Should PR oversee content marketing? How Mondelēz does it

The content marketing explosion has made the role of PR challenging and vital to the brands.  While the objective of PR  is about increasing brand awareness and perception through value-driven content, is it any different from content marketing then? And how has it transformed the way PR functions today?

Marketing caught up with Nicola Gilchrist, corporate & government affairs director – Asia Pacific, Mondelēz International to find out how brands can effectively use this technique.

[More from Gilchrist and other senior public relations practitioners at PR Asia 2014 . Join us on 26 - 27 November for two days packed with presentations, case studies and sharing on the future and challenges in Public Relations today]

Marketing: Should content marketing be considered a domain of public relations? How does it work in Mondelēz?

Gilchrist: At Mondelēz International, marketing and public relations work hand-in-hand. It is not so much a question of whose domain content marketing should fall within, but more a responsibility of all key stakeholders to collaborate and complement each other in our shared goals to “create delicious moments of joy” for our consumers. This is an approach that requires embracing culture to understand what moves our target audience.

Marketing: How does CM differ from what PR professionals traditionally did?

Gilchrist:  Consumers are now much more informed than before, with a better sense of what they need.  If we take the view that the goal of content marketing is to foster a connection with an audience in order to develop brand awareness, then we next need to ask how this can be achieved.  While there is no doubt an art in creating content that will meet this goal, PR complements the integration of all key players during the planning stage of a campaign, to ensure the company’s assets are maximized, ultimately enhancing how we reach and address consumer needs.

But more importantly, in the case of Mondelēz, the PR function ensures that those who oversee content marketing are properly briefed on the differing social, economic and political environments across the various markets we operate in.  By shaping media plans around in-market events, rather than the traditional approach of following media schedules, PR ensures that valuable industry and consumer insights effectively shape campaigns.  In addition, the PR function keeps its finger on the pulse of the market, enabling a quick response to any opportunity that arises, while also navigating risks to corporate and brand reputation.

Marketing: What has kept PR firms from leading the charge in content marketing?

Gilchrist: While some in the industry regard content marketing and PR as totally unrelated disciplines, at Mondelēz we see a great deal of consolidation between both functions. So it’s not a question of ‘who is leading the charge’ but more the purpose that each function serves and how they can best complement each other.

The PR function at Mondelēz International has always been an integral part of campaigns, especially in providing a strategic consultative role from the planning to the execution of brand campaigns: PR shapes the overarching narrative that guides marketing campaigns.

For example, when Cadbury partnered with the 2012 London Olympics, we had to know ourselves– there was some tension around the idea that a chocolate company was sponsoring a sporting event but instead we positioned ourselves as the coming together of an iconic British brand with an iconic British event.  In order to successfully do this, we also had to know our story: that in light of consumer research showing that the games had been viewed as quite elitist, we wanted our story to be about inclusivity and celebration, that no matter your sporting interest or ability, everyone could feel like they could be involved in the games in some way.  In this example, an integrated corporate affairs strategy with a central narrative was the driving force of the campaign’s success.

Marketing: What edge do PR professionals have when it comes to content marketing campaigns, as compared to the ad guys?

Gilchrist: Due to our roles as PR experts, we bring a wealth of information to the table, things that normally would not have been considered by others. It is this knowledge of sensitivities and cultural customs that can help a brand campaign target the right needs and reach our audiences better.

For instance, PR understands the importance of leveraging in-market cultural events as the basis for campaigns as well as aspects to bear in mind when creating stories that will connect emotionally with our target audience. In India this year, we introduced Cadbury Glow – a global product launch – tapping into the growing demand for luxury chocolate and the increasing popularity of gift giving.  The PR function also serves to ‘renew and refresh’ campaigns; in other words to analyze whether there has been any positive correlation between a campaign and quantifiable business results.  For instance, a campaign might look and feel great but unless it’s executed strategically, it may not be effective in ultimately conveying a message to a target audience and may not impact on the balance sheet.

Marketing: The PR function, whether fairly or not, has been associated with ‘spin’. How does content marketing differ from this?

Gilchrist: You have to remember that PR and content marketing have different goals and different measurements of success but nonetheless often overlap with each other to create authentic stories that connect emotionally with consumers. By considering the strengths of all players, we create compelling circumstances that resonate with our consumers. Thus, the whole campaign becomes the story, and it is not just about the product or service being marketed but more importantly, you can no longer distill the elements of brand story telling in a way that you once could more clearly distinguish between traditional PR and advertising, for example.  As to the question of spin, it’s up to an audience to decide whether it wishes to engage with a brand based on the content it experiences.

Marketing Magazine’s second annual PR Asia 2014 will be held on 26 -27 November at Four Seasons Hotel Singapore. Hear from Gilchrist and other senior PR professionals at the event. More details here.

To book your seats for the conference contact Joven Barcenas at jovenb@marketing-interactive.com or +65 6423 0329, +65 9820 5195.