A thousand words? That picture is now worth a million words.
That was my biggest takeaway from a conference bursting with them: the Council of Public Relations Firms’ annual Critical Issues Forum on October 24, which took a deep dive into content creation and marketing. Wading through the event’s Twitter stream (#contentfrenzy), I was far from alone.
To be sure, while the mobile revolution has given images and video more immediacy and power than ever, words are far from dead. During his opening remarks, Chris Graves, CEO of Ogilvy PR and event chair, dug deep into his agency’s vault for a grainy gem of film of its legendary founder, David Ogilvy, presciently admonishing the advertising industry of 50-plus years ago to “think like an editor, not like advertising people.” Why? Because research showed that readers of magazines were engaging with stories six times more frequently than with ads. Can you imagine where that rate must stand today, amidst long-hardened skepticism of, and ability to hop over almost all forms of pure advertising? (And is it any wonder that ad agencies are beefing up on hires from the “edit” side?)
The conference, aptly titled Content Frenzy, couldn’t have come at a better time. PR firms find themselves navigating a thicket of client service imperatives, ethical considerations, talent recruitment challenges and business opportunity, as the line between editorial content and paid media bends and blurs. Among the questions: what makes for good content – the kind that engages, informs and influences, all at once? How much disclosure of paid content is enough, and how different should it look from unpaid editorial? Where does the balance
Many of the day’s sometimes combative A-list panelists could agree that our device-addled short attention spans crave a blend of images,
In other words, it’s all about
There is no question that if visuals aren’t the whole story when it comes to content, they are the onramp to audience engagement. It has me rethinking the creative process, in which potent, indelible images, still or moving, are the new ‘big ideas’ from which everything else must flow — to stimulate thinking (if not serve as the ultimate solution), evaluated against one critical criterion: will it make them stop and notice? And once we’ve got them, where do we take them, and how do we keep them? That is where longer-form content can come in and play its proper role.
The growing power of video content as chief
Post-lunch mental fatigue was not an option, with a closing discussion on the power and perils of humor in brand-sponsored content. Chris Bruss, President of Branded Entertainment at Funny or Die, and legendary British satirist Tony Hendra (the trailblazing rockumentary “Spinal Tap” among his credits) waxed funny over what takes for brands to score with humor. Their two big admonitions: have skin thick enough to take hits – a good thing, because it means you actually broke through – and leave it up to professionals to be funny for you. To quote Tony Hendra, “there’s a fine line between clever and stupid.”
And really, who can argue? I’ll leave you with my top five quotes from a day brimming with them:
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