Don't be a PR hypocrite – hitch a ride on rivals' branded content

Tony Hallett

Tony Hallett

Managing Director

March 10, 2015 11:40 am

Most large companies retain a PR agency and someone or a team in-house with responsibility for that function. Companies that are smaller also tend to know why PR matters, even if they can’t dedicate resource to it. But the same can’t be said – yet – for branded content.

And if a company is doing branded content, is that joined up with its own PR? Not often.

Wordle - PRs and brand journos
We say these things because our new research [free download below] about how PRs interact with those creating branded content threw up an interesting revelation on these subjects.

While generally our research found around half of PRs treat brand content creators, so-called brand journalists, differently to traditional journalists, one comment highlighted a worrying contradiction, even for those PRs who see the benefits of working with them.

“Proving the value of participating in other firms’ activity to clients is hard… even to those who are currently engaged in their own branded content campaigns!”

To make that crystal clear, this PR’s client has its own brand content programme but can’t see the value in taking part in someone else’s.
We can’t tell whether the programmes this respondent has in mind are from direct competitors. That could be possible.

It also isn’t clear whether it’s a failure of the individual PR we surveyed. Perhaps that individual wasn’t spelling out the benefits of being featured in someone else’s publication, one with certain readership qualities and quantities.

We don’t think this view is isolated. But we’d encourage another way to look at it.

Besides the hypocrisy of not doing what you’d expect others to do for you (a company contributing to a brand publication), there is something of a guerrilla PR element to that kind of undertaking.

Think about it. Imagine a competitor spending hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions on building a brand publication. Its editors and writers almost certainly want to feature a range of voices. They ask for yours. Wouldn’t it be better to take part, to fuel their programme, sure, but also to get the PR and thought-leadership such a placing can bring? Surely – as with a contribution to any sort of publication – it should come down to the audience. If a branded publication has the right quality of target audience then brand competitor or not, isn’t that where you should be?

We tend to think that is the way of the future. Most certainly those in charge of marketing, ideally with a transparent view of both PR and brand content, will increasingly have to make the two disciplines dovetail. This is part of joining it all up.

Download the full PDF report (after you request it, a link will appear at the foot of this page). Look out for more analysis of our findings over the coming weeks.

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