Why aren’t more PR and marketing agencies taking the lead on content marketing?
When I attended the first Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland in 2011, fellow agency executives weren’t there—and they still haven’t caught up.
Back then, Ogilvy was the only traditional, full-service agency with someone attending—but to be fair, she was presenting one of the sessions. Another global agency brand, Wunderman did show up, but it was the Brazilian, not U.S., office.
That was it for the full-service agency crowd.
On the other hand, 21 Fortune 500 companies had representation, and 11 of the Fortune 50 (22 percent) were roaming the halls of the Cleveland Convention Center.
So why was it that the clients we all say we want to “lead” were at a brand new content marketing conference while the agency world sat idly by on the sidelines?
Over beers after opening night, I ran an informal focus group of friends and presenters. New York Times bestselling author, Jay Baer, had the best take on what we were witnessing:
Agencies largely whiffed on the first digital revolution and have been forced to play catch up via mergers and buyouts for a decade. They’re frantically trying to catch the social media wave, and now seem to be missing what may be the larger play—content marketing. It’s a huge opportunity moving forward, and the lack of agency attendance here suggests that maybe history is destined to repeat itself.
Fast forward seven years and history seems to be repeating itself.
According to registration data shared with me by folks at Content Marketing Institute, corporate marketers still make up the lion’s share of registered attendees. More importantly, big ad agencies are still largely absent, and the agencies registering are largely those adopting a content marketing or inbound marketing position.
You also see a smattering of small, freelance or solopreneur “agencies” registered, but beyond that, not much has changed in the last seven years.
Knowledge is power
Why are fellow agency owners not seeking out new knowledge in hope of offering in-demand services to clients who show interest?
Though it’s harder for big agencies to change due to their personnel policies, financial models, and corporate red tape, small, nimble agencies are perfectly situated to pivot quickly to master and then sell new services such as content marketing.
As Jay so accurately spelled it out, traditional agencies (ad and public relations) missed the last two major marketing evolutions because they failed to invest in people, tools and knowledge ahead of client demand. They outsourced until they were confident they’d make money, and only then did they rush into the fray.
When looking at the last five to 10 years, they follow the same playbook for delivering content marketing services to clients. That has been great for an entire generation of freelancers who are living the gig economy dream.
However, it’s a huge miss for small to mid-size, independent agencies.
Content marketing is all about telling great stories through the assembly of content into persuasive modules.
So it seems to be the perfect service for public relations agencies (especially smaller, nimble ones) to deliver.
PR agencies have great writers, communicators and staff who have experience in reaching out to content platforms (think traditional media companies) and building relationships with their gatekeepers (reporters, editors, producers, etc.). These are the same talents we need for today’s content marketing campaigns.
So where is everybody?
Tom is a no nonsense, straight-talking 25-year veteran of the sales and marketing business. A version of this article originally ran on Spin Sucks blog.