead on what content will most likely “sell” to the community.

… And this line of thought leads me to the more compelling concept previewed in this post’s title:

WHY do PR pros tend to have the best ideas about content creation?

122464812Because we’re the ones in the trenches.  We’re the ones participating in the communities.  We’re the ones tracking what the mainstream media want to write about, and talking to the reporters.  We’re the ones monitoring social outposts like Twitter and Facebook — talking to end users, running polls, testing out hashtags, flagging potential landmines, and watching what the competition is up to.

PR pros grok what kind of content will keep the machine running day-to-day.  We’ll come up with some Big Ideas, sure, but brands derive even more value from PR’s ability to create, manage and flexibly tweak the workaday content calendar.  It’s from their efforts that Marketing/Advertising should be culling the best bits, to blow out Even-Bigger-Ideas.

Did you read this case study a few weeks’ back?  Read it again, with this post in mind.  It is a perfect example of what I am talking about: it’s crystal clear in this study how the PR team’s community relations spadework led to far more compelling marketing programs.

There’s lots of stuff that Marketing folks have traditionally done, which it forevermore will be important to do … but Social Media is changing everything about how/when/why/where we do these things. And the folks who know the social stuff best will naturally evolve to be the primary drivers of branded content.


Posted on: November 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm By Todd Defren
12 Responses to “Why PR Will Own Content”


  • Trace Cohen says:

    One of my favorite aspects of PR is that I have to become an expert in whatever my client does. Sometimes I know the industry, it’s people and what resonates better than they do because they are so focused on the business itself. Hence the metaphor of being in the trenches, which is accurate because we are working on all fronts.

    In a perfect world companies would have on going meetings to discuss their branding, messaging and communications that takes into account all aspects of the business. In these meetings, marketing, tech, operations etc would give insight into what they are seeing and this would ensure that no one is left out or that any toes are step on. It’s all about creating understand.

  • Sami says:

    Knowing social media is a huge key to success in the coming years. Young professionals will have a major leg up if they can transfer their social media knowledge to the work place as much of the older generation is unfamiliar with the uses and benefits. That being said, a simple knowledge of tweeting will not help. You need to know how it all works, connects, and have actually used it enough to persuade an employer that you are valuable and your skills are indispensable.

  • Todd Defren says:

    @Daniel – IMHO those groups you mention tends to be doing RESEARCH (one-way) whereas I contend PR pros are actively PARTICIPATING (two-way), every single day. And that makes all the difference.

  • Daniel young says:

    PR is in the trenches but what about the research and listening teams that sit within Media and Advertising agencies these days? PR is fair to complacent about its entitlement to social marketing if you ask me.

  • I enjoyed your take on the subject and wonder if another reason PR is well positioned to manage content is that it’s an editorial/publishing function. And in many ways (i.e. story development) that’s part of what we already do.

  • This is a fascinating post, as is both Adam’s and the case study from an earlier post. I think the key take away in today’s PR scene is “We’re the ones in the trenches. We’re the ones participating in the communities.” The hot job title out there is “Community Associate/Manager/Director” etc. These new positions are listening to what is being said and in turn creating content to both respond to and continue a conversation online. These valuable conversations turn into invaluable content ideas that are then shared over and over again. But after re-reading the case study, it is important to remember that listening must come first before the content creation wheels start turning. And if the PR department continues to listen, it will always house the content department.

    • Todd Defren says:

      @Emily – While it’s true we’ve seen an increase in calls for Community Associate/Manager/Directors, in my experience these are either PR folks or, more often, Customer Service folks. In the latter case I don’t suspect they’ll be as attuned to Content Creation for Marketing’s sake.

  • Adam Cohen says:

    Many thanks for sharing my post here and glad it prompted deeper thoughts (“I added value for the day, can I go home now?”)… I definitely agree, most often companies looking for content have the PR teams “pulling teeth” from other groups, but depends on the evolution. I am working with companies who are farther along in their evolution – social media was introduced by PR to the organization, and turns out that marketing is rushing to the scene since so much of it is customer facing and brand relevant. Interesting clash of agendas, actually.

    Now our focus is how can the departments with the bigger budgets (marketing/advertising) work together to drive traffic/promote the *best* content. Great problem to have and if we can sort it out will be a win-win. But it requires leadership in PR and Marketing to “pool” budget for content creation and promotion – that’s not typical in corporate silo DNA.

Leave a Reply

Show some social media love would ya?

RSS logo Subscribe by Email

RSS logo RSS Feed


PostRank Topblogs 2009 - #3 in PR

View Todd 

Defren's profile on LinkedIn